JERUSALEM (AFP) ― Israel kept up its punishing raids on Gaza Monday, but held off from a threatened ground incursion as the world intensified efforts to broker a truce.
With Israel’s campaign to halt cross-border rocket fire entering its seventh day Monday, Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas was to discuss moves to seek U.N. intervention at an emergency meeting of Arab foreign ministers in Cairo.
And U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon urged Israel to scrap plans for a ground offensive, saying “too many” Palestinian civilians had been killed as the death toll from Israel’s punishing air campaign hit 172, with another 1,230 wounded.
The Gaza-based Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) has said more than three-quarters of the victims were civilians.
But, despite preparations for a possible ground attack, Israel appeared to be holding off with media reports saying that ministers attending a Sunday evening meeting of the security cabinet had decided against putting boots on the ground ― for the time being.
Overnight, Israeli warplanes struck more than 40 sites in the Gaza Strip, hitting three training facilities used by Hamas’s armed wing, and killing two people, medics said.
And Palestinian security sources reported army shelling in the northern town of Beit Lahiya where Israel had on Sunday warned residents to leave ahead of an impending assault, sending thousands fleeing their homes in terror.
But the promised attack never materialized. Hamas had told residents to ignore the Israeli warning.
Early Monday, the army said it had used a Patriot surface-to-air-missile to shoot down an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) off the Ashdod coastline, some 28 kilometers north of Gaza.
Army radio said it was likely carrying explosives in a fresh Hamas attempt to stage an attack.
With a growing number of Palestinian civilians among the dead, international efforts to end the bloodshed have taken on a renewed sense of urgency.
Abbas has called for the United Nations to put the state of Palestine under “international protection” due to the worsening violence in Gaza, and would discuss efforts to end the bloodshed at a meeting of the Arab League foreign ministers in Cairo, officials said.
“At the Arab foreign ministers’ meeting ... the State of Palestine will ask all parties present to adopt a draft resolution at the ministerial level to be presented at the next U.N. Security Council meeting and to follow-up on this matter accordingly at the U.N.,” a statement from the Palestine Liberation Organization said.