"Ceasefire Is Not Near": Over 100 Children Among 600 Dead in Gaza

Palestinians sleep at a United Nations school, where people who fled heavy Israeli shelling in the Shejaia neighbourhood sought refuge during fighting, in Gaza City on July 21, 2014. (REUTERS/Finbarr O'Reilly)

"Ceasefire Is Not Near": Over 100 Children Among 600 Dead in Gaza

Bombardment off sealed-off enclave shows no sign of easing

Israel's Justice Minister Tzipi Livni on Tuesday declared that a "cease fire is not near" as heavy shelling of the Gaza Strip continued alongside an increasing number of dead and wounded.

International outrage over the "disproportionate" assault by Israel has done little or nothing to stem the violence and latest figures put the death toll inside Gaza at nearly 600 people, with well over 3,000 injured and more than 100,000 now seeking refuge in UN shelters.

"The past 24 hours marked the deadliest period since the current escalations of violence began, with 107 Palestinians killed, including 23 women and 35 children," the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) said in its most recent briefing. "Tragically, the total number of children killed in the current conflict has now passed 100 and represents almost one quarter of all Palestinian fatalities."

Ten Israeli human rights organizations on Monday wrote to the nation's justice ministry, charging that the assault on Gaza is in violation of international law and an affront to the human rights of Palestinians. The letter sent by the groups questioned the legality of Sunday's assault on the neighborhood of Shujai'iya, in which more than one hundred civilians were reportedly killed, calling it "a potential violation of the fundamental principles of the laws of war, specifically the principle of distinguishing between combatants and civilians."

Twenty-five members of a single family were reported killed in Khan Younis late Monday after their home was leveled by a missile strike that arrived with no warning.

A statement from the Israeli Defense Forces on Tuesday said that 27 of its soldiers have been killed so far in fighting and also confirmed that one of its soldiers has been taken prisoner by Hamas.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is in Cairo on Tuesday, meeting with Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shukri to discuss the situation. In comments to the reporters, Kerry once again offered only mild criticism of Israel's military campaign--which many are calling "war crimes"--as he placed the onus for the death of innocent Palestinians bombed in their homes on Hamas.

Kerry characterized Israel's bombardment of Gaza as an "appropriate and legitimate effort" to defend itself and added that "only Hamas now needs to make the decision to spare innocent civilians from this violence."

Though Hamas, which governs the Gaza Strip, has put forth a clear five-point set of terms for an immediate and lasting cease-fire, neither Egypt nor Israel have shown any interest in the deal.

As Reuters notes:

Egypt was key to securing an end to a previous bout of Gaza fighting in 2012, but the country's new leadership is openly hostile to Hamas, potentially complicating the negotiations.

"We hope (Kerry's) visit will result in a ceasefire that provides the necessary security for the Palestinian people and that we can commence to address the medium and long-term issues related to Gaza," Shukri said.

Israel has signaled it is in no hurry to achieve a truce before reaching its goal of crippling Hamas's militant infrastructure, including rocket arsenals and networks of tunnels threatening Israelis living along the Gaza frontier.

Hamas has said it will not cease hostilities until its demands are met, including that Israel and Egypt lift their blockade of Gaza and its 1.8 million people, and that Israel release several hundred Palestinians detained during a search last month for three Jewish teenagers later found dead.

The Guardian catalogs some of the latest violence as of Tuesday and a call for an end to the bombardment that has now claimed nearly 600 lives in Gaza:

Seven people, including four women from one family, were killed in an air strike early on Tuesday, according to Gaza paramedics.

On Monday, 25 members of the Abu Jame' family were killed when Israeli forces struck a house near Khan Younis, apparently without warning, the Israeli human rights organisation B'Tselem said. A Hamas militant was also killed.

The dead included 18 children and five women, three of whom were pregnant. The family was eating iftar, the meal that breaks the Ramadan fast.

B'Tselem called for an immediate ceasefire, saying: "Horrific developments in Gaza have reached intolerable heights: Israel is bombing houses with people in them, entire families have been buried under rubble, and streets lie in ruins. Hundreds have been killed so far, dozens in the last 24 hours only, many of them women and children. The number of refugees is rising: tens of thousands of people have nowhere to go and no safe haven."

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