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Latest Israeli massacre takes Gaza death toll to 400, bodies lay in streets
Sunday July 20, 2014 11:26 PM, IINA

As the bloodiest conflict in Gaza since 2009 entered its 13th day Sunday with the heaviest bombardment from Israeli tanks continued relentlessly, the Palestinian death toll reached more than 400, according to press reports.

Gaza War

As the Palestinian death toll spiraled past 400, medics warned it could rise further from the ongoing bombardment of areas north and east of Gaza City.

“410 people have been killed since the war started and more than 3,020 people have been injured, most of them civilians,” deputy health minister Yussef Abu Rish told reporters at Shifa hospital in Gaza City.

As the scale of the casualties emerged, both Israel and Hamas agreed to a two-hour humanitarian ceasefire to enable ambulance crews to get in. However, Israel later said the ceasefire had been breached and it would respond.

The Palestinian enclave was hit overnight with the heaviest barrage of tank shells since the beginning of Israel's offensive against Hamas on July 8, Al Jazeera reported.

The eastern neighborhoods of Shujayea, al-Shaaf and al-Tuffa were worst hit.

Al Jazeera's Stefanie Dekker in Gaza reported that the shelling on Sunday morning was still ongoing near the eastern neighborhoods.

Shujayea neighbourhood was targeted heavily by shelling overnight, cutting electricity and water supply. Dozens of bodies were brought to hospitals on Sunday morning, medics told Al Jazeera, and more are expected when ambulances are able to reach neighborhoods east of Gaza City.

Those killed overnight in Shujayea included the son of senior Hamas leader Khalil al-Hayya, Osama, his wife Hala and their two children.

Waleed, a resident of Gaza's eastern al-Shaff neighborhood, told Al Jazeera that he was terrified and stuck with his family of 18 members in a single room and had nowhere to go while Israeli shelling continued through the night.

"We can hear shells and rockets fall on our streets and homes. They're falling everywhere," he said.

"We have no electricity, everything has been cut off. The Red Cross can't reach the area [because] it's too dangerous. People are stuck at home. Some people managed to flee to UN schools and safer areas, but the streets are empty. All we hear is shelling."

Mads Gilbert, a Norwegian doctor working at Gaza's al-Shifa hospital, said that most of the casualties brought there were civilians who suffered shrapnel injuries and amputations.

"It's very disturbing to see the large number of civilians, particularly the children. What is remarkable with the Palestinians in Gaza is the resilience. They don't give up, they stand tall. I'm amazed to see the calm and coherence in the community and in the hospital among the [hospital] staff."

He said that three medical doctors had their homes shattered by Israeli attacks late on Saturday.

"What (Palestinians) are (saying) is that how can the world accept the Israelis targeting civilians in an area which is completely shut off? There are no shelters, no early warning systems, no sirens. The population is basically completely naked to the enormously strong Israeli military machine." I

srael controls land crossings, sea and airspace around Gaza, leaving most of the 1.8 residents with nowhere to go. The Hamas military wing said its fighters exchanged fire with Israeli forces in Shijaiyah and a nearby neighborhood. A Palestinian cameraman and a paramedic were among those killed in Shejaiya.

“Cameraman Khaled Hammad and paramedic Fuad Jaber were killed in a strike on an ambulance, while they were trying to evacuate the wounded from Shejaiya,” Ashraf al-Qudra, the spokesperson for the emergency services said, according to AFP.

Israel launched the offensive in response to rockets fired from Gaza and says it is targeting military installations of Hamas and other armed groups. However, the overwhelming majority of those killed and injured are Palestinian civilians.

The Israeli army said Sunday it was expanding its ground offensive against the Gaza Strip.

“This evening, the ground phase of Operation Protective Edge expands, as additional forces join the effort to combat terror in the Gaza Strip and establish a reality in which Israeli residents can live in safety and security,” the army said in a statement.

The army started the ground offensive late Thursday, after 10 days of aerial and naval bombardment of the besieged Palestinian territory, in a bid to stamp out rocket fire from Gaza fighters.

Meanwhile, thousands of people fled Gaza's eastern Shejaiya district, after heavy shelling left casualties lying in the streets, according to reports.

Ambulances were unable to reach much of the area along the border because of heavy fire, AFP reported.

There were reports of dead and wounded trapped by the bombardment. Thousands of people from the conflict zone made their way into Gaza City on foot.

"There is a steady stream of people, hundreds, walking into Gaza City. While driving into the bureau, we were met with hundreds of people on foot carrying their children, carrying plastic bags filled with whatever belongings they could take with them. They couldn't leave during the night," Al Jazeera reported.



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