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Israel hits Gaza as Egypt readies talks

Sixty air strikes kill 10 Palestinians, bring down 12-story apartment block

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Published : 2014-08-24 20:31
Updated : 2014-08-24 20:31

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AFP) ― Israel pounded Gaza with 60 air strikes on Saturday, killing 10 Palestinians, mostly women and children, and bringing down a 12-story apartment block as Egypt called for new truce talks.

Since a previous round of frantic Egyptian diplomacy collapsed last Tuesday, shattering nine days of calm, 86 Palestinians and a four-year-old Israeli boy have been killed in the violence.

Israel on Saturday sent text messages, voice mails and leaflets warning Palestinians that “every house from which militant activity is carried out, will be targeted” and to stay away from “terrorists.”

Israel insists on full safety for millions of citizens who live in daily fear of rocket fire, while Hamas insists that Israel must end its eight-year blockade of the territory as part of any truce.

At least 2,103 Palestinians and 68 people on the Israeli side, all but four of them soldiers, have been killed since July 8.

The U.N. says 70 percent of the Palestinians who have died were civilians, and that among the dead are 478 children.

Israel said it had carried out 60 air strikes over Gaza on Saturday and that around 71 rockets and mortar rounds from Gaza hit Israel, with another 17 intercepted, including one over Tel Aviv.

Late Saturday a rocket fired from Lebanon struck the Upper Galilee causing damage to a structure, police and the army said, with a security source saying it hit a Druse village.
A ball of fire rises from an explosion on an apartment tower following an Israeli air strike in Gaza City in the northern Gaza Strip on Saturday. (AP-Yonhap)

No group took responsibility for what appeared to be a show of support for Hamas, in an act similar to rocket launches from Lebanon last month.

There was no immediate Israeli response but a Lebanese security source said Israeli helicopters were seen over the border area.

The deadliest Israeli air strike on Gaza leveled a home in Al-Zawayda in the center of the Strip, killing a couple, their sons aged three and four, and a 45-year-old aunt, medics said.

Neighbors said the family house had been bombed earlier in the conflict and that the family had returned to camp out in the ruins, when it was hit overnight by an F-16.

Air strikes killed a 64-year-old man south of Gaza City, and in the town of Deir al-Balah a 12-year-old boy and his 38-year-old mother, as well as another 43-year-old woman.

In the heart of Gaza City an Israeli air strike levelled an apartment building at dusk, wounding at least 18 people, 10 of them children, emergency services said.

Residents in the 12-story building were called 10 minutes before the attack and told to evacuate, sparking a stampede as dozens of people ran down to the street, neighbors said.

Two missiles then slammed into the complex, reducing it to a pile of dusty rubble and sparking panic in the area, witnesses said.

An Israeli army spokeswoman said a Hamas military operations room had been located in the building.

Veiled women wept as they stumbled down the street, cradling young children.

Dozens of families were said to live in the building, adding to the 460,000 people already displaced by the war in Gaza ― more than a quarter of the enclave’s 1.8 million population.

“They called some residents and said ’evacuate, the tower will be shelled‘.

We escaped to my neighbour and in minutes they destroyed it,” said Sanaa Joda, who lived in the building.

Another air strike later destroyed a car in Gaza City, killing one person and wounding 11, medics said.

The intensified air strikes came after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed harsh retribution for the killing of a four-year-old boy at his home in kibbutz Nahal Oz on Friday.

One Israeli child and at least 478 Palestinian children have been killed since the conflict began, UNICEF said, in the deadliest fighting since the 2005 end of the second intifada.

But speaking to community heads in the south, Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon said Israel was attempting to navigate events towards a return to negotiations.

“I am convinced the other side in its condition needs a ceasefire more than we do. We need to see that we direct things diplomatically... to a place in which we’ll achieve quiet and security for a longer period,” he said.

Egypt‘s foreign ministry issued a statement calling on “concerned parties to accept a ceasefire of unlimited duration and to resume indirect negotiations in Cairo”.

Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said that “any proposal offered to the movement will be discussed”.

Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas said that “what interests us now is putting a stop to the bloodshed”.

“As soon as a ceasefire goes into effect, the two sides can sit down and discuss their demands,” he said after meeting Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.

Abbas’s meeting with Sisi came after he held two rounds of talks in Qatar on Thursday and Friday with exiled Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal, whose Islamist movement is the de facto ruler of Gaza.

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