Four More Children Killed in Gaza as Israel Ground Invasion Looms

A woman cries as Palestinians flee their homes in the Shajaiyeh neighborhood of Gaza City, after Israel had airdropped leaflets warning people to leave the area, Wednesday, July 16, 2014. A Hamas website says Israel has fired missiles at the homes of four of its senior leaders as it resumed bombardment of Gaza, following a failed Egyptian cease-fire effort. Health officials say the Palestinian death toll in nine days of fighting has reached 204. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)

Four More Children Killed in Gaza as Israel Ground Invasion Looms

'When there is no ceasefire, our answer is fire,' says Netanyahu as total number of child deaths approaches 40

Four children were killed in Gaza City on Wednesday by Israeli shelling, according to reports, the latest civilian victims of a military assault on the sealed-off Palestinian territory that has lasted more than a week.

According to the Ma'an news agency:

All four [children] were on the beach when the attack took place, emergency services spokesman Ashraf al-Qidra said, with several injured children taking refuge at a nearby hotel where journalists were staying.

They were reportedly attacked by Israeli naval boats, witnesses told Ma'an, and were members of the same family.

The children were identified as Ahed Atef Bakir, 10, Zakariya Ahed Bakir, 10, Mohammad Ramiz Bakir, 11, and Ismail Mahmoud Bakir, 9.

Ahmed Abu Hassera, who witnessed the incident at the shore, toldReuters: "The kids were playing on the beach. They were all ... under the age of 15."

"When the first shell hit land, they ran away but another shell hit them all," said Abu Hassera, whose shirt was stained with blood. "It looked as if the shells were chasing them."

The latest deaths come as Israel again indicated the possibility of a ground invasion on Wednesday as it dropped leaflets in sections across the Gaza Strip warning people to leave their homes.

The Guardianreports:

The Israeli prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, has said he had "no choice" but to escalate Israel's bombing campaign. "When there is no ceasefire, our answer is fire," he said.

The Israeli security cabinet met in the early hours of Wednesday to discuss a limited ground operation, an Israeli official has revealed.

Early on Wednesday morning, Israel dropped leaflets and delivered warnings by phone and text that tens of thousands of residents of two Gaza City neighbourhoods, Zeitoun in the south and Shujai'iya in the east, should evacuate their homes before planned strikes and head to the city centre.

Among those ordered to leave were the patients of a rehabilitation hospital.

But the hospital's director, Basman Ashi, said everyone would remain and that foreign volunteers had arrived to serve as human shields.

Speaking from Jerusalem on Tuesday, Sami Mshasha, a spokesperson for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), said "that the level of human loss and destruction" inside Gaza was "was immense" and voiced specific concern over "the large proportion of women and children among casualties."

She also warned that if "a ground offensive and military incursion" of Israeli forces into Gaza did unfold, it would bring more death to civilians and more destruction to the Gaza Strip's civilian infrastructure that is already in a very precarious state.

Peter Beaumont, a correspondent for the Guardian newspaper, was on the scene of the shelling in Gaza City that claimed the lives of the four children. In a series of tweets, he described the devastating event:

Since airstrikes and shelling from tanks and offshore warships began last Monday, more than 200 Palestinians have been killed in the Israeli military campaign dubbed 'Operation Protective Edge.' Of those, according to human rights groups, an estimated 80 percent have been civilians not associated with any militant faction. Defense of Children International-Palestine reports that 38 children (those under the age of 16) have now been killed by Israeli strikes.

On Tuesday, the first death of an Israeli was reported when a 37-year-old was killed by rocket fire. According to the New York Times, the man "had volunteered to distribute food parcels to Israeli soldiers near the crossing... and was critically wounded by mortar fire around 7 p.m. [...] and died shortly after in an Ashkelon hospital."


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