Washington, Gaza City (Palestinian Territories): US President Barack Obama said on Monday the world must focus on a ceasefire in Israel-Palestine conflict to put an end to rising number of civilian casualties. The Palestine death toll in an Israeli offensive in the Gaza Strip rose above 500 on Monday. Hamas continued to fire rockets deep into Israel.
Obama repeated that Israel had the right to defend itself against onslaughts from Hamas militants but said he had serious concerns about the growing number of civilian deaths resulting from the conflict.
“As I’ve said many times, Israel has a right to defend itself against rocket and tunnel attacks from Hamas. And as a result of its operations, Israel has already done significant damage to Hamas’s terrorist infrastructure in Gaza," Obama told reporters at the White House.
“I’ve also said, however, that we have serious concerns about the rising number of Palestinian civilian deaths and the loss of Israeli lives, and 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 that can stop the deaths of innocent civilians," he said.
On Monday, Israeli army said another seven soldiers had been killed in fighting in Gaza, raising the overall Israeli death toll to 27, including 25 troops.
The announcement came a day after 13 soldiers were killed in one day in what was the highest one-day death toll sustained by the army since the 2006 Lebanon war.
Gaza emergency services spokesman Ashraf al-Qudra said that air strikes killed 39 people across the enclave on Monday, and another 68 bodies were pulled from the rubble in areas hit by heavy fighting a day earlier.
The army also said its troops had killed “more than 10 militants" who had infiltrated southern Israel through two tunnels, sparking a fire-fight that reportedly wounded several soldiers.
Militants killed inside Israel are not included in Qudra’s Gaza death toll.
The latest deaths included six people killed in two artillery strikes, three of whom died in the southern city of Rafah and another three in Deir al-Balah in central Gaza.
Of the 39 people killed on Monday, around a third of them were children, Qudra said. Seven children were among nine dead in an early air raid on a house in Rafah, and another four children were killed in another strike on a house in Gaza City that killed nine people. Israeli tank shells slammed into a hospital in Deir al-Balah, killing four people, among them doctors, Qudra said, indicating at least 70 people were wounded. Another 28 people were killed in a series of air strikes and tank shelling across the strip.
Of the 68 bodies recovered on Monday, 13 were from Shejaiya, hiking the death toll from a blistering Sunday attack to 74. Qudra said the vast majority were women, children and the elderly. Another 23 of the bodies were pulled from a three-storey house belonging to the Abu Jamaa family in the southern city of Khan Yunis which was hit on Sunday, raising the overall death toll from a single strike to 28, Qudra said.
So far, Palestinian figures show 556 Gazans have been killed and more than 3,350 wounded since the start of the Israeli campaign to stamp out cross-border rocket fire on 8 July. On the Israeli side, 27 people have died, including two civilians killed by rocket fire and 25 soldiers all of whom were killed since the start of a ground operation late on 17 July.
Army figures indicate another 30 soldiers were wounded in Gaza in the past day, three of whom were in serious condition. Military radio put the overall injury toll at more than 90 soldiers since the ground assault began.
Since the Israeli military started Operation Protective Edge on 8 July in a bid to stamp out rocket fire, Palestinian militants have fired 1,488 mortars and rockets that hit Israel, with air defences intercepting another 392, the army said.
Approximately 84 stuck Israel on Monday, one of them in the greater Tel Aviv area, while another 16 were shot down, the army said.