Gaza toll hits 230 on 10th day of Israel air campaign

‘This is a cowardly crime’, says Gaza health ministry as a fifth child is critical
Gaza City: Israeli tank fire killed three people in the Gaza Strip on Thursday, medics said, taking the overall toll from 10 days of violence in the Palestinian territory to 230 deaths.
One Israeli has also been killed by rockets fired by Palestinian militants.
Gaza emergency services spokesman Ashraf al-Qudra said the three, all men in their 20s, were killed in southern Rafah shortly before 10:00 am (0700 GMT).
Their deaths came after another seven people were killed overnight.
Two men were killed in Gaza City, another two in Deir al-Balah and a fifth in northern Beit Lahiya.
One man was also killed in southern Khan Yunis and another in Rafah, also in the south, Qudra said.
In addition, 1,690 people had been injured during conflict, he said.
On Thursday morning, Israel and the Hamas movement announced they were observing a five-hour humanitarian truce called for by the United Nations.
According to figures provided by the Gaza-based Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR), more than 80 percent of the conflict's victims have been civilians.
So far, one person has been killed in Israel -- a civilian who died on Tuesday evening in a rocket strike near the Erez crossing, medics said. At least four Israelis have been seriously wounded.
Since the latest violence began before dawn on July 8, at least 1,021 rockets fired from Gaza have struck Israel, and another 256 have been shot down by the Iron Dome air defence system, army figures show.
During its campaign of air strikes aimed at halting the rocket fire, Israel has struck more than 1,750 "terror targets" across the coastal enclave, the army said.
3 Gaza mortar shells hit Israel after ceasefire: army
Three mortar shells fired from Gaza hit southern Israel on Thursday, the army said, just over two hours after a humanitarian ceasefire took effect.
The shells struck in the region of Eshkol, which borders the southern Gaza Strip, the army told AFP, blaming Hamas but without giving further details.
There were no immediate reports of damage or casualties.
Hamas denied any involvement in the attack.
"They (Israelis) are lying. All the Palestinian factions are continuing to observe the truce," a Hamas source told AFP, speaking on condition of anonymity.
"They want to use this as a reason to kill fighters," the source said.
The mortar fire interrupted a ceasefire called for by the UN on humanitarian grounds, which both Israel and Hamas had agreed to observe between 0700 GMT and 1200 GMT.
Fighting since Israel launched Operation Protective Shield on July 8 to stamp out rocket fire by Gaza militants has killed 230 Palestinians, many of them women and children, and one Israeli.
Israel has carried out more than 1,750 attacks in Gaza, mostly air strikes, the army says, and militants have fired nearly 1,400 rockets, 1,048 of which have hit the Jewish state.
A Palestinian walks past the el-Yazje family apartment building which
was destroyed following an overnight Israeli missile strike in Gaza
City, on Thursday. (Photo: AP)
Four Palestinian kids playing football near a beach killed by Israeli air strikes
Four Palestinian children playing football near a beach were killed by an Israeli air strike on Wednesday.
The horrific images of four kids who were playing at the Gaza beach fears Israel that the world public opinion may turn against its ongoing military campaign.
Soon after the horrific images went viral the Israeli Defence Forces issued an apology saying that the strike was an error.
A Palestinian relative of four boys from the same extended Bakr family,
grieves in the family house during their funeral in Gaza City, Wednesday. (Photo: AP)
According to the Palestinian officials, five kids, all under are cousins all under and 15 were playing football near Gaz beach.
Soon after the shelling from Israeli sides the victims were ryushed to the hospital where gfour of them were declared dead on arival.
Ashraf al-Qidra, spokesman for the Gaza health ministry, said four of the youngsters were killed and a fifth youth is in a critical condition.
“This is a cowardly crime,” he said.
Israeli officials expressed regret and the army said it was investigating the incident but it appeared a pilot had mistakenly identified the children as militants.
The homes of four Hamas leaders were also destroyed in Israeli air strikes on Wednesday.
Palestinian relatives of four boys from the same extended Bakr family,
grieve during their funeral in Gaza City, Wednesday. (Photo: AP)
Israel, Hamas broker a five hour-long ceasefire
After nine days of fighting, Israel and Hamas have reportedly agreed to observe a five-hour long ceasefire in Gaza in order to allow civilians to stock up on household supplies.
According to the BBC, Hamas spokesperson, Sami Abu Zukhri confirmed that a ceasefire would be observed between 07:00 hrs to 12:00 hrs GMT on Thursday.
The decision to hold fire comes on the heels of a statement release by the United Nations (UN) Security Council, calling for peace and ceasefire, the report added.
Meanwhile, four children, who were playing on a beach in Gaza city, were reportedly killed in Israeli attacks on Wednesday. An Israeli national who was killed in a Palestinian rocket attack was also laid to rest on the same day.
The offensive launched by Israel on July 9 on the Gaza strip has already claimed the lives of 220 civilians in Palestine. According to a UN estimate, about 1,370 homes have been destroyed in Gaza and more than 18,000 people have been displaced in the conflict.
Nowhere to go for Gaza civilians urged to evacuate
Palestinians run for shelter as they hear bombing in the distance
while they flee their homes in the Shajaiyeh neighborhood of Gaza City,
after Israel had airdropped leaflets warning people to leave the area,
on Wednesday. (Photo: AP)
The text message was as urgent as it was unwelcome: The Israeli army advised Mouin Ghaffir to leave his home quickly or risk being killed in airstrikes against Hamas rocket squads.
He swiftly sent his wife and 11 children to a dirty U.N. emergency shelter, with more than 40 people crammed in each classroom, but had to endure a night under bombardment at home after failing to find a safe place for his ailing 75-year-old mother.
