Sunday 28 December 2014

'My saddest photo yet' - Astronaut captures explosions and rockets over Gaza

Published 23/07/2014 | 20:27

An astronaut living and working on the International Space Station has captured an image of the explosions over Israel and Gaza.

German astronaut Alexander Gurst photographed the sight as he orbited the earth on the space research centre.

“My saddest photo yet. From ISS we can actually see explosions and rockets flying over Gaza and Israel,” he captioned the image online.

Gurst has become the latest in a growing number of astronauts who are tweeting from space.

In Ireland, hundreds of people have gathered outside the Department of Foreign Affairs in Dublin to show solidarity with the victims of the Israel-Gaza conflict.

They are protesting against Israeli military action in Gaza.

Israeli soldiers ride atop an armoured personnel carrier (APC) outside the northern Gaza Strip July 22, 2014. Israel pounded targets across the Gaza Strip on Tuesday, saying no ceasefire was near as top U.S. and U.N. diplomats pursued talks on halting fighting that has claimed more than 500 lives. With the conflict entering its third week, the Palestinian death toll rose to 546, including nearly 100 children and many other civilians, Gaza health officials said. Israel's casualties also mounted, with the military announcing the deaths of two more soldiers, bringing the number of army fatalities to 27 - almost three times as many as were killed in the last ground invasion of Gaza, in a 2008-2009 war. REUTERS/Baz Ratner
Israeli soldiers ride atop an armoured personnel carrier (APC) outside the northern Gaza Strip. Israel pounded targets across the Gaza Strip on Tuesday, saying no ceasefire was near as top US and U.N. diplomats pursued talks on halting fighting that has claimed more than 500 lives. Reuters
Palestinian protesters run from tear gas thrown by Israeli soldiers during a demonstration against the Israeli military action in Gaza, near the West Bank city of Nablus. AP
A Palestinian gunman fires in the air during the funeral of Mahmoud al-Shawamrah in the West Bank town of Al-Ram near Jerusalem. Reuters
Israeli soldiers fire a mortar towards the Gaza Strip. Reuters
A Palestinian medic gestures at Al-Aqsa hospital, which witnesses said was damaged in an Israeli shelling on Monday, in Deir El-Balah in the central Gaza Strip. Reuters
An Israeli soldier splashes water on his face as he stands atop a tank outside the northern Gaza Strip. Reuters
Palestinians walk past the ruins of a mosque, which police said was hit in an Israeli air strike, in Gaza City. Reuters
Smoke from an Israeli strike rises over Gaza City. AP
Smoke and fire from the explosion of an Israeli strike rise over Gaza City, Gaza Strip, Tuesday, July 22, 2014, as Israeli airstrikes pummeled a wide range of locations along the coastal area and diplomatic efforts intensified to end the two-week war. AP
Palestinians inspect Al Farouk mosque destroyed by an overnight Israeli strike, in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip. AP
Bansayan, the brother of Israeli soldier Bayhesain Kshaun, 39, who was killed on July 21, mourns during his brother's funeral in the southern town of Netivot. Reuters
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) gestures as he speaks during a joint news conference with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon at the Defence Ministry in Tel Aviv. Reuters
Smoke is seen after an Israeli strike over the Gaza Strip. Israel pounded targets across the Gaza Strip on Tuesday, saying no ceasefire was near as top US and United Nations diplomats pursued talks on halting the fighting that has claimed more than 600 lives. Reuters

Crowds are taking part in a ‘die-in’ as they lie on the pavement outside the building on St Stephen’s Green, all wearing a poster with the name of a victim from the current conflict.

The names and ages of each of the deceased are being read out to the crowd.

An Israeli Apache helicopter fires a missile towards the Gaza Strip July 22, 2014. Israel pounded targets across the Gaza Strip on Tuesday, saying no ceasefire was near as top U.S. and United Nations diplomats pursued talks on halting the fighting that has claimed more than 600 lives. With the conflict entering its third week, the Palestinian death toll rose to 613, including nearly 100 children and many other civilians, Gaza health officials said. Israel's casualties also mounted, with the military announcing the deaths of two more soldiers, bringing the number of army fatalities to 27 - almost three times as many as were killed in the last ground invasion of Gaza, in a 2008-2009 war. Two Israeli civilians have also been killed by Palestinian rocket fire into Israel. REUTERS/Nir Elias
An Israeli Apache helicopter fires a missile towards the Gaza Strip. Reuters
Israeli soldiers carry missiles to armoured personnel carriers (APCs) as they prepare to send more ammunition to their comrades operating in the Gaza Strip, just outside Gaza. Reuters
Gas deployed by the Israeli army gushes out of a hole in a tunnel, which was used by Hamas militants in an attack on July 21, during an operation to search for tunnels dug by the Palestinian militants, just outside the Gaza Strip. Reuters
An Israeli soldier rests at a field just outside Gaza. Reuters
Protesters wave a Palestinian flag and flowers during a sit-in protest against Israel's military action in Gaza, on the Mediterranean coast at Rawshe rock in Beirut. REUTERS/Jamal Saidi
Flames light up the sky after Israeli air strikes in the Shijaiyah neighbourhood of Gaza City (AP)

Gardai told independent.ie they are ‘aware of the demonstration’ and have a Garda presence at the protest.

Meanwhile, US Secretary of State John Kerry has reported progress in the Gaza truce talks.

Israeli troops battled Hamas militants near a southern Gaza Strip town as the senior US diplomat reported progress in efforts to broker a truce in a war that has so far killed at least 684 Palestinians and 31 Israelis.

But neither side appeared close to backing down after Palestinian rocket fire led several international airlines to cancel flights to Tel Aviv and Israeli troops clashed with Hamas fighters near the town of Khan Younis, forcing dozens of families to flee.

Israel has insisted it must substantially curb the military capabilities of the Islamic militant group Hamas - a position that appears to have gained support within the US administration - while Hamas has demanded the lifting of a crippling Israeli and Egyptian blockade on the impoverished coastal territory.

US secretary of state John Kerry flew into Tel Aviv despite a US ban on flights after a Hamas rocket hit near the airport the day before, reflecting his determination to achieve a ceasefire agreement between the warring sides.

He is due to meet Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu after earlier meetings with Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas and UN chief Ban Ki-moon, but US officials have downplayed expectations for an immediate, lasting truce.

In Jerusalem, Mr Kerry said negotiations towards a ceasefire agreement were making some progress, describing unspecified steps forward in the negotiations as he met Mr Ban for a second time this week.

"We certainly have made steps forward," Kerry said, adding: "There's still work to be done."

White House deputy national security adviser Tony Blinken said Hamas must be denied the ability to "rain down rockets on Israeli civilians".

"One of the results, one would hope, of a ceasefire would be some form of demilitarisation so that this doesn't continue, doesn't repeat itself. That needs to be the end result."

On the ground Israeli troops backed by tanks and aerial drones clashed with Hamas fighters armed with rocket-propelled grenades and assault rifles on the outskirts of Khan Younis, killing at least eight militants, according to a Palestinian health official.

The Palestinian Red Crescent was trying to evacuate 250 people from the area, which was being pummelled by air strikes and tank shelling.

Hundreds of residents were seen fleeing their homes as the battle unfolded, flooding into the streets with what few belongings they could carry, many with children in tow. They said they were seeking shelter in nearby UN schools.

Meanwhile, a foreign worker in Israel was killed when a rocket fired from the Gaza Strip landed near the southern city of Ashkelon, police said.

Israel also reported that two more of its soldiers had died, bringing the military's death toll to 29. Two Israeli civilians have been killed in 15 days of fighting.

Further north, in the Shijaiyah neighborhood of Gaza City, which saw intense fighting earlier this week, an air strike demolished a home, killing 30-year-old journalist Abdul Rahman Abu Hean, his grandfather Hassan and his nephew Osama.

The Palestinians say Israel is randomly deploying a wide array of modern weaponry against Gaza's 1.7 million people, inflicting a heavy civilian death toll and levelling entire buildings.

Israel says it began the Gaza operation to halt Hamas rocket fire into Israel - more than 2,100 have been fired since the conflict erupted - and to destroy a network of cross-border tunnels, some of which have been used to stage attacks inside Israel.

As the Gaza death toll mounted, a 34-year-old Palestinian man was killed in clashes with Israeli soldiers near the West Bank city of Bethlehem, doctors said, a potentially ominous development in an area that has so far been relatively quiet.

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