UK & World News

  • 19 July 2014, 8:48

UN Chief's Gaza Truce Bid As Deaths Reach 300

As the head of the United Nations prepares to visit Israelis and Palestinians to try to end the violence in Gaza, 11 Palestinians are said to have been killed in Israeli airstrikes overnight.

UN chief Ban Ki-moon will try to secure "a lasting" resolution to the conflict between Israel and Hamas when he visits the region, a senior UN official said at a UN Security Council emergency meeting last night.

The UN refused to say where Mr Ban was heading because of security reasons, but said he wants to "express solidarity with Israelis and Palestinians," so he will almost certainly visit both sides.

The Palestinian UN representative, meanwhile, threatened to go to UN and international courts if the Security Council did not act to protect Palestinian civilians from Israeli attacks.

Riyad Mansour said that Israel's "savage" aggression into Gaza could not be justified "by any means".

But in turn, Israel's ambassador held Hamas responsible for the continuing violence, saying it "lives by violence and celebrates death".

Around 300 Palestinians have been killed since fighting began 11 days ago, with another 2,000 injured, according to the health ministry in Gaza. One fifth of those have been children.

Figures provided by the Gaza-based Palestinian Centre for Human Rights show that civilians account for more than 80% of the victims of Israel's assault since July 8.

Overnight, a strike killed seven people outside a mosque in the southern city of Khan Yunis, emergency services spokesman Ashraf al Qudra said. Three of the dead were from the same family.

Shortly afterwards four more people were killed in three separate strikes in Beit Hanun in the north, Deir al Balah in central Gaza, and another in Khan Yunis.

Israel launched a ground offensive on Thursday, starting a new phase in the operation which it said aimed partly to destroy an underground network of tunnels used by Hamas.

It is the first major Israeli ground offensive in Gaza in just over five years.

The army has confirmed that a draft of 18,000 additional reserve soldiers has been authorised by the government on top of the 30,000 already deployed.

Israel's military said on Friday that it was ready for a "significant expansion" of a ground offensive.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned: "My instructions are to prepare for the possibility of significantly widening the ground operation, and the military is preparing accordingly."

While the UN has condemned the indiscriminate rocket fire into Israel from Gaza, it says it is "alarmed by Israel's heavy response".

The UN has said it is stepping up emergency aid to Gaza, where Israel's military offensive has worsened water shortages and raised fears of increased sewage contamination and water-borne diseases.

Advertisement