Such is the life-and-death predicament of tens of thousands of Gazans being told by Israel to flee targeted areas, most with nowhere to go. U.N. shelters lack the space, and relatives, with their own overcrowded homes, often cannot help.
Israel says urging residents to evacuate - with warnings delivered through automated calls, text messages and leaflets dropped from planes - is part of the military's attempt to spare civilians whenever possible.
It holds Hamas responsible for the ordeal of Gaza's 1.7 million people, saying Hamas fighters fire rockets toward Israel from residential areas, effectively using civilians as human shields.
However, rights groups say simply sending warnings does not absolve Israel of responsibility and that those being urged to evacuate need somewhere to go.
A relative looks at five-month-old Lama al-Satari, who died of internal
injuries during ongoing violence between Israel and Hamas in Gaza,
in her family home during her funeral in Rafah, southern Gaza Strip,
Wednesday. (Photo: AP)
In Ghaffir's case, there was no way he could move his mother, Fawziyeh, after receiving the army's text message late Tuesday. The elderly woman, afflicted by diabetes, high blood pressure and incontinence, needs constant care, he said. Conditions were chaotic in the U.N. girls' school in a safer area where his wife Mona and their 11 children immediately sought refuge. But it was no place for his mother.
Instead, he moved her into the living room of the family's home in the Shijaiyah neighborhood in eastern Gaza City, one of three areas Israel said it would target. Mother and son kept low to the ground, away from the windows.
"I didn't sleep the entire night from the sound of the bombings," said 48-year-old Ghaffir. "The walls were shaking and there was a crack in the wall." He said the blasts shattered several windows in the house.
On Wednesday morning, Ghaffir moved his mother to his sister Leila's apartment in an area deemed somewhat safer. But Leila, 65, had no room for the rest of his family, he said, noting that she lives in a one-bedroom apartment with her husband and four other family members.
After getting his mother out of Shijaiyah, where airstrikes continued Wednesday, Ghaffir joined his wife and children at the U.N. school. The classroom where his family slept the night before on a bare floor was filled with noisy children, but Ghaffir said he preferred the crowded conditions to being at home.
Palestinian mourners cry over the deaths of Ibrahim Ramadan Abu Daga,
10, and Amro Ramadan Abu Daga, 26, killed while riding in a vehicle
that was destroyed by an Israeli missile strike. (Photo: AP)
"Here, we are surrounded by people," he said. "We get the feeling we are all together."
Ghaffir's story highlights the hard choices Gazans face in this war.
The Israeli army did not say how many homes it sent the warnings to, but the three areas - the town of Beit Lahiya and the sprawling Gaza City neighborhoods of Zeitoun and Shijaiyah - have a combined population of well over 300,000 people.
That's far more than can be accommodated in U.N. schools, which cannot shelter more than 35,000. Currently, some 21,000 Gazans are crammed into 24 U.N. schools, said Sami Mshasha, a spokesman for the U.N. aid agency.
Moving in with relatives is not an option for most. While familial bonds tend to be strong in Gaza's traditional society, families are large and - with a severe housing shortage - homes are crowded.
Danger lurks not only in the areas the Israeli military says it will hit. Since the start of cross-border fighting on July 8, Israel has carried out close to 1,900 airstrikes across Gaza. Israel says it is targeting Hamas installations to try to halt Hamas rocket fire on Israel, but more than half of the over 200 Palestinians killed so far have been civilians, according to U.N. figures.
"There is no safe place, whether in the homes or in the streets," said Amjad Shawa, who heads a network of civic groups in Gaza.
There were no reliable estimates of how many residents left after Tuesday's warnings, but the exodus was not massive. Gaza's Interior Ministry urged people to stay put, saying the Israeli warnings were part of "psychological warfare." It later said most people had not heeded Israel's call.
Among those deciding against evacuation was the extended Hassanain family - brothers Jawad and Fathi, their wives, mother and 12 children. "When we hear the sound of explosions, we think we might be the next target," Jawad said by telephone. "We know it's not safe, but where to go? Can you tell me about a safe place?"
He said several tank shells landed near the family's house close to the Israeli border on Wednesday. If the situation gets worse, he might send his wife and five children to a safer area, but said his 72-year-old mother, Khadija, refuses to trade her home for a shelter.
Israel holds Hamas, which has fired hundreds of rockets at Israel in the past nine days, responsible for the civilians' predicament. "All the rockets launched so far have come from these civilian areas," said Lt. Libby Weiss, an army spokeswoman. "We also know they (Hamas militants) store weapons there as well."
Hamas rocket squads have become increasingly sophisticated, often firing from underground launch sites with movable covers.
Weiss said the military meets its obligations for safeguarding civilians by sending the warnings.
People rally against the Israeli military operations in Gaza, holding
a banner that reads, "the criminal negligence of Muslim rulers and
silence of UNO (United Nations organizations) and bleeding Palestine,
Wednesday. (Photo: AP)
However, Sarit Michaeli of the Israeli human rights group B'Tselem said more is required under international humanitarian law. The army also needs to make sure the civilian population can act on the warnings, she said.
At the same time, those firing rockets "show utter disregard for the lives of Israeli civilians, but also the lives of Palestinians in the neighborhoods they are firing from," she said.
Yet residents in the targeted areas seem unwilling to blame Hamas.
Hassanain, a long-time supporter of Hamas' political rival Fatah, said he cheers on the rocket squads.
"For me, it's personal," he said. "Every rocket avenges the daily terror that my family has been living through since 2000 when they (Israeli troops) started using tanks for shelling."
"Rockets now are our last symbol of dignity."
Watch Video: Family of Gaza children killed on beach grieve
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