Gaza death toll soars despite calls for truce

Number of Palestinians killed rises to 100 after sixth day of air raids, as UN secretary-general calls for ceasefire.

Israeli air raids have pounded Gaza for a sixth successive day, raising to 100 the number of Palestinians killed, as the UN secretary-general called for an immediate ceasefire.

Three people, including two children, were killed and 30 others were injured in an air raid before dawn on
Monday on a family home in the Zeitoun neighbourhood in Gaza City, medical officials said.

 Civilian toll mounts in Gaza after Israeli attacks

Later, a building housing Hamas-run al-Aqsa TV and international broadcasters was targeted for a second time.

One person was killed in the attack.Sources from the armed group Islamic Jihad said the victim was one of its senior military commanders.

Elsewhere, two more people died in bombing in Nusseirat refugee camp in central Gaza, medics said.

Israel bombed 80 locations in Gaza overnight, the military said on Monday, as officials prepared for a ground offensive if talks for a truce fail.

Ban Ki-moon, the UN Secretary-General, was due to arrive in Cairo to add his weight to the truce efforts after Egypt took the lead in trying to negotiate a ceasefire and its officials met the parties on Sunday.

Israeli media said a delegation from Israel had been to Cairo for talks on ending the attacks.

Mohamed Morsi, Egypt’s president, met Khaled Meshaal, the political leader of Hamas, which runs the Gaza Strip, and Ramadan Shallah of Islamic Jihad as part of the mediation efforts.

Civilian casualties

Ashraf al-Kidra, a spokesperson of the health ministry in Gaza, said on Sunday that civilians accounted for half of the Palestinian toll.

Gaza health officials said at least 23 children and several women have been killed since Israel’s attacks from the air and warships began on Wednesday.

Hundreds of others have been wounded, and Palestinian hospitals are struggling to cope.

The Israeli army said it had fired missiles at more than 1,300 locations in Gaza since Wednesday, and that more than 550 rockets were fired back against Israel. Three Israelis have been killed and a few dozen wounded.

The army said about 300 rockets fired by Palestinian fighters were intercepted by Israel’s anti-missile system, the Iron Dome, and at least 99 failed to reach Israel and landed inside Gaza.

In the single deadliest attack of the Israeli operation so far, 12 civilians were killed in Sunday’s air attack on a four-storey house in northern Gaza City, health officials said.

Israeli military sources said a senior member of Hamas had been the target of the attack.

‘Immediate ceasefire

Ban expressed concern in a statement before setting off for the region. He will visit Israel on Tuesday.

“I am deeply saddened by the reported deaths of more than ten members of the Dalu family… [and] by the continuing firing of rockets against Israeli towns, which have killed several Israeli civilians,” Ban said

“I strongly urge the parties to co-operate with all efforts led by Egypt to reach an immediate ceasefire,” he said.

Binyamin Netanyahu, Israel’s prime minister, said that he had assured world leaders that Israel was doing its utmost to avoid causing civilian casualties.

Fighters in Gaza launched dozens of rockets and targeted Tel Aviv for a fourth day on Sunday. Israel’s “Iron Dome” missile shield shot down all three rockets.

In scenes recalling Israel’s 2008-2009 war on Gaza, tanks, artillery and infantry have massed in field encampments along the sandy, fenced-off border with Gaza and military convoys moved on roads in the area.

Israel has authorised the call-up of 75,000 reservists, although there was no immediate sign when or whether they might be needed in a ground invasion.

Israel’s operation has so far drawn Western support for what US and European leaders have called its right to self-defence, but there have also been a growing number of appeals to seek an end to the attacks against civilians.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies