Nearly thirty Palestinians were killed overnight after Israel escalated its ongoing barrage of the Gaza Strip with a ground invasion that included IDF troops and tanks crossing the border, new waves of heavy artillery fire, and a surge in airstrikes from above.
According to the Ma'an news agency, twenty-eight people are confirmed dead from the attacks in the last fifteen hours. Among them were four children, including a five-month-old baby.
The Guardian reports:
The Palestinian death toll since the start of the conflict exceeded 250, including at least 24 who were killed overnight, according to health officials in Gaza. Israel launched air strikes against more than 100 targets overnight. At least 11 were killed in one strike on Rafah.
Three branches of the Entez family, around 60 people, were sheltering in a house in Zeitoun when it was struck with an artillery shell shortly after 8.45pm. Three of the family were killed – Abed Ali, 24, Mohamed Ibrahim, 13, and Mohamed Salem, two – and four injured. Three of the exterior walls destroyed in the blast.
In the wreckage of the home on Friday morning, Salem Entez, 29, Mohamed Salem's father, approached the Guardian with a plastic bag, which he opened to revealed pieces of flesh he was collecting for burial. "This is my son," he said.
The Obama administration on Thursday continued to defend the behavior of the Israeli government and its military. Though it called the deaths of four children killed on a beach by Israeli shelling "horrifying" it has continued to repeat its position that Israel "has the right to defend itself" from militants in Gaza.
U.S. State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki said the Obama administration "will continue to underscore " to Israel that they "must take every possible step to meet its standards for protecting civilians from being killed," but made no mention that the U.S. would take any action to stop the violence.
This comment comes amid worldwide condemnation and charges from human rights and other groups that argue Israel's military attack on a besieged civilian population which has no way to flee the violence is both disproportionate to the threat of rockets launched by Palestinian fighters into southern Israel and a form of "collective punishment."
Independent Palestinian journalist Mohammed Omer continues to live-tweet from inside Gaza:
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UN agencies estimate 80 percent of Palestinian victims in Gaza are civilians and young children. According to Defense of Children International-Palestine, almost fifty children under the age of sixteen have been killed since Israel launched its latest attack on Gaza eleven days ago.
As Mondoweiss editor Alex Kane wrote on Thursday—citing new comments from Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and others—the emerging "consensus among human rights groups" is that "Israel is committing war crimes in strikes that are wiping out civilians."
And UN Secretary-General Ban-Ki Moon was among those in the international community expressing regret over Israel's decision, despite loud and repeated urgings against it, to launch its ground invasion.
"An already dangerous conflict has now escalated even further,” Ban stated at UN headquarters late Thursday.
“In the past 24 hours, there have been a number of incidents involving the deaths of civilians, including the appalling killing of four boys on a beach in Gaza City,” he added. “I urge Israel to do far more to stop civilian casualties. There can be no military solution to this conflict.”
Looking at the specific impact on children and the number of victims under the age of sixteen that have so far been killed, Palestinian rights activist and editor of the Electronic Intifada website Ali Abunimah writes:
By Thursday evening in Gaza, at least fourteen Palestinians had been killed in Israeli attacks before and after the brief ceasefire, bringing the total to 237 fatalities since Israel’s round-the-clock assault began on 7 July, according to the health ministry in Gaza.
The number of children killed has risen to 53, including four young boys from the Baker family slaughtered by Israeli shelling in front of international media as they played on a beach on Wednesday.
Defence for Children International Palestine, which documents the deaths of children, said the toll from Israel’s current campaign “is now at its highest since Israel’s December 2008 military incursion, Operation Cast Lead, which resulted in the deaths of 352 children.”
Updates from civilians and journalists inside Gaza as well as analysis and commentary by observers continue to be shared on Twitter: