- The number of people who have fled fighting has doubled since the start of Israel’s offensive, according to the UN
- So far 342 people in the region have died, 60 from the ground offensive that began late on Thursday
- Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu orders military to prepare for a ‘significant expansion’ of the ground offensive
- Israeli aircraft have struck more than 2,000 targets in Gaza and killed over 300 Palestinians since start of the fighting
- Israel lost its first soldier during the offensive after Sgt. Eitan Barak, 20, was killed behind enemy lines
- He was a member of Battalion 931 of the Nahal Brigade, one of the IDF’s five major infantry formations
A total of 50,000 people in Gaza have fled their homes as Israel steps up its ground offensive on the Gaza strip.
The refugees are seeking sanctuary in 34 UN shelters in the strife-hit region, relief workers said. At least 60 Palestinians are thought to have been killed since Israel launched the ground offensive in Gaza on Thursday.
Israeli troops battled Hamas militants in Gaza on the second day of the operation as the Palestinian death toll from the 12-day offensive topped 340, according to officials in Gaza. 70 of those killed are children.
Relatives carry the the bodies of children during the funeral of eight members of the Abu Jarad who were killed overnight in an Israeli strike in Beit Lahia, north of the Gaza strip
Grief: Palestinian relatives mourn as they carry the bodies of two children, who are among the eight members of the same family who were killed overnight in an Israeli strike, during their funeral this morning in Beit Lahia, north of the Gaza strip
Israeli strikes seen in the east of Gaza strip along the border between Israel and Gaza City which it says are aimed at ending rocket fire and destroying tunnels leading into Israel
A ball of fire explodes during an Israeli shelling in the eastern part of Gaza City. Israel’s operation against Hamas saw one of its bloodiest days with 46 Palestinians killed in Gaza and two Israeli soldiers dying in a clash with militants who infiltrated the Jewish state
Health Ministry spokesman Ashraf al-Kidra said overnight airstrikes killed 12 people while the the death toll from the offensive has gone up to more than 340 Palestinians.
An Israeli soldier was killed after the start of the ground operation, probably by friendly fire, and an Israeli civilian was killed earlier this week.
The sound of tank fire and heavy machine guns mixed with the mosques’ morning call to prayer along the Gaza-Israel border.
The Israeli military said three soldiers were wounded in overnight fighting, one seriously. Israeli troops were staying close to the border and have yet to enter heavily populated areas.
Today Israeli bulldozers demolished more than a dozen tunnels in the Gaza Strip and Palestinian authorities reported intensified airstrikes and shelling.
A Palestinian child runs on debris from a destroyed house, following an overnight Israeli strike in Beit Lahiya, in the north of the Gaza strip this morning. 40,000 people have been displaced from their homes by Israeli bombing and a ground offensive
Rage: A Palestinian protester kicks a burning tyre during clashes with Israeli troops at a protest against the Israeli offensive in Gaza, outside Israel’s Ofer military prison near the West Bank city of Ramallah
Israeli reservists troops arrive for duty near the Israel-Gaza border near Sderot, Israel
Israeli soldiers uncovered 34 shafts leading into about a dozen underground tunnels, some as deep as 30 meters, that could be used to carry out attacks, the military said.
Still, Palestinian gunmen disguised in Israeli uniforms managed to infiltrate Israel from Gaza using another tunnel and today killed two Israeli soldiers and injured several others, the military said. At least one Palestinian was killed in the clash.
Hamas said 12 of its fighters participated in the attack and that the group took some of the soldiers’ weapons back to their hideouts.
In two other confrontations, Palestinian gunmen jumped out of tunnels and shot at soldiers who returned fire. Two of the gunmen were killed. Another militant died when the explosive vest he was wearing went off, the military said.
In one instance, the militants were found with tranquilizers and handcuffs, indicating they ‘intended to abduct Israelis,’ according to the military.
