More than 20 members of one family killed in Gaza strike

Palestinian patients in al-Aqsa hospitalThe Guardian – by Harriet Sherwood, Peter Beaumont, Ian Black

A hospital was shelled, killing and injuring staff and patients, and up to 28 members of one family died in an air strike as Gaza endured another day of relentless bloodshed on Monday.

As heavy shelling and fighting on the ground continued, John Kerry, the US secretary of state, arrived in Egypt to seek a ceasefire that Barack Obama declared was needed immediately: “We don’t want to see any more civilians killed,” the US president said.  

Kerry had been authorised to do “everything he can to help facilitate a cessation of hostilities”, said Obama. The remarks were a sign that international diplomacy had been galvanised by weekend carnage in Shujai’iya.

Kerry is to meet key players in the region and on Tuesday held talks with the UN secretary general, Ban Ki-moon. The UN security council has called for an immediate ceasefire.

Kerry pledged that the US would provide $47m (£28m) in humanitarian aid to help Palestinians. He said: “Only Hamas now needs to make the decision to spare innocent civilians from this violence.”

Israel was undertaking an “appropriate and legitimate effort” to defend itself but the consequences were of deep concern, Kerry said.

In Deir al-Balah in central Gaza, al-Aqsa hospital became the third to be struck in the 14-day conflict when three shells slammed into the intensive care unit, surgical and administrative areas. Five people were killed and 70 wounded, including about 30 medics, according to Gaza health officials. Ambulances tried to evacuate patients but were forced to turn back by continued shelling. Israel has claimed that Hamas hides weapons in hospitals.

Further south, in Khan Younis, an extended family was wiped out in an air strike on a house. The number of dead was put at between 24 and 28. The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights said another 10 people were killed in a single air strike in Rafah, including four young children and a baby.

Save the Children said that on average, seven had been killed every day during the conflict. “For many children, this is the third war in six years that they are going through,” said the charity’s David Hassell.

Israeli troops said they killed 10 Hamas militants as they attempted a cross-border attack using two tunnels. The Israel Defence Forces said seven soldiers had been killed in the 24 hours up to early evening.

Intense rocket fire from Gaza continued, with sirens warning people in Tel Aviv and other towns in central and southern Israel to seek shelter. The IDF said it was investigating Hamas claims that it captured an Israeli soldier on Sunday. Hamas displayed a photo ID, saying the soldier’s name was Shaul Aron. Street celebrations erupted in Gaza at the news, with people chanting “Allahu Akbar” and lighting fireworks. If the capture of an Israeli is confirmed, it will complicate efforts to broker a ceasefire.

“We advise [Israel] to take their soldiers and leave before we kidnap more soldiers in addition to the scores we have already killed and wounded,” said Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri.

Palestinians pray over green flag-draped bodiesPalestinians pray over the bodies of 17 members of the Abu Jamea family, killed by an air strike. Photograph: Hatem Ali/AP

By Tuesday morning more than 530 Palestinians were estimated to have been killed. The UN said most of them were civilians. Twenty-nine Israelis – 27 soldiers and two civilians – had died, Israel said. The UN said more than 100,000 people had fled their homes, including 85,000 people who sought shelter in schools.

Ten Israeli human rights organisations have written to the attorney general to raise concerns about grave violations of international law in the conflict. They questioned the legality of Sunday’s operation in Shujai’iya, “in particular, the potential violation of the fundamental principles of the laws of war, specifically the principle of distinguishing between combatants and civilians”.

Israel’s prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, the defence minister, Moshe Ya’alon, and chief of staff, Benny Gantz – the men directing the military operation in Gaza – said in a statement it would expand and continue “as long as necessary until the completion of the task”. Israel has said the goal of the ground invasion is to locate and destroy dozens of tunnels under the border, used by militants to launch attacks.

Ban Ki-moon and Sameh Shukri in EgyptEgyptian foreign minister Sameh Shukri, right, and UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon in Egypt. Ban has urged an immediate ceasefire. Photograph: Amr Nabil/AP

In Cairo, Ban held talks with the Egyptian president, Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi, and the head of the Arab League. The Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, was due to meet Hamas’s leader-in-exile, Khaled Mishal, in Doha.

Egypt’s proximity to Gaza, its peace treaty with Israel and good relations with the western-backed Palestinian Authority in the West Bank have made it the focus of attempts to defuse the crisis, though its relations with Hamas – which it sees as an offshoot of the banned Muslim Brotherhood – are hostile.

Hamas rejected Cairo’s original ceasefire proposal last week, though a senior official said Egypt might be willing to amend its initiative. “Egypt does not mind adding some of Hamas’s conditions provided that all involved parties approve,” the official told Reuters. Hamas is demanding an end to the blockade of Gaza, an end to hostilities, opening the border to Egypt, the release of prisoners held by Israel and other conditions – in exchange for a truce.

Ismail Haniyeh, the former Hamas prime minister, claimed that Israeli forces were being beaten in Gaza. “The Palestinian resistance will meet the demands and expectations of the Palestinian people,” he said, adding that the Hamas conditions were “the minimum demands” for any truce.

“Our people’s sacrifices are heading for triumph,” he said in a pre-recorded TV broadcast. “We see the al-Qassam Brigades and the Jerusalem Brigades and all resistance factions beating the enemy and attack him again and again, under the earth and sea. The ground operation is a declaration of failure on the part of the enemy aerial war against Gaza.”

Mishal was due to speak later, fuelling speculation about a possible “victory” speech that could pave the way for acceptance of a ceasefire.

2 thoughts on “More than 20 members of one family killed in Gaza strike

  1. It’s kind of hypocritical that Gaza children are the sacrificial lambs while
    the children invading America by the 10’s of thousands are treated like
    some endangered species. Annihilation of Gaza and America.

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