Gaza bloodbath continues; diplomats scramble for ceasefire

Last Updated: Thursday, July 24, 2014 - 00:02

Gaza/Jerusalem: Israeli forces Wednesday faced stiff resistance from Hamas militants as bloodbath continued unabated in the Gaza Strip, raising the death toll to over 680 Palestinians and 31 Israelis, even as US Secretary of State John Kerry said his ceasefire talks had made some progress.

Kerry flew into Tel Aviv from Cairo, Egypt despite US warnings over airline safety and held hectic parleys in Jerusalem, also meeting UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

"We have certainly made some steps forward, but there is still work to be done," said Kerry, who made an unannounced trip to Tel Aviv.

During his whirlwind tour of the region, Kerry will also meet Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmud Abbas.

In a jolt to Israel`s economy, several US and European airlines today suspended flights to Israel indefinitely, citing security concerns after a rocket from Hamas-controlled Gaza landed near Ben-Gurion International Airport in Tel Aviv, the biggest and the main airport in the country.

Meanwhile, Israeli forces continued bombing multiple sites across Gaza, including the area`s only power station.

Gaza residents said Israel attacked the power station which provides electricity to half the population of Gaza.

Al Jazeera quoted a power station official as saying that now only 10 per cent of Gazans received electricity.

Fighting today shifted to Tuffah, east of the Gaza City.

Hamas fired a rocket-propelled grenade at an Israeli personnel carrier. Hamas` military wing claimed that three Israeli soldiers were killed in the attack.

An Israeli strike hit a mosque in Gaza City, killing one person and wounding 45 more.

The Israeli military said it hit more than 187 targets overnight, most of them in Shaja`ia, a neighborhood east of Gaza City near the border with Israel.

The death toll mounted as neither side showed any sign of backing down. Palestinian health officials said more than 680 Palestinians had been killed and 4,250 wounded. Some 70 to 80 per cent of them are civilians, according to the UN.

Twenty-nine Israeli soldiers and two Israeli civilians have also been killed in the conflict. One other soldier remains missing, but is presumed dead by the Israeli army.

United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) said more than 118,300 Palestinians have now taken refuge in its shelters. It says 43 per cent of Gaza has been affected by evacuation warnings or declared no-go zones.

In the latest incident, Israeli tank fire killed five people, including two children, in southern Gaza. Also, a foreign worker in southern Israel died after being hit by a mortar round fired from the Gaza Strip, police said.

PTI

First Published: Wednesday, July 23, 2014 - 21:58

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