UK & World News

  • 20 July 2014, 7:01

Diplomatic Drive As Gaza Death Toll Rises

Fresh airstrikes, artillery shelling and gun battles overnight have killed 12 Palestinians and two more Israeli soldiers, as Israel intensifies its ground offensive in Gaza.

Heavy shelling east of Gaza City in the early hours killed at least five Palestinians, emergency spokesman Ashraf al Qudra said.

In one artillery hit in Shejaiya east of Gaza City, a woman, two children and the son of senior Hamas official Khalil al Hayya were killed, Mr Qudra said.

Earlier, tank fire killed a 56-year-old man in the southern city of Rafah.

An airstrike in Rafah killed three young men, all brothers, and wounded 10 more people, Mr Qudra said.

Hours later, another strike in Rafah killed two people, and a strike in the central Strip killed a 29-year-old man.

Israel's army also said two more soldiers had been killed in fighting in and around the Gaza Strip.

Bar Rahav, 21, and Bnaya Rubel, 20, were killed respectively by an anti-tank missile and in a gun battle, both late on Saturday.

The Israeli military said on Saturday it had hit more than 2,500 targets in Gaza, including 1,100 rocket launchers, during the 12 days of fighting.

The latest deaths bring the toll to over 350 Palestinians, and seven Israelis, who have died since Israel's Operation Protective Edge began on July 8.

On Saturday, two Israeli soldiers were killed by Hamas militants who entered the Jewish state through a tunnel from Gaza.

An army statement said the two dead soldiers, Sergeant Adar Bersano, 20 and Sergeant Adar Bersano, 45, died fighting militants who infiltrated Israel's border through a concealed tunnel from the centre of the Strip.

The army earlier said the pair had been wounded in a clash with Hamas, who had been "aiming to carry out a lethal attack in one of the nearby communities".

It claimed the militants had fired machine guns and an anti-tank missile at the soldiers, who returned fire, "killing a terrorist and forcing the rest back into Gaza".

As the fighting rages, UN chief Ban Ki-moon is due to arrive in Qatar today as part of renewed ceasefire efforts.

Last week, Hamas rejected an Egyptian call to both sides to halt hostilities, saying it first wants guarantees that Israel and Egypt will significantly ease their border blockade of Gaza.

Hamas has also sought involvement of other countries, such as Qatar, in any ceasefire negotiations, saying Egypt cannot be the sole mediator.

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