Agence France-Presse & News24 – 2014-07-21 01:10:49
Civilians Make Up 80% of Death toll in Gaza
GAZA CITY (July 18, 2014) — Thirty-three Gazans were killed on Friday as Israel pressed a major ground offensive in the coastal enclave, raising the overall Palestinian death toll since 8 July to 274, medics said. An Israeli soldier was also killed as troops began an offensive on the Gaza periphery aimed at destroying Hamas’s network of cross-border tunnels, the army said.
The latest deaths included three people killed in Khan Yunis in the south, one man killed in Nusseirat in central Gaza and another death in a cemetery in the northern Gaza Strip, emergency services spokesman Ashraf al-Qudra said.
Elsewhere, medics found the bodies of another four people: two of them just to the east of the southern city of Rafah, and another two in Khan Yunis, one of them a 17-year-old, he said.
Earlier in the day, another eight people were killed in and around the northern town of Beit Hanun, among them three teenagers. And in the southern city of Khan Yunis, six people from two families were killed, as well as another three who were killed by tank fire.
Attacks in the southern city of Rafah, which straddles the border with Egypt, claimed five lives in several different attacks, among them a five-month-old baby. To the east of Gaza City, another person was killed in Shejaiya, and medics also found the body of a man killed in a strike south of the city.
Figures provided by the Gaza-based Palestinian Centre for Human Rights show civilians account for more than 80% of the victims of Israel’s assault since 8 July to halt rocket fire by militants of the Islamist movement Hamas which controls the coastal strip. At least 1 920 Palestinians have also been wounded.
Since the Israeli operation began, more than 1,207 rockets fired from Gaza have struck Israel, and another 333 have been shot down by the country’s Iron Dome air defence system, army figures show. On the Israeli side, a civilian was killed by rocket fire earlier this week, and a soldier was killed overnight in Gaza. Four Israelis have been seriously injured.
1 in 5 of Gaza Dead Are Children
BEIT LAHIYA (July 19, 2014) — Sobbing and shaking, Ismail Abu Musallam leaned against the wall of a hospital on Friday, waiting for three of his children to be prepared for burial. They were killed as they slept when an Israeli tank shell hit their home, burying 11-year-old Ahmed, 14-year-old Walaa and 16-year-old Mohammed under debris in their beds.
His personal tragedy is not unique: the UN says minors make up one-fifth of the 299 Palestinians killed in 11 days of intense Israeli bombardment of the densely populated Gaza Strip, where half the 1.7 million people are under age 18.
The Israeli military says it’s doing its utmost to spare civilians by urging residents to leave areas that are about to be shelled or bombed as Hamas targets. It accuses the Islamic militants of using civilians as human shields by firing rockets from civilian areas. But even if urged to evacuate, most Gazans have no safe place to go, rights activists say.
“If you are going to attack civilian structures in densely populated areas, of course you are going to see children killed,” said Bill Van Esveld, a researcher for New York-based Human Rights Watch.
Seventy-one of those killed since fighting began on July 8 were under 18, according to an Associated Press count based on information provided by Palestinian health official Ashraf al-Kidra. Forty-eight of the victims were under the age of 13. Many of the children were killed in their own homes.
Early on Friday, a 5-month-old baby boy was hit by shrapnel from a missile strike near his family compound in the southern town of Rafah. A day earlier, two brothers and a cousin were killed by shrapnel while feeding pigeons on the roof of their home.
One deadly incident drew particular outrage. Four cousins, aged 9 to 11, had been playing on the beach near Gaza City’s harbour on Wednesday when a missile fired from an Israeli gunboat hit a nearby shack. The boys fled, but were killed in a second missile strike.
The images of small, bloodied bodies lying face down in the sand triggered harsh international criticism, including from UN chief Ban Ki-moon who said Israel must “do far more to stop civilian casualties”. The Israeli military said Hamas operatives were the target, and promised to investigate.
Lieutenant Colonel Peter Lerner, a military spokesperson, said on Friday that “Israel’s efforts to try to minimize civilian casualties are unprecedented in the Western world,” referring to its system of delivering evacuation warnings through text messages, automated calls and leaflets dropped from planes. He said more than a dozen attacks were aborted when civilians were spotted in the area. “Unfortunately, the Hamas infrastructure placed itself intentionally between the civilian population,” he said.
In recent days, Israel repeatedly urged people living near the border with Israel to leave their homes. As it later turned out, this was in part in preparation for the ground offensive Israel launched late on Thursday, sending in thousands of troops.
Border areas, including the northern town of Beit Lahiya, came under heavy shelling attack. Across Gaza, the heavy thuds of tank fire could be heard through the night from Thursday to Friday, often just seconds apart.
Like many in Beit Lahiya, Abu Musallam decided to remain in his apartment with his wife and seven children even as their neighbourhood came under intense artillery fire. Eventually, the children went to sleep. The oldest, Mohammed, was in one room, and little Ahmed and his sister Walaa in another, the 40-year-old carpenter said.
At some point in the night, a tank shell hit the apartment, burying the three children under debris. Abu Musallam said he had to call for help to pull them from the wreckage. They were taken to a local hospital where each was wrapped in a white shroud and placed in the morgue’s refrigerator. Ahmed’s face was blackened from soot.
Surrounded at the hospital by a throng of relatives and his 15-year-old son Omar, the bereaved father fought back tears on Friday, as he spoke about his children. He said Mohammed had worked with him in his carpentry workshop and that Ahmed was a kind boy.
The sadness then turned to anger.
“We are with the resistance,” he said, referring to Hamas militants who helped provoke the Israeli assault by firing more than 1 500 rockets at Israel in close to two weeks. “Three children died and I can offer another three just to give Palestine its freedom.”
Nearby, young boys hanging outside the hospital tried to sound street-wise and unfazed by the death around them. Fourteen-year-old Yousef Aliyan said he had walked from his nearby home to watch dead and wounded being brought to the hospital. He’s not afraid, he said. “This is not the first time we came under shelling attack,” he said. “I’m used to it.”
Alhlou reported from Jerusalem.
Gaza Toll Hits 261 on Day 11 of Israeli Campaign
News24 & Agence France-Presse
GAZA CITY (July 18, 2014) — The Gaza death toll hit 261 on Friday as Israel pressed a major ground offensive on the 11th day of an operation to stamp out militant rocket fire, medics said. And a soldier was killed as the offensive got under way, raising the Israeli death toll to two, the army said.
During the morning, medics found the body of a man killed in a strike south of Gaza City, emergency services spokesperson Ashraf al-Qudra said, raising Friday’s toll to 20 dead.
Earlier, two men from the Shami family were killed in the southern city of Khan Yunis. And four members of the same family were also killed in another strike on the city, he said.
Three more were killed by tank fire there. Two people died in the northern town Beit Hanun, following another two who were killed by tank fire not long after midnight. Another was killed in Shejaiya, east of Gaza City, Qudra said.
Five more people were killed by Israeli fire in separate attacks on the southern city of Rafah, including a five-month-old baby.
According to figures provided by the Gaza-based Palestinian Centre for Human Rights, more than 80% of the victims have been civilians. At least 1 920 Palestinians have also been wounded.
Since the Israeli operation began before dawn on 8 July, at least 1 164 rockets fired from Gaza have struck Israel, and another 320 have been shot down by the Iron Dome air defence system, army figures show. On the Israeli side, a civilian was killed by rocket fire earlier this week, and a soldier was killed overnight in Gaza. Another four Israelis have been seriously injured.
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