Gaza death toll tops 500 as calls for ceasefire fall on deaf ears

Mounting pressure for a ceasefire from the United States and United Nations failed to stop Israel and Hamas from exchanging fire, as the death toll surpasses 550 after two weeks of fighting.

Displaced Palestinians from Beit Hanoun flee from their homes to safety towards central Gaza on July 21, 2014. The residents of Beit Hanoun were warned by the Israeli military to evacuate from their homes as soon as possible . Heidi Levine for The National
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GAZA CITY // Israeli attacks on Gaza continued on Monday, killing at least 26 members of one family and pushing the Palestinian death toll from two weeks of fighting to more than 550.

Mounting pressure for a ceasefire from the United States and United Nations failed to stop Israel and Hamas from exchanging fire.

Forty-one Palestinians were killed in attacks on Monday. That raised the death toll to 550, most of whom were civilians, Gaza health workers said. At least 3,350 have been wounded.

An airstrike on the southern city of Khan Younis killed at least 26 members of the Abu Jami family, Palestinian news agency Maan reported.

And 11 members of the Siyam family, including eight-month old Dalal Siyam, were killed by an Israeli strike on their home in the city of Rafah, bordering Egypt on the southern edge of Gaza.

At least four more Palestinians were killed and 60 wounded later in the day, when intense Israeli shelling hit Al Aqsa hospital in Deir El Balah city.

“There is still shelling against the hospital,” Fayez Zidane, a doctor at the hospital, told Hamas’s Al Aqsa television station.

US secretary of state John Kerry was due to arrive in Cairo yesterday for meetings to broker a truce similar to the one that ended an eight-day war in 2012 between Israel and Hamas, which controls Gaza.

Heavy Israeli shelling of the Shujaieh neighbourhood killed at least 72 people on Sunday and Monday.

The violence forced tens of thousands to flee the area for safety, further worsening the humanitarian crisis in the territory, which is suffering power cuts and water shortages.

More than 85,000 displaced people in Gaza have taken refuge in 67 UN centres, including schools, said Christopher Gunness of the UN’s Relief and Works Agency.

Mr Gunness said aid from countries including the UAE was on its way, but did not say how it would get to the people of Gaza. Israel and Egypt impose a tight economic blockade on the territory, controlling the flow of goods and people.

Israeli soldiers in the Shujaieh area faced stiff resistance from Hamas’ armed wing, the Ezzedine Al Qassam Brigades. Thirteen Israeli soldiers died during clashes in Gaza on Sunday, bringing the Israeli death toll to 20.

Clashes continued in the area yesterday. Israeli officials said militants there were regularly firing rockets at Israel.

More than 1,790 rockets have been fired at Israel since the hostilities erupted on July 8, Israeli military figures showed.

The army has vowed to press on with the offensive, which includes ground operations, artillery and airstrikes.

They say it is aimed at stopping Palestinian militants firing rockets, and to destroy the system of fortified bunkers and tunnels that militants use to fire rockets at Israel.

“This is not the time to talk of a ceasefire,” said Israel’s communications minister Gilad Erdan, a member of Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s security cabinet.

“We must complete the mission, and the mission cannot end until the threat of the tunnels is removed.”

Hamas on Sunday claimed it had captured an Israeli soldier that it identified as Shaul Aaron, although the military said it was unaware and would investigate.

Israel’s military yesterday said it prevented two more infiltration attempts, although it gave few details other than to say that it killed 10 militants in airstrikes and attacks by ground troops.

Hamas has built a large network of bunkers and tunnels, some of them as deep as 30 metres, that its fighters use for cover after firing rockets.

Israeli ground forces have sought to destroy the tunnels, using explosives and airstrikes.

Those operations intensified after a ground offensive was launched on Thursday, displacing tens of thousands of people from northern Gaza.

hnaylor@thenational.ae

* Additional reporting by the Associated Press, Agence France-Presse and Reuters

hnaylor@thenational.ae