Friday 6 March 2015

US to call for immediate ceasefire as Gaza assault claims at least 550 lives

Richard Spencer and David Blair

Published 22/07/2014 | 02:30

Palestinian medics tend to a boy who they said was wounded in an Israeli shelling, at a hospital, in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip. The Palestinian death toll rose above 500 on Monday as the army said it had killed 10 militants who tunneled into Israel, while Gazan officials said an Israeli tank shelled a hospital, killing civilians. Photo: REUTERS/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa
Palestinian medics tend to a boy who they said was wounded in an Israeli shelling, at a hospital, in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip. The Palestinian death toll rose above 500 on Monday as the army said it had killed 10 militants who tunneled into Israel, while Gazan officials said an Israeli tank shelled a hospital, killing civilians. Photo: REUTERS/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa
Palestinians flee from Bet Lahiya in the Gaza Strip as it comes under attack from Israeli shelling
Palestinians try to comfort Hassan al-Halaq, weeping over the graves of his wife Samar, 29, his mother Souad, 62, and his sons Kenan, 5, and Sadji, killed Sunday by an Israeli strike at their house in Gaza City, during their funeral, Monday, July 21, 2014.
Sharona, the mother of Israeli soldier Tsafrir Bar-Or, leans on his flag-draped coffin during his funeral in Holon near Tel Aviv July 21, 2014.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry arrives in Cairo July 21, 2014

John Kerry, the US secretary of state, was expected to demand an immediate ceasefire in Gaza after arriving in the Middle East last night as the number killed in Israel's assault on the Palestinian enclave rose above 550.

Four people died when Israeli tanks shelled a hospital in central Gaza, while a separate air strike claimed the lives of 24 members of the same family one day after the heaviest bombardment of the two-week campaign killed 70 people in the Gaza City suburb of Shejaiya.

The carnage brought more calls for an end to hostilities, with Mr Kerry letting slip signs of American frustration with the ferocity of Israel's aerial attacks and ground incursion. In a round of television interviews ahead of his trip, he was overheard referring sarcastically to Israel's claims to be minimising civilian casualties.

"I hope they don't think that's an invitation to go do more," he said to an aide after being informed of Israeli soldiers being killed in the fighting.

"That better be the warning to them. It's a hell of a pinpoint operation, it's a hell of a pinpoint operation."

Attacks

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
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
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
An Israeli soldier splashes water on his face as he stands atop a tank outside the northern 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
Israeli soldiers fire a mortar towards the Gaza Strip. Reuters
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
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
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
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
Palestinians inspect Al Farouk mosque destroyed by an overnight Israeli strike, in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip. AP
Smoke from an Israeli strike rises over Gaza City. AP
Palestinians walk past the ruins of a mosque, which police said was hit in an Israeli air strike, in Gaza City. Reuters
An Israeli soldier rests at a field 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
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
An Israeli Apache helicopter fires a missile towards the Gaza Strip. 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
A Palestinian touches the forehead of a member of the Abu-Hasira family, who medics said was killed in an Israeli air strike, at a funeral in Gaza City
Smoke rises following what witnesses said was an Israeli air strike in Gaza City
A Palestinian man carries his son as he walks past a mosque which police said was hit in an Israeli air strike, in Gaza City
Palestinians look at a residential building which police said was hit in an Israeli air strike that killed at least 10 Palestinians on Monday, in Gaza City
Palestinians, who fled their homes during heavy Israeli shelling in the Shejaia neighbourhood, sleep at the Saint Porfirios church in Gaza City
Palestinians look at the remains of a mosque, which police said was hit in an Israeli air strike, in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip
Palestinians inspect a residential building, which police said was destoyed in an Israeli air strike, in Gaza City
Palestinians search for belongings under the rubble of a residential building, which police said was destroyed in an Israeli air strike, in Gaza City
A Palestinian woman walks past the rubble of a residential building, which police said was destroyed in an Israeli air strike, in Gaza City
Palestinians evacuate a building after what witnesses said were warning Israeli air strikes next to their homes in Gaza City
Palestinian boys, who fled their houses during heavy Israeli shelling in the Shejaia neighborhood, dip in a fountain basin at a garden in Gaza City
Palestinian medics tend to a boy who they said was wounded in an Israeli shelling, at a hospital, in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip. The Palestinian death toll rose above 500 on Monday as the army said it had killed 10 militants who tunneled into Israel, while Gazan officials said an Israeli tank shelled a hospital, killing civilians. Photo: REUTERS/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa
Palestinians flee in the back of a donkey cart from Israeli shelling in Bet Lahiya in northern Gaza Strip. Photo: REUTERS/Finbarr O'Reilly
Israeli soldiers fire mortars from an armored personnel carrier near the Israeli-Gaza border during operation Protective Edge near Sderot, Israel. Sunday marked the bloodiest day of the conflict yet, as 13 Israeli soldiers died and the death toll in Gaza passed 500 people. Photo: Andrew Burton/Getty Images
Palestinians collect the remains of bodies at a damaged house which police said was hit by an Israeli shelling that killed 8 members from al-Qassas family, among them four children, in Gaza City. Photo: REUTERS/Suhaib Salem
An Israeli tank manoeuvres outside the northern Gaza Strip. Following the death of 13 soldiers on Sunday, Israel said seven more troops had died on Monday. Photo: REUTERS/Baz Ratner
Palestinians sleep at a United Nations school, where people who fled heavy Israeli shelling in the Shejaia neighbourhood sought refuge during fighting, in Gaza City. Photo: REUTERS/Finbarr O'Reilly
Palestinians gather as an excavator searches for victims amongst the rubble of a house, which police said was destroyed in an Israeli air strike, in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip. Israeli tanks shelled militant targets in the Gaza Strip on Monday and a woman died in an air strike after the bloodiest day of a nearly two-week military offensive that showed no signs of abating, despite global calls for a truce. Photo: REUTERS/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa
An Israeli mobile artillery unit fires towards the Gaza Strip. Photo: REUTERS/Nir Elias
The father (C) of Palestinian man Zakareya al-Ashqar, who medics said was killed during heavy Israeli shelling, reacts outside a hospital morgue in Gaza City
Palestinian rescue workers stand atop the rubble of a house which police said was destroyed in an Israeli air strike, in Gaza City
Palestinians pray next to the bodies of eight members from al-Halaq family, who medics said were killed in an Israeli air strike on Sunday, during their funeral at a mosque in Gaza City
The parents of Palestinian man Zakareya al-Ashqar, who medics said was killed during heavy Israeli shelling, mourn a hospital in Gaza City
The aunt (C) of Palestinian boy Mohammed Ayad, who medics said was killed during heavy Israeli shelling, mourns during his funeral in Gaza City
Mourners carry the body of a Palestinian from al-Halaq family, who medics said was killed in an Israeli air strike on Sunday along with seven members from the same family, during their funeral in Gaza City
Israeli soldiers take position in the southern town of Sderot during an infiltration by Palestinian militants
Palestinians gather around the bodies of eight members of al-Halaq family, who medics said were killed in an Israeli air strike on Sunday
The father (back) of Palestinian man Zakareya al-Ashqar, who medics said was killed during heavy Israeli shelling, is consoled outside a hospital morgue in Gaza City
Relatives bury the the body of Palestinian boy Mohammed Ayad, who medics said was killed during heavy Israeli shelling, at a cemetery in Gaza City
An Israeli tank moves near the border with Gaza
Relatives of Palestinian man Zakareya al-Ashqar,who medics said was killed during heavy Israeli shelling, mourn outside a hospital morgue in Gaza City
Israeli soldiers take position in the southern town of Sderot, during an infiltration by Palestinian militants
The uncle of Palestinian boy Mohammed Ayad, who medics said was killed during heavy Israeli shelling, carries his body as he prepares to bury him at a cemetery in Gaza City
A Palestinian man walks amidst the debris of a house which police said was destroyed in an Israeli air strike, in Gaza City
Israeli soldiers take position along a fence in the southern town of Sderot during infiltration by Palestinian militants
Israeli soldiers take position along a fence in the southern town of Sderot, during infiltration by Palestinian militants
Palestinians flee in a vehicle from Israeli shelling in Bet Lahiya in northern Gaza Strip
Palestinians flee in the back of a donkey cart from Israeli shelling in Bet Lahiya in northern Gaza Strip
Palestinians sleep at a United Nations school, where people who fled heavy Israeli shelling in the Shejaia neighbourhood sought refuge during fighting, in Gaza City
Bloodstains are seen as a Palestinian boy looks at the remains of a car which police said was hit in an Israeli air strike in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip. Israel resumed its air strikes in the Gaza Strip on Wednesday a day after holding its fire in deference to an Egyptian-proposed cease-fire deal that failed to get Hamas militants to halt rocket attacks. Photo: REUTERS
Palestinians inspect the damage caused be an early morning Israeli missile strike in Gaza City. Israel intensified their air attacks, targeting the homes of four senior Hamas leaders and ordering tens of thousands of residents to evacuate border areas. Photo: AP Photo/Khalil Hamra
A Palestinian unloads mattresses at a United Nations-run school for Palestinians who fled their homes close to the border with Israel, in Gaza City. Israel urged the evacuation of several Gaza Strip areas where more than 100,000 people live. Photo: REUTERS/Finbarr O'Reilly
People pray next to the body of a Palestinian man, who medics said was killed in an Israeli air strike, during his funeral at a mosque in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip. According to Gaza health officials, the death toll in the coastal enclave had risen to 202 and most of the dead were civilians. Photo: REUTERS/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa
A Palestinian girl, who medics said was wounded in an Israeli air strike, is treated at a hospital in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip. Palestinian fire have inflicted the first Israeli fatality of the conflict - a civilian bringing food to soldiers near Gaza. Photo: REUTERS/Ali Hassan
An Israeli mobile artillery unit fires towards Gaza from outside the central Gaza Strip. Israeli shelling killed four boys on a Gaza beach on Wednesday, a local health official said, and Palestinian militants fired a further 70 rockets into Israel after a failed Egyptian attempt to halt more than a week of warfare. Photo: REUTERS/Baz Ratner
The remains of a tank shell, which police said was fired by Israeli troops, are seen on the fourth floor of Al-Wafa rehabilitation hospital in the east of Gaza City . Patients were evacuated from the fourth floor to the ground floor after the strike on the hospital, which was earlier warned of the impending Israeli strike, medics said. Photo: REUTERS/Mohammed Salem
Photographer Jaafar Ishtayeh looks at his burning car after it was hit by tear gas canisters fired by Israeli soldiers, during a protest by Palestinians against Israeli air strikes in Gaza strip, at Hawara checkpoint near the West Bank city of Nablus. Ishtayeh, a Palestinian, was at the scene to provide coverage of the protest. Photo: REUTERS/Abed Omar Qusini
Patients lie in their beds on the ground floor of Al-Wafa rehabilitation hospital after being evacuated from the fourth floor, which police said was hit by a tank shell fired by Israeli troops, in the east of Gaza City. Photo: REUTERS/Mohammed Salem
People stand at the scene where a rocket, fired by Palestinian militants in Gaza, landed in Ashkelon. Photo: REUTERS/Amir Cohen
Relatives of Dror Khenin bury his body during his funeral in Yehud, east of Tel Aviv, after he was killed on Tuesday when a short-range rocket landed near the border with Gaza. Khenin has been the first Israeli killed in the rocket fire, most of whose projectiles have crashed on open ground or been intercepted by Israel's Iron Dome anti-missile shield. Photo: REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun
The bodies of three of the four Palestinian children from the Baker family, whom medics said were killed by a shell fired by an Israeli naval gunboat, is carried from the morgue in Gaza City.Photo: REUTERS/Finbarr O'Reilly

