Gaza Under ‘Most Intense’ Shelling

Gaza has come under the most intense shelling since the launch of Israel’s offensive, with more than 40 people reported killed in one area overnight.

The deaths occurred in Shejaiya, east of Gaza City, Palestinian medics said. Eyewitnesses spoke of bodies lying in the streets.

Israel earlier said it had expanded its operation – launched 13 days ago – against Hamas militants.

But it later said it agreed to a two-hour humanitarian truce in Shejaiya.

The ceasefire would last from 13:30 to 15:30 local time (10:30-12:30 GMT), an Israeli military spokesman said. The move was in response to a request by the International Committee of the Red Cross.

But the death toll continued to rise at the weekend, with the number of Palestinians killed now 395 since the operation began, according to Palestinian health officials.

The majority of those killed are civilians, the UN says.Gaza

More than 40 people died in the north-eastern district of Shejaiya in a heavy bombardment overnight, the Palestinian medics said.

Ambulances were unable to reach much of the area because of shelling in the area, about three kilometres (1.2 miles) away from Gaza City.

The BBC‘s Yolande Knell, in Gaza City, says there have been scenes of panic with thousands of residents fleeing the area – on foot or piling into the backs of cars.

Meanwhile, Hamas militants have continued to fire rockets into Israel.

Five Israeli soldiers and two Israeli civilians have died since Prime Minister Benjamin Neta-nyahu launched the military offensive on 8 July.

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) sent ground troops into Gaza on Thursday after 10 days of heavy air and naval barrages failed to stop rocket fire from Gaza.

Israel says the ground operation is necessary to target Hamas tunnel networks, which it says it could not do from the air alone. — BBC

Two Israeli soldiers were killed on Saturday during a gunfight with Palestinian militants who had used tunnels to cross into Israel to launch an attack, the IDF said.

Lieutenant Colonel Peter Lerner, an IDF spokesman, said the ground offensive was being expanded “to restore security and stability to Israel’s residents and citizens”.

Residents in Gaza reported hearing explosions throughout the night on Saturday.

An air strike in Shejaiya targeted the house of Hamas official Khalil al-Hayya, killing four people including his son and daughter-in-law, Palestinian doctors said.

Meanwhile, the UN warned it was running out of supplies to help more than 50,000 Palestinians who have sought shelter at its schools in Gaza.

A UN official said the number of people fleeing was much higher than expected, with both the Israeli and Egyptian borders closed to Gazans.

Diplomatic efforts to secure a ceasefire involving, among others, Egypt, Qatar, France and the UN, have failed to make any progress.

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius met Mr Netanyahu on Saturday, but said that attempts to agree a ceasefire had failed.

Qatar is expected to host a meeting between President Abbas and Ban Ki-moon on Sunday before the UN chief continues on to Kuwait, Egypt, Israel, the Palestinian Territories and Jordan.

Mr Abbas is also due to meet Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal in a bid to convince the Islamist group to agree to Egyptian efforts to end the fighting. — BBC

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