Bloody Sunday as 100 Gazans, 13 Israeli soldiers killed



GAZA CITY, Sara Hussein, Mai Yaghi- At least 100 Palestinians and 13 Israeli soldiers were killed on Sunday with Hamas claiming it had captured another, as Israel ramped up a major military offensive in Gaza.
The United Nations Security Council was set to hold an emergency meeting on the Gaza situation at 0130 GMT Monday, following a call by Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas, as regional leaders met in Doha for urgent ceasefire talks.



The Palestinian death toll soared to 438 in the bloodiest single day in Gaza in five years, with a spokesman for the enclave's emergency services saying more than a third of the victims were women and children.
The Israeli army said 13 soldiers had been killed inside Gaza on the third day of a major ground operation, raising to 18 the number of soldiers killed since the ground operation began late on Thursday.
It was the largest number of Israeli soldiers killed in combat since the 2006 Lebanon war.
Late Sunday, the armed wing of Hamas claimed it had kidnapped an Israeli soldier, prompting celebrations in the streets of Gaza City and West Bank cities.
"The Israeli soldier Shaul Aaron is in the hands of the Qassam Brigades," a spokesman using the nom