In the interviews, he did not move away from the Obama administration's defence of Israel's right to defend itself from rocket attacks by Hamas, the controlling power in Gaza, but Barack Obama himself later spoke of the death toll.

"We have serious concerns about the rising number of Palestinian civilian deaths and the loss of Israeli lives," the president said.

"That is why it now has to be our focus and the focus of the international community to bring about a ceasefire that ends the fighting and can stop the deaths of innocent civilians, both in Gaza and in Israel."

Mr Kerry was due to meet Ban Ki-moon, the United Nations secretary-general, after arriving in Cairo. Today he will meet Abdulfattah el-Sisi, the Egyptian president, and other Egyptian officials attempting to revive a proposal their government put forward last week.

The proposal was rejected by Hamas, which said it had not been consulted in advance. In an exclusive interview beforehand, Khaled Meshaal, the Hamas leader, told London's 'Daily Telegraph' it was demanding further guarantees, in particular the release of prisoners and an end to the Israeli and Egyptian blockade of its ports of entry. It agreed to a similar ceasefire proposal by Egypt during fighting in 2012, but it felt that its conditions, which included easing the blockade, had not been implemented.

A spokesman for Egypt's foreign ministry said yesterday that Cairo was now having direct talks with Hamas as well as other Palestinian factions.

He made no direct promise to reopen Egypt's closed borders with Gaza, but said Cairo was open to reviving a 2005 agreement under which the border was kept open by the Egyptians on the one side and the Palestinian Authority (PA) on the other under EU monitoring.

The PA, which is close to Egypt and the United States, has already accepted Egypt's ceasefire offer. Hamas, however, seems to be bolstered by another regional power, Qatar, in rejecting it.

Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the PA, was due to meet Mr Meshaal, in Qatar last night, to try to reach a common position. The two Palestinian entities are supposed to have "reunited" but maintain separate negotiating teams.

Tunnels

It is not clear that Israel itself would accept the ceasefire. It says it must now tackle the large network of tunnels stretching from the enclave under Israeli territory which it says is being used to infiltrate Hamas.

Mr Ban, the United Nations Security Council, David Cameron and other world leaders have demanded a ceasefire.

In Gaza, the violence continued. About a dozen tank shells struck al-Aqsa hospital in the central town of Deir al-Balah, exploding inside the intensive care unit, the administration building and the surgery department. The Gaza health ministry said that four people were killed and 60 injured.

Further south, an air strike destroyed a home in the town of Khan Younis, killing 24 members of the Abu Jamaa family. Israel also resumed its bombardment of the suburb of Shejaiya in Gaza City, where at least 70 people died on Sunday.

Thousands more Palestinians fled their homes, raising the number sheltering inside United Nations schools, clinics and other facilities to almost 90,000. Another seven Israeli soldiers were killed, taking the total to 25. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Comment, Trevor Hogan: P27

Telegraph.co.uk

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