UK & World News

  • 21 July 2014, 23:50

Israel 'Hits Hospital' As Death Toll Tops 560

Four people have been killed and a further 70 injured when Israeli tank shells hit a hospital in central Gaza, according to Palestinian medics.

Thirty of those wounded in the attack were reportedly medical staff.

Health official Ashraf al Kidra said 12 shells hit the intensive care unit, surgery department and administration building at the al Aqsa hospital in the town of Deir el-Balah.

Footage on Hamas' al Aqsa TV station showed chaotic scenes at the facility.

At least 55 Palestinians were killed on Monday, said officials in Gaza, including 28 members of the same family who died in an air strike near Gaza's southern border with Egypt.

Israel also suffered more deaths, with seven soldiers killed in gun battles.

The Israeli army said four of those occurred during a battle with Hamas fighters trying to sneak into the country through cross-border tunnels.

Grainy video released by the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) showed what appeared to be Hamas gunmen in a firefight with Israeli forces before they were hit by an airstrike.

The Israeli army claimed it had killed more than 10 Hamas militants in the confrontation.

Hamas' armed wing the Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades said it had carried out "an operation behind enemy lines in response to the massacre in Shejaiya [Shaja'iya]".

The tunnel firefight came as the UN Security Council urged an "immediate cessation of hostilities" in a call echoed by US President Barack Obama in a telephone conversation with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

US Secretary of State John Kerry also announced $47m (27m) in humanitarian aid for Gaza as he arrived in Cairo to discuss ceasefire plans with UN chief Ban Ki-moon.

However, an end to the violence still appears some way off.

Ismail Haniyeh, the top Hamas leader in the Gaza Strip, has said the group's current aim is to force an end to the blockade of the territory.

Eighty-four rockets hit Israel on Monday, claimed the army, but no injuries were reported. It says Hamas has launched almost 2,000 rockets since the start of the Israeli operation.

Israel's far more destructive aerial bombardment has resulted in an exodus of more than 100,000 Palestinian civilians, according to the United Nations.

Many have sought refuge in 69 UN-run shelters, said the organisation.

People fleeing Israeli shelling in the Shajaiya district on Sunday described it as a "massacre", with many women and children among the dead during the bloodiest day of fighting so far.

The Israeli army said it had given civilians two days warning to leave the area.

The Palestinian death toll now stands at at least 565, while 25 Israeli soldiers and two civilians have been killed.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas described the situation in Gaza as "intolerable" and the Israeli attacks a "crime against humanity".

The Israeli government has claimed Hamas is hiding behind the civilian population.

Spokesman Naftali Bennet said: "What Hamas is doing is effectively self genocide. They're, in a cowardly and cynical fashion, placing their women and children as shields."

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