The death toll in Gaza rose to 558 on Monday following the bloodiest day in the Palestinian enclave since 2009 as the UN Security Council expressed concern at the escalation of violence and called for an immediate ceasefire.
And the Israeli army said another seven soldiers had been killed in fighting in Gaza, raising the overall Israeli death toll to 27, including 25 troops. The announcement came a day after 13 soldiers were killed in one day in what was the highest one-day death toll sustained by the army since the 2006 Lebanon war.
Gaza emergency services spokesman Ashraf al Qudra said air strikes and shelling killed 41 people across the enclave on Monday, and another 68 bodies were pulled from the rubble in areas hit by heavy fighting a day earlier.
The army also said its troops had killed ‘more than 10 militants’ who had infiltrated southern Israel through two tunnels, sparking a firefight that reportedly wounded several soldiers. Militants killed inside Israel are not included in Qudra’s Gaza toll.
The latest deaths, included six people killed in two artillery strikes, three of whom died in the southern city of Rafah and another three in Deir al Balah in central Gaza. Of the 41 people killed on Monday, around a third of them were children, Qudra said.
Seven children were among nine dead in an early air raid on a house in Rafah, and another four children were killed in another strike on a house in Gaza City that killed nine people.
Israeli tank shells slammed into a hospital in Deir al Balah, killing four people, among them doctors, Qudra said, indicating at least 70 people were wounded.
Another 30 people were killed in a series of air strikes and tank shelling across the strip.
Of the 68 bodies recovered on Monday, 13 were from Shejaiya, hiking the death toll from a blistering Sunday attack to 74. Qudra said the vast majority were women, children and the elderly.
Another 23 of the bodies were pulled from a three-storey house belonging to the Abu Jamaa family in the southern city of Khan Yunis which was hit on Sunday, raising the overall death toll from a single strike to 28, Qudra said.
So far, Palestinian figures show 558 Gazans have been killed and more than 3,350 wounded since the start of the Israeli campaign to stamp out cross-border rocket fire.
On the Israeli side, 27 people have died, including two civilians killed by rocket fire and 25 soldiers all of whom were killed since the start of a ground operation late on July 17.
Army figures indicate another 30 soldiers were wounded in Gaza in the past day, three of whom were in serious condition. Military radio put the overall injury toll at more than 90 soldiers since the ground assault began.
Since the Israeli military started Operation Protective Edge on July 8 in a bid to stamp out rocket fire, Palestinian militants have fired 1,488 mortars and rockets that hit Israel, with air defences intercepting another 392, the army said.
Approximately 84 stuck Israel on Monday, one of them in the greater Tel Aviv area, while another 16 were shot down, the army said.
Meanwhile international efforts continue to de-escalate the situation in Gaza. The UN Security Council expressed concerns over growing casualties and called for an immediate ceasefire.
Ban Ki-moon: Palestinians & Israelis deserve freedom from siege, rockets, missiles, artillery & airstrikes http://t.co/5YhdwADY1R— United Nations (@UN) July 21, 2014
Published in The Express Tribune, July 22nd, 2014.