Over 100 Palestinians and 13 Israelis died on Gaza’s bloodiest day yet
The Gaza Strip suffered through the bloodiest day of the two-week conflict between Hamas and Israel on Sunday. The Israeli military escalated its assault in a residential area in the Gaza Strip which resulted in the deaths of at least 100 Palestinians, 60 to 70 of whom were in a single area. The Palestinian leadership and the Arab League called the assault “heinous massacre” and a “war crime”, respectively.
As of Sunday night, 436 residents of the Gaza Strip have been confirmed to have been killed since Israel’s Operation Protective Edge began on July 8. Thousands more have been wounded by Israeli airstrikes and artillery bombardments. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the offensive would continue “as long as necessary’’ to end attacks from Gaza on Israeli civilians.
The Israeli military suffered 13 casualties on Sunday, bringing the death toll on the Israeli side to 20, along with dozens of wounded troops. The one-day death toll was the highest for the Israeli military’s since a 2006 war against Hezbollah guerrillas in Lebanon. A complex operation was undertaken to evacuate the bodies of the fallen Israeli soldiers; buildings were bombarded while Israeli troops exchanged fire with militants from Hamas and other factions. Hundreds of families who remained in their homes were trapped.
“For God’s sake, leave the families of Shujaiyeh alone,” a Shujaiyeh woman wrote Sunday night to a friend in the Israeli city of Lod whom she met through a women’s organization. “Medical teams can’t reach the houses that are filling up with dead and wounded. The Red Cross isn’t answering the phones.”
Netanyahu, addressing a news conference in Tel Aviv after the military released news of the soldiers’ deaths, pledged to press on with the campaign with the goals of “restoring quiet” while “significantly” damaging Hamas and other militant groups’ infrastructure in Gaza. “We are undeterred. We shall continue the operation as long as is required,” Netanyahu said.
Hamas spokesman Mushir al-Masri in Gaza also claimed his group had captured an Israeli soldier, an announcement of which set set off celebrations in the streets of Gaza City. The claim, however, could not immediately be verified, and the Israeli military said it was investigating the report. “There’s no kidnapped Israeli soldier,’’ Israel’s ambassador to the UN, Ron Prosor, told reporters.
Hamas has made similar false claims of capturing Israelis in the past. For Israelis, a captured soldier would be a nightmare scenario. Hamas-allied militants seized an Israeli soldier in a cross-border raid in 2006 and held him captive in Gaza until Israel traded more than 1,000 Palestinian prisoners, some of whom were involved in grisly killings, for his return in 2011.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas accused Israel of carrying out a massacre in Shejaia and declared three days of mourning. Israel’s army said it had been targeting militants from Gaza’s dominant Hamas group, whom it alleged had fired rockets from Shejaia and built tunnels and command centers there. The army said it had warned locals two days earlier to leave.
Thousands of people from Shujaiyeh have streamed out of their homes to the center of Gaza City. Some are living with relatives and friends, but most have headed for schools and other institutions. The UN refugee agency UNRWA has warned that it does not have the tools to deal with the crisis.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry will travel to Cairo on Monday to meet with Egyptian officials about the crisis, U.S. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said in a statement, adding that the United States was deeply concerned about the risk of further escalation and was pushing for a ceasefire. Read more about the story here.