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More than 100 Gazans killed in Israeli assault in less than 48 hours
Published Saturday 19/07/2014 (updated) 20/07/2014 20:35
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A Palestinian mother mourns during the funeral of her sons Emad and
Qassim Elwan, who were both killed in an Israeli tank shell the day
before, on July 19, 2014 in Gaza City (AFP/Mohammed Abed)
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- 110 Palestinians have been killed in less than 48 hours since Israel launched a ground invasion of the besieged Gaza Strip, bringing the total number of dead in the 12-day assault to 339.

47 Palestinians were killed across the tiny coastal territory on Saturday amid intense Israeli airstrikes and shelling from both sea and land after more than 60 died the day before, while the number of injured since the beginning of hostilities reached 2,500, according to Gaza medical authorities.

The latest casualties of the Israeli assault were Muhammad and Hatem al-Zaabout, killed in an Israeli airstrike in al-Zaytoun neighborhood of southern Gaza City.

Earlier on Saturday afternoon, Abdulaziz Abu Zeitir and Mumen Taysir Abu Dan were killed in Israeli shelling of the Deir al-Balah refugee camp.

Amid the ongoing carnage, UN chief Ban Ki-moon headed to the region to join truce efforts in the hopes of preventing Israel from further widening its bloodiest attack since the it killed approximately 1,400 Palestinians in 2008-9.

The UN said Ban would leave for the region Saturday to help Israelis and Palestinians "end the violence and find a way forward," under secretary general for political affairs Jeffrey Feltman told the Security Council.

Hamas offered a 10-year truce to Israel earlier in the week on the condition that a seven-year old economic blockade of the Gaza Strip that has caused major economic and humanitarian destruction -- while failing to achieve its stated aim, the removal of Hamas -- be lifted, but Israel rejected the offer.

The United States urged its Israeli ally to do more to limit the high civilian death toll from the operation while supporting Israel's right to defend itself.

'No guarantee of 100 percent success'

President Barack Obama said Washington was "deeply concerned about the risks of further escalation and the loss of more innocent life," adding that Washington was "hopeful" that Israel would operate "in a way that minimizes civilian casualties."

But Israeli army chief Lieutenant General Benny Gantz, said the army was "expanding the ground phase of the operation."

"There will be moments of hardship," he warned in a briefing to the military, anticipating further Israeli casualties.

Israel has said the aim of the ground operation launched on Thursday night is to destroy Hamas' network of tunnels which are used for cross-border attacks on southern Israel.

Military spokesman Lieutenant General Peter Lerner told journalists Saturday that during the past 24 hours the military had seized 13 tunnels into Israel.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he had ordered the military to be ready for "a significant broadening of the ground activity."

He said the ground operation was necessary to deal with the tunnels, but admitted there was "no guarantee of 100 percent success."

Israel launched its assault on Gaza -- which it has named Operation Protective Edge -- 12 days ago in what it said was an attempt to curb rocket fire from the Gaza Strip, which had increased since it began an assault on the West Bank in June that left 10 dead, 130 injured, and more than 600 Hamas-affiliated individuals in prison.

That campaign was launched by Israel after the disappearance of three Israeli youth, for which it blamed Hamas but presented no evidence. Hamas, meanwhile, denied the charges, and many accused Israel of blaming the group in order to have an excuse to "crush" the group, as senior Israel officials later demanded.

Although Hamas had widely observed a ceasefire with Israel put in place in 2012, as Israel massively targeted the group across the West Bank other groups began firing rockets, with Israel bombing the Strip in near nightly raids as a result, eventually escalating into the current operation 12 days ago.

Israeli soldiers sit on a Merkava tank near the Israeli-Gaza border
on July 19, 2014 (AFP Jack Guez)

Aid agencies gearing up

The UN agency for Palestinian refugees UNRWA has opened 44 of its schools to shelter those fleeing homes in the most heavily bombarded areas, and it said on Saturday there were more 50,000 Gazans seeking sanctuary so far.

The World Food Program said it had already distributed emergency food rations and food vouchers to more than 20,000 displaced people.

It said it was gearing up for a huge increase in the coming days and hoping to reach 85,000 people with food distributions.

Gaza was also struggling with a 70 percent power outage after electricity lines from Israel were damaged, officials said.

Hospitals, meanwhile, were struggling to keep up with the number of injured, and the World Health Organization warned on Tuesday -- before the ground operation had begun -- that medicine supplies were at emergency levels, with shortages running up to 40 percent.

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, who was also in Cairo to join peace efforts, called for an urgent truce.

"The absolute priority is a ceasefire, but it must guarantee a lasting truce," he said, adding that it should take into account "Israel's security" and Palestinian demands.

AFP contributed to this report.
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1 ) Christian / Lebanon
19/07/2014 16:08
None of this would have happened if the suicidal radical Islamic Hamas in Fortress Gaza, had not fired 800 rockets indiscriminately onto suffering Israel's Christian Muslim and Jewish civilians last month, before this escalation started. It would be better for the innocent Palatinian children and grandmothers who are human hostages, if they overthrow Hamas' military and political wing now.

2 ) Maureen / Australia
19/07/2014 16:38
It has been reported that 1 in 5 massacred in Gaza are children. God help you Israel.

3 ) Tibi / Tubas
19/07/2014 16:47
* THESE 100 GAZANS, killed in the last 48 hours, likely another 100 in next 48 hours (& again, & again, etc.) * WOULD ALL BE ALIVE, IF NOT FOR * HAMAS' STUBBORNESS, * HAMAS' UNREALISTIC DEMANDS, * HAMAS' REFUSING A CEASEFIRE, proposed by the Egyptians.

4 ) Tibi / Tubas
19/07/2014 16:55
Hamas should offer Peace, in exchange for its demands: - end the Blockade, - open the airport, - open the borders, and - release the prisoners, But * HAMAS WILL NEVER OFFER PEACE, SO * GAZAN MUST ENDURE WAR FOREVER.

5 ) Hassan / Kenya
19/07/2014 18:23
Plz my muslim brothers all over the world let us discuss this issue once so that we bring an everlasting solution
1.plastinians r lacking weapons so let us try to buy for them 100000 guns worth $1000 each the total is $100m only nd we can get it with in a week the way i beleive coz this is very serious nd know that 2day its plastine 2moro it will be somalia,kenya nd any other muslim country.#weareonemuslim

6 ) 1.8 million gazans ,1700 / air attacks and tank
19/07/2014 19:00
firings and only 339 dead this is as SURGICAL and CAREFUL as it gets it is like One Malazian plane or regular day in Syria In Iraq 5000 died since January this year!!! No woner the world is ignoring this place

7 ) Outlier / USA
19/07/2014 19:56
Hamas should have taken the ceasefire deal when it was offered. Consequences.

8 ) Brian Cohen / Israel
19/07/2014 21:11
“These operations could have been avoided if Hamas had not rejected the Government of Egypt's ceasefire proposal—a proposal that was accepted by Israel and welcomed by the Palestinian Authority. This proves that Hamas has no interest in peace and bears responsibility for the further tragic loss of life.

9 ) Brian Cohen / Israel
19/07/2014 22:41
Hamas is willing to kill thousands of Palestinians in Gaza, not just hundreds. Turkey and Qatar seem willing partners. The Islamic world in the middle east again eats itself up and kills each other as tens of thousands are slaughtered in Syria and Iraq in an orgy of Islamic extremist death and destruction. Hamas is just another player wanting to kill, kill kill. They must be stopped before more innocent Palestinians die.

10 ) Muhammad / Philippines
20/07/2014 06:58
In the name of Allah, Almighty! - I’am always with any group who is in the right/lawful direction, irrespective of their faith, nationality, wealth and social statuses. However the great query is why Hamas keeps rocketing Israel? The answer is; because Israel had illegally attacked and keep occupying/grabbing their nation, Palestine. The American government has tolerated this (Israelis) illegal occupation an attack because ever since the American dishonest government has been under the control o

11 ) Thayer / France
20/07/2014 17:42
@3/8 Tibi & Brian, if your government hadn't been so keen on Eretz Yisrael & branding Hamas terrorists, much of what has happened over the years could have been avoided. If you want true peace, end the occupation of Palestine, go back to the pre 1967 borders & leave Palestine in peace. If you want a long term ceasefire, with a view to resolution of the conflict, accept Hamas current requests & engage in long term dialogue with ALL Palestinian parties. Hamas will engage if Israel will, simple!!

12 ) THOMASWADAMS / AUSTRALIA
21/07/2014 06:34
We must all remember what the genesis of all the Palestinian problems is; they are a disenfranchised mutilated and savaged peoples in their own ancient homelands, they are subjected to these great injustices because corrupt politicians from Britain and France signed away their rights without bothering to consult them. Also let us not forget that Israel came into being as a result of horrendous terrorist activities perpetrated by Jewish Zionist terror gangs. The Palestinian peoples are innocents

13 ) Ruben / Israel
22/07/2014 12:09
If you care to Gaza people support Israel! The Hamas terrorist organization use them. FREE GAZA NOW! Free Gaza from Hamas. Instead weapons buy food for people! instead bunkers build schools!
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