Gaza toll soars as Israel ‘days’ from completing tunnel hunt



GAZA CITY/JERUSALEM // Israel pressed ahead with its Gaza offensive saying it was days from achieving its core goal of destroying all Islamist guerrilla cross-border attack tunnels, but a soaring Palestinian civilian toll has triggered international alarm.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s security cabinet on Wednesday approved continuing the assault launched on July 8 in response to a surge of rocket attacks by Hamas. Israel also sent a delegation to Egypt, which has been trying, with Washington’s blessing, to broker a ceasefire.

A military source said some 16,000 reservists were being called up at short notice in the coming hours to relieve a similar number who would be stood down.

Gaza officials say at least 1,361 Palestinians, most of them civilians, have been killed in the battered enclave and nearly 7,000 wounded. 56 Israeli soldiers have been killed in Gaza clashes and more than 400 wounded. Three civilians have been killed in Palestinian shelling in Israel.

Ban Ki-moon, the UN Secretary-General, was incensed on Wednesday at the deaths of at least 15 Palestinians among thousands sheltering at a school whose UN administrator said appeared to have been hit by Israeli artillery.

“It is outrageous. It is unjustifiable. And it demands accountability and justice,” Mr Ban said.

Israel said its forces were attacked by guerrillas near the school, in northern Jabalya, and had fired back. It did not comment immediately on another incident, in nearby Shejaia, in which Palestinian officials said 17 people were killed by Israeli shelling near a produce market.

“Such a massacre requires an earthquake-like response,” said Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum, whose group has kept up dozens of daily rocket launches deep into Israel. The Israelis have kept casualties from the salvoes low with nine Iron Dome interceptor batteries and air-raid sirens that send people to shelters.

Rolling Israeli ground assaults on residential areas, prefaced by mass warnings to evacuate, have displaced more than 200,000 of Gaza’s 1.8 million Palestinians. The tiny territory’s infrastructure is in ruins, with power and water outages.

Israel says it is trying to avoid civilian casualties and blames these on Hamas and other Palestinian factions dug in for urban combat.

Both sides have voiced openness to a truce but their terms diverge dramatically. Israel wants Gaza stripped of infiltration tunnels and rocket stocks. Hamas rules that out, and seeks an end to a crippling Gaza blockade enforced by Israel and Egypt, which view the Palestinian Islamists as a security threat.

The negotiations are further complicated by the fact Israel and the United States shun Hamas as a terrorist group, while the go-betweens — Egypt, Qatar and Turkey — disagree on Gaza policy.

In the absence of a deal, Israel has ordered its ground forces to focus on locating and destroying a warren of tunnels through which Hamas has menaced its southern towns and army bases.

Major General Sami Turgeman, chief of Israeli forces in Gaza, said on Wednesday they were “but a few days away from destroying all the attack tunnels”. The army said 32 of the secret passages had been found so far and half of them blown up.

Three Israeli soldiers were killed on Wednesday by a booby trap detonated as they uncovered a tunnel shaft, the army said. Military losses are more than five times those from the last Gaza ground war, in 2008-2009, but Israeli opinion polls show strong public support for fighting on until Hamas is quelled.

Mr Netanyahu faces intense pressure from abroad to stand his forces down. The United States and the UN Security Council have urged an immediate, unconditional ceasefire by both sides in Gaza to allow in humanitarian relief and for further talks on a more durable cessation of hostilities.

On Wednesday, the White House voiced worry at the deaths in Jabalya and other U.N.-run shelters shelled during the clashes.

“We are extremely concerned that thousands of internally displaced Palestinians who have been called on by the Israeli military to evacuate their homes are not safe in UN-designated shelters in Gaza,” said National Security Council spokeswoman Bernadette Meehan.

“We also condemn those responsible for hiding weapons in United Nations facilities in Gaza,” she said, referring to three cases in which the UNRWA aid agency reported rockets found at its schools.

Separately, the Pentagon said it had allowed Israel to stock up on grenades and mortar rounds from a US munitions store located in Israel as part of bilateral emergency preparedness arrangement.

Israel briefly observed a July 15 ceasefire proposed by Egypt but Hamas continued attacks, saying its conditions had been ignored. Egyptian officials say they put together a revised truce plan this week that had been provisionally accepted by Israel, though Hamas was still undecided.

However, an Israeli security cabinet minister, Gilad Erdan, denied on Wednesday that his side was suing for a truce.

“We are not looking for a ceasefire, though of course military manoeuvres are supposed to be followed by diplomatic manoeuvres,” Erdan said. “But a ceasefire must fulfil Israel’s terms, a long-term calm and the demilitarisation of Gaza.”

* Reuters

5 of the most-popular Airbnb locations in Dubai

Bobby Grudziecki, chief operating officer of Frank Porter, identifies the five most popular areas in Dubai for those looking to make the most out of their properties and the rates owners can secure:

• Dubai Marina

The Marina and Jumeirah Beach Residence are popular locations, says Mr Grudziecki, due to their closeness to the beach, restaurants and hotels.

Frank Porter’s average Airbnb rent:
One bedroom: Dh482 to Dh739 
Two bedroom: Dh627 to Dh960 
Three bedroom: Dh721 to Dh1,104

• Downtown

Within walking distance of the Dubai Mall, Burj Khalifa and the famous fountains, this location combines business and leisure.  “Sure it’s for tourists,” says Mr Grudziecki. “Though Downtown [still caters to business people] because it’s close to Dubai International Financial Centre."

Frank Porter’s average Airbnb rent:
One bedroom: Dh497 to Dh772
Two bedroom: Dh646 to Dh1,003
Three bedroom: Dh743 to Dh1,154

• City Walk

The rising star of the Dubai property market, this area is lined with pristine sidewalks, boutiques and cafes and close to the new entertainment venue Coca Cola Arena.  “Downtown and Marina are pretty much the same prices,” Mr Grudziecki says, “but City Walk is higher.”

Frank Porter’s average Airbnb rent:
One bedroom: Dh524 to Dh809 
Two bedroom: Dh682 to Dh1,052 
Three bedroom: Dh784 to Dh1,210 

• Jumeirah Lake Towers

Dubai Marina’s little brother JLT resides on the other side of Sheikh Zayed road but is still close enough to beachside outlets and attractions. The big selling point for Airbnb renters, however, is that “it’s cheaper than Dubai Marina”, Mr Grudziecki says.

Frank Porter’s average Airbnb rent:
One bedroom: Dh422 to Dh629 
Two bedroom: Dh549 to Dh818 
Three bedroom: Dh631 to Dh941

• Palm Jumeirah

Palm Jumeirah's proximity to luxury resorts is attractive, especially for big families, says Mr Grudziecki, as Airbnb renters can secure competitive rates on one of the world’s most famous tourist destinations.

Frank Porter’s average Airbnb rent:
One bedroom: Dh503 to Dh770 
Two bedroom: Dh654 to Dh1,002 
Three bedroom: Dh752 to Dh1,152 

RESULT

Copa del Rey, semi-final second leg

Real Madrid 0
Barcelona 3 (Suarez (50', 73' pen), Varane (69' OG)

EVIL DEAD RISE

Director: Lee Cronin
Stars: Alyssa Sutherland, Morgan Davies, Lily Sullivan
Rating: 5/5

Aston martin DBX specs

Engine: 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8

Transmission: nine-speed automatic

Power: 542bhp

Torque: 700Nm

Top speed: 291kph

Price: Dh848,000

On sale: Q2, 2020
 


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