Gaza/Jerusalem: Amid intense efforts by world leaders to broker a ceasefire, Israel on Sunday expanded its ground offensive in the Gaza Strip after the death of its four soldiers, while the Palestinian militant groups used suicide bombers and bomb laden donkey carts to attack Israeli troops.
Some 373 Palestinians, including children and women, have been killed in the Israeli offensive, over 2,500 injured and almost 61,000 displaced seeking refuge in 49 UN Relief and Works Agency run centres, sources in the Gaza Strip said.
At least 24 Palestinians were killed today, including the son of a senior Hamas leader.
There were reports of multiple deaths in Israeli attacks on Shejaiya and the neighbouring Zeitun district, as well as in Jabaliya to the north. The streets of Shejaiya were filled with thousands of people fleeing for their lives.
Seven Israelis, including five soldiers, have been killed in the fighting and dozens others injured while a large section of the Israeli population struggles to carry out normal life under attack, trying to stay put close to safe shelters under instructions from the Home Front.
Four soldiers were killed yesterday, including two who died when militants disguised in military uniforms emerged from a tunnel shaft and opened fire at them inside Israel.
One of the militants was also killed on Israeli soil, and the rest fled back to Gaza and were killed by a helicopter gunship, Channel 10 said.
Amid raging violence, Qatar will today host a meeting between Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and UN chief Ban Ki-moon in attempts to reach a ceasefire agreement.
Abbas will also meet exiled Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal following his meeting with the UN chief, reports said.
The meetings come after French-led efforts to reach a ceasefire failed and Hamas rejected an Egyptian proposal.
The meeting in Doha will be headed by Qatar`s emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, who has been acting as a "channel of communication" between Hamas and the international community, local media reports said.
Islamist Hamas` fighters infiltrated nearby parts of Israel via underground tunnels and clashed with Israeli troops yesterday. The clashes demonstrated how Israel`s conflict with Hamas has now spilled outside, and even underneath.
"Controlling tunnel shafts doesn`t give us full control of the entire tunnel," security sources said, adding troops have been focussing on destroying the tunnel network which have emerged as a major threat with some finding their way inside Israeli territory.