Gaza deaths top 500 in bloodiest day yet

By Ibrahim Barzak

The death toll among Palestinians from the Israeli offensive in the Gaza Strip has reached 508, Gaza health officials said as the two sides counted their dead following the bloodiest day of fighting so far in the two-week campaign. Diplomatic efforts to broker a cease-fire intensified amid the mounting carnage.

In New York, the UN Security Council expressed "serious concern" about Gaza's rising civilian death toll and demanded an immediate end to the fighting following an emergency session.

UN chief Ban Ki-moon pushed for a truce in a trip to the region, and is expected in Cairo later today. US Secretary of State John Kerry was also heading back this week to bolster regional efforts to reach a cease-fire.


As Israeli airstrikes continue to pound Gaza, rescue workers near the southern Gaza city of Khan Younis were digging out bodies from a home flattened in one of the strikes overnight, said Ashraf al-Kidra, a Gaza health ministry official.

Elsewhere in Gaza, Israeli tanks opened fire on the home of the Siyam family west of Rafah in the southern part of the strip, killing 10 people, including four young children and a nine-month-old baby girl, al Kidra said.

Meanwhile, the Israeli military said it has foiled a Hamas infiltration attempt through two tunnels leading from northern Gaza into southern Israel. The military said 10 infiltrators were killed after being detected and targeted by Israeli aircraft.

Yesterday, the first major ground battle in two weeks of Israel-Hamas fighting exacted a steep price, killing 65 Palestinians and 13 Israeli soldiers and forced thousands of terrified Palestinian civilians to flee their neighbourhood, reportedly 
used to launch rockets at Israel and now devastated by the fighting.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the offensive would continue "as long as necessary" to end attacks from Gaza on Israeli civilians.

The 13 Israeli soldiers died in clashes with Hamas militants in the Gaza City neighbourhood of Shiyajiah, bringing the overall Israeli death toll to 20, including two civilians.

Last night, Hamas spokesman Mushir al-Masri in Gaza claimed his group had captured an Israeli soldier.

But there was no official confirmation of the claim in Israel.