Civilian deaths mount in Gaza war

More than 500 Palestinians and five Israelis killed, with thousands more injured.

    Women and children are among
    the many casualties[AFP]

    Air raids were reported in open fields in east Jabaliya, Beit Lahiya and in the Shati refugee camp overnight and on Monday morning .

    Among the dead was a family of seven at Shati refugee camp, who were killed by navy shelling off the coast of Gaza.

    Three siblings from one family, as well as a girl and her grandfather, died in Zeitoun neighbourhood during artillery shelling.

    Medical workers hit

    Emergency medical workers attempting to reach the wounded on the frontline, themselves became targets when an Israeli air raid killed four paramedics on Sunday. Ambulances have also been hit in the attacks, Palestinian sources said.


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    Witnesses in eastern Gaza told Al Jazeera that soldiers had carried out house to house raids in some urban areas.

    Israeli government officials say they are not targeting civilians, but only seeking to halt rocket fire from the Palestinian Hamas movement governing Gaza.

    However, Mahmoud Zahar, a senior Hamas official, said the group was heading for "victory" against the Israeli military.

    He said that Hamas's armed wing, the Izz-e-din al-Qassam Brigades, had "given the most beautiful performances during its confrontation with the army that the world thought invincible".

    "They have legitimised the murder of their own children by killing the children of Palestine," al-Zahar said.

    "They have legitimised the destruction of their synagogues and their schools by hitting our mosques and our schools." 

    Palestinian factions have continued to launch rockets into southern Israel, despite more than a week of aerial bombardment by Israel and the ground offensive.

    One Israeli soldier has been confirmed killed in the Gaza assault so far, with at least 49 others wounded. Four Israelis have also been killed by Palestinian rockets.

    The International Red Cross and world leaders have appealed to both Israel and Hamas to stop targeting civilians and work to restore a ceasefire.

    Diplomatic efforts

    On the diplomatic front, a Hamas official said a delegation would head to Cairo on Monday, "answering an Egyptian invitation to hold discussions" on a ceasefire.

    The talks are set to coincide with the arrival of Nicolas Sarkozy, the French president, in the region, to push for a European-backed ceasefire.

    The UN Security Council is also set to meet on Monday to discuss the crisis following an emergency session on Sunday that failed to produce a resolution or even a statement calling for a halt to the fighting.

    Israel's ground offensive launched on Saturday followed eight days of intense bombardment of the Gaza Strip.

    Humanitarian crisis

    Fears of a humanitarian crisis have also grown in recent days, as the strip, home to 1.5 million people, is suffering from acute shortages of fuel, food and medical supplies.


    Israeli positions in Gaza

    The International Committee for the Red Cross said on Sunday its medical emergency team had been prevented for a third day from entering the territory.

    Egypt has also completely closed the Rafah crossing, cutting off aid supplies to the territory. 

    The UN has warned that there were "critical gaps" in aid reaching Gaza, despite claims from Tzipi Livni, the Israeli foreign minister, that there was no crisis and that aid was getting through.

    Christopher Gunness, the UN Relief and Works Agency (Unrwa) spokesman, said the idea that there was no humanitarian crisis in Gaza, was absurd.

    "The organisation for which I work - Unrwa - has approximately 9,000 to 10,000 workers on the ground. They are speaking with the ordinary civilians in Gaza... People are suffering. A quarter of all those being killed now are civilians. So when I hear people say we're doing our best to avoid civilian casualties that rings very hollow indeed."

    About 250,000 people in the northern part of Gaza are also reported to be without electricity. The main power plant has been shut down for lack of fuel due to Israel's blockade.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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