Footage of an Israeli missile strike. Israel has launched more than 2,000 airstrikes in the last 12 days
Heartbreaking: Palestinian mourners gather around the body of five-month-old Fares al-Mahmum during his funeral in Rafah
Killed: Sgt. Eitan Barak, 20, (left) was killed overnight at the start of a ground offensive in the Gaza Strip. He was the first Israeli casualty among troops. Pictured, right, a Palestinian relative mourns as he holds the body of a baby
Loss: A Palestinian relative of the eight members of a family killed in an airstrike cries as he carries the body of a bab
A Palestinian man, who medics said was injured by an explosion during a morning Israeli strike, is carried into Shifa hospital in Gaza City
Mourning: A relative cries during the burial of eight members of the Abu Jarad family, including three children, who medics said were killed by an Israeli tank shell, at a cemetery in Beit Lahiya
Devastation: Residents walk on debris from a destroyed house in Beit Lahiya, in northern Gaza strip today
Vigil: Palestinian mourners gather around the body of five-month-old Fares al-Mahmum during his funeral in Rafah
Israel launched the ground operation late Thursday after hundreds of airstrikes on the Hamas-ruled territory failed to halt unrelenting rocket fire that has increasingly targeted major Israeli cities.
Prime Minister David Cameron and US president Barack Obama have discussed the worsening situation in Gaza during a phone conversation, Downing Street said.
A No 10 spokeswoman said: ‘Both leaders reiterated their support for Israel’s right to take proportionate action to defend itself from the barrage of rocket attacks from Gaza.’
An Egyptian truce proposal was rejected by the Islamic militant group Hamas, which has ruled the strip since 2007 and has demanded the lifting of an Israeli and Egyptian blockade as part of any cease-fire agreement.
Israeli officials say the offensive is aimed at destroying both rocket launchers and Hamas tunnels dug into Israel, and that it could last up to two weeks. The military reported making steady progress, uncovered 13 tunnels, but said dozens remain and would not give a time frame for its operation.
Israel’s military chief, Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz, visited troops on the Gaza border early Saturday and said ‘a strategic national patience is necessary’ to complete the mission.
Israel says it has encountered little resistance on the ground so far, and has killed about 20 militants in sporadic gun battles. Three soldiers were wounded in overnight fighting, one seriously, the military said.
In one case, it said troops encountered a man who appealed for medical assistance before pulling out grenades and trying to hurl them at soldiers. He was shot dead. Troops also encountered a donkey with explosives strapped to it.
Gaza militants have fired more than 1,500 rockets at Israel over the past 11 days, and rocket fire continued overnight. Israel has launched more than 2,000 airstrikes over the same period.
Fire in the sky: The sky east of Gaza City was lit up as the Israeli offensive against Hamas continues in the Gaza Strip
Israeli troops pushed deeper into Gaza today destroying rocket launching sites and tunnels, as well as clashing with Palestinian fighters
An Israeli tank moves near the Israel and Gaza border today. Israel pounded Hamas rocket launchers, uncovered more than a dozen cross-border tunnels and engaged in gunbattles with Palestinian militants
‘The Palestinian people in the Gaza Strip will not surrender to the enemy and will not raise the white flag,’ Islamic Jihad leader Ziad Nakhala told a Palestinian radio station.
‘We are open to all possibilities as long as the enemy does not respond to the demands of the resistance.’
Meanwhile, United Nations secretary general Ban Ki-moon is on his way to the Middle East today to help end the conflict in Gaza between Israel and Hamas.
At an emergency Security Council meeting, under-secretary general for political affairs Jeffrey Feltman said a ceasefire was ‘indispensable’.
But he stressed the only way to make it stick was for the international community to ‘assume its responsibility to urgently help restore a serious prospect for a two-state solution that brings an end to the decades-long conflict and occupation’.
United Nations secretary general Ban Ki-moon is on his way to the Middle East today to help end the conflict in Gaza between Israel and Hamas.
Mr Ban has been on the phone with many leaders since the beginning of the conflict trying to bring an end to the violence. His new diplomatic initiative follows a failed attempt by Egyptian president Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi to broker a return to the 2012 Israeli-Hamas ceasefire and Thursday’s launch of an Israeli ground offensive in Gaza.
In a flurry of diplomatic activity, Mr Feltman said Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas and Mr el-Sissi reportedly agreed at a meeting in Cairo on the need for an immediate ceasefire and the urgency of a donors’ conference to start rebuilding the Gaza Strip.
Mr Abbas is in Turkey to meet the country’s president and prime minister to press for help in ending the crisis.
The UN refused to say where in the Middle East Mr Ban was heading, but Mr Feltman said he wanted to ‘express solidarity with Israelis and Palestinians’, so he will almost certainly visit both places, though almost certainly not Gaza for security reasons.
He also plans to in work co-ordination with key regional and international players.
THOUSANDS GATHER FOR GAZA PROTEST OUTSIDE ISRAEL’S LONDON EMBASSY
Thousands of protesters gathered in London today to call for an end to Israeli military action in Gaza and ‘justice and freedom’ for Palestine.
Up to 15,000 people are expected to march through the capital from Downing Street to the Israeli embassy in Kensington.
Sarah Colborne, director of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, said: ‘London has already shown its outrage at Israel’s attacks on the mostly refugee population of Gaza, with people turning out in their thousands last week.
‘Today’s national demonstration will give people from across the country the chance to say enough is enough, Israel’s siege of Gaza and its occupation of Palestinian land has to end now.
‘People want justice and freedom for the Palestinians, and they will be voicing this in their thousands.’
Labour MP Diane Abbott was among the speakers to address protesters as they gathered in Whitehall. ‘I am here to show solidarity with the people in Gaza,’ she said.
‘We call for an end to the occupation and justice for Palestinians.’
Pro Palestine supporters carried placards with the messages ‘Gaza, stop the massacre” and ‘stop Israel’s war crimes’.
Preapred: Israeli infantry soldiers gearing up near their Armoured Personnel Carriers (APCs) in a staging area on the border with the Gaza Strip
An Israeli soldier flies the national flag on a Merkava tank at an army deployment near the Israeli-Gaza border
Attack: Israeli soldiers patrol an army deployment area near the Israeli-Gaza border
Launch: An Israeli Apache attack helicopter shoots a missile over the Gaza Strip as seen from Israel’s border with Gaza
Lull: An Israeli soldier sleeps on a tank near the Israeli border with the Gaza Strip.
‘Israel has legitimate security concerns and we condemn the indiscriminate rocket fire from Gaza into Israel that ended yesterday’s temporary ceasefire. But we are alarmed by Israel’s heavy response,’ Mr Feltman said.
In the event of a ceasefire, Mr Feltman said, Mr Abbas has indicated he would be willing to redeploy Palestinian Authority forces to the so-called ‘Philadelphi corridor’, a route along the Gaza-Egypt border that has been used by Hamas militants to smuggle weapons into the territory.
That would enable the reopening of the Rafah border crossing – a key Palestinian demand – Mr Feltman said, but it was unclear whether having the crossing supervised by Palestinian Authority troops would be acceptable to Hamas.
Palestinian UN ambassador Riyad Mansour threatened to go to UN and international courts, which would probably include the International Criminal Court, if the Security Council failed to take action to end Israel’s ‘crimes and violations against our people’.
A morgue worker gestures at people to wait while the bodies of 21 Palestinians, who medics said were killed by Israeli shelling, are prepared for burial in Khan Younis
Rage: The mother of the killed Palestinian boys, four-year old Ghassim and six-years old Emad Elwan, cries during their funeral in the east of Gaza City
Blameless: As the bombs continued to fall on Gaza City, the emergency room at al-Shifa hospital in the city began flooding with victims, many of whom were young children and babies
Condemnation: Israel had been reticent about launching a ground offensive for fear of endangering its own soldiers and drawing international condemnation over Palestinian civilian deaths
Heavy guns: An Israeli army m-109 mobile artillery unit fires a shell toward the Gaza Strip in support of IDF forces operating inside the Northern Gaza Strip Area where Sgt Barak was killed
Bomb blast: An Israeli rocket is fired into the northern Gaza Strip as hundreds of Israeli troops and tanks rolled into Gaza City last night, backed by a massive air assault that pummeled the Palestinian metropolis
Retaliation: Israeli rockets strike Gaza City as Israel intensified its 11-day campaign against Hamas by sending in tanks and troops late Thursday after becoming increasingly exasperated with unrelenting rocket fire from Gaza on its cities
Battle: Smoke from flares rises in the sky in Gaza City after Israel launched a large-scale ground offensive in the Gaza Strip. The Israeli military announced its first casualty since the start of the ground operation, saying one soldier was killed in the region.
Lighting the sky: An Israeli army flare illuminating the sky above the Gaza strip
Tanks: This image made from video released by the Israeli military today shows a tank crossing into the Gaza Strip at the Israel-Gaza border at the beginning of a ground offensive late last night
Troops: The same video showed what it said were Israeli troops crossing the border into Gaza for the offensive
Assault: Hundreds of elite Israeli troops are now in Gaza attacking Hamas targets
He urged the council to adopt a resolution condemning ‘the Israeli aggression’ against civilians in Gaza and calling for an immediate ceasefire, the lifting of the Israeli ‘blockade’ on the Gaza Strip, and the protection of the Palestinian people.
The draft resolution, obtained by The Associated Press, also calls for ‘all necessary measures to ensure the protection of civilians, including the immediate cessation of military reprisals, collective punishment and excessive use of force against the Palestinian civilian population’.
It stresses the immediate need for humanitarian aid for the Palestinians and calls for urgent efforts to reach a peace agreement based on a two-state solution. It does not mention Hamas.
Such a resolution would face a difficult time winning approval from the United States, a veto-wielding council member.
The Israeli campaign, Mr Mansour said, is aimed at destroying ‘Palestinian unity and collapse of the national consensus government’. Hamas, which controls Gaza, and Mr Abbas’ moderate Fatah party recently formed a unity government.
Israel’s UN ambassador Ron Prosor said that in the face of terrorist kidnappings, rockets raining down on citizens and jihadists tunnelling under its borders, Israel was left with no choice but to enter Gaza ‘to restore a sustained quiet to the people of Israel while degrading Hamas’ terror capabilities’.
Iron Dome: A missile is launched by an ‘Iron Dome’ battery, a missile defence system designed to intercept and destroy incoming short-range rockets and artillery shells, in the southern Israeli city of Ashdod
VIOLENT CLASHES AS DEMONSTRATORS IN PARIS DEFY BAN ON PROTESTS PROTESTS AGAINST ISRAELI OFFENSIVE
Pro-Palestinian protesters clashed with police in Paris on Saturday as they defied a ban on a planned rally against violence in the Gaza strip.
A Reuters photographer said demonstrators in northern Paris launched projectiles at riot police, who responded by firing teargas canisters and stun grenades.
Demonstrators also climbed on top of a building and burned an Israeli flag. At least one car was set on fire.
Protesters stand in front of a fire barricade near the aerial metro station of Barbes-Rochechouart in Paris amid violent clashes
A police spokesman said that 38 demonstrators had been arrested by early evening and that the clashes were dying down.
However, dozens of police trucks were seen rolling into the narrow streets of the historically Jewish Marais neighbourhood where French media said groups of protesters had assembled.
President Francois Hollande earlier said he had asked his interior minister to ban protests that could turn violent after demonstrators marched on two synagogues in Paris last weekend and clashed with riot police.
‘That’s why I asked the interior minister, after an investigation, to ensure that such protests would not take place,’ he told journalists during a visit to Chad.
In defiance of the ban, large crowds gathered in northern Paris chanting ‘Israel, assassin’ until they were dispersed by tear gas.
Peaceful rallies were also held in more than a dozen other cities, from Lille in the north to Marseille in the south.
Riot police assist an injured colleague as the demonstration descended into violence in Paris
‘This ban on demonstrations, which was decided at the last minute, actually increases the risk of public disorder,’ the Greens Party said in a statement.
‘It’s a first in Europe.’
Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve justified bans in Paris and the Mediterranean city of Nice by saying the security risk was too great, prompting outrage from left-wing and pro-Palestinian groups.
Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius responded to criticism France was biased in favour of Israel, which sent ground forces in on Thursday after 10 days of air and naval barrages failed to stop rocket fire from Gaza.
‘In no way does this mean that the French government has taken a position against the Palestinians,’ he told journalists during a visit to Jordan.
Elsewhere in Europe, a man set off a security alert in Geneva when he stopped a tram to retrieve bags that included a book with a radical Islamist image in it, police said.
The alert coincided with a demonstration against Israel’s assault on Gaza that drew some 300 protesters to the front of the U.N. European headquarters in the Swiss city.
In London, thousands of pro-Palestinian demonstrators marched peacefully clutching Palestinian flags and banners reading ‘Stop the bombing’ and ‘Free Palestine’ before congregating outside of the Israeli embassy.
The Israeli-Palestinian conflict has contributed to growing tensions between France’s Muslim and Jewish populations, both of which are the largest in Europe.
In the first three months of 2014 more Jews left France for Israel than at any other time since the Jewish state was created in 1948, with many citing rising anti-Semitism as a factor.
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