Netanyahu insists 'no plans for any ceasefire' despite growing death toll in Gaza
A family of eight, as well as nine football fans watching the World Cup, were among the victims of yesterday's Israeli airstrikes on the Gaza Strip, as Benjamin Netanyahu vowed there would be no ceasefire.
US Secretary of State John Kerry broke his silence on the crisis in Gaza yesterday, describing the conflict as a "dangerous moment" but refraining from offering to visit the Middle East despite a warning from the United Nations of "full-blown war".
By last night, Israel had carried out 860 airstrikes on targets across the territory, claiming at least 81 Palestinian lives since Tuesday. Hamas, the radical Islamist movement, had fired almost 400 rockets at Israeli population centres, including Tel Aviv, but without casualties.
Four long-range rockets were also fired at Jerusalem yesterday, with two shot down and two exploding harmlessly in open spaces. So far, Israel has not come under international pressure to call a ceasefire.
The Israeli premier said that, in spite of the mounting death toll, airstrikes would continue. "I am not speaking with anyone about a ceasefire. That is not under consideration," he said.
The deadliest Israeli strike yesterday killed eight members of the al-Haj family in Khan Yunis refugee camp in the southern part of the Strip.
Mahmoud al-Ha (57) died along with his wife Basma and three sons and three daughters, including Fatma (12). There were 23 people injured.
Late on Wednesday night, the Israeli air force struck a beach cafe in Khan Yunis, where dozens of Palestinians were gathered to watch the World Cup. Nine people died. According to the al-Mezan human rights group, more than 76 Palestinians, including 20 children and 10 women have died since Israel's Operation Protective Edge was launched on Tuesday with the stated objectives of halting Hamas-led rocket fire from Gaza to Israel.
Hamas kept up its rocket barrages yesterday, targetting Tel Aviv and Jerusalem in addition to southern Israel. A Hamas spokesman said it was ready to "fight to the end".
There have been no Israeli fatalities or serious injuries in the violence.
Israeli army spokesman Lt Col Peter Lerner said his preliminary information showed the attack on the beach cafe "was not an instance of targetting premises of Hamas command and control but that... terrorists... were the target".
Palestinian reports from Beit Lahiya, in the northern part of the Strip, said that a five-year-old boy, Abdallah Abu Ghazal, was killed yesterday in an Israeli airstrike.
About four hundred people have been injured in Israeli attacks, including 123 children, according to al-Mezan.
Bill Van Esveld, the local representative of Human Rights Watch, attributed the high civilian casualty rate partly to Israel's targetting of houses belonging to militant commanders and their families. Israel says the civilian casualties are because Hamas uses non-combatants as human shields.
Moshe Yaalon, the Israeli defence minister, said: "The gains of the Israel Defence Forces are very substantial and we are continuing in systematic fashion with the attack on the terror groups and harming them greatly.
"We will continue this until they understand that escalation is not worth it and that we don't tolerate fire on our communities and citizens."
As Hamas continues to fire, Mr Netanyahu will have to decide whether to expand the Israeli campaign into a ground invasion of the Strip, which many of his political allies want.
The army stresses it warns inhabitants – by phone and by firing a missile without any explosives – to vacate before striking the houses.
But Palestinians say in some cases no warning has been issued and some of the destroyed houses do not belong to militants. "If there is a policy of targeting the houses rather than targeting the militants themselves, it is very likely we will see more civilian casualties," said Mr Van Esveld." If there is a policy of punitively destroying people's houses it's got to be ended immediately." (© Independent News Service)
Independent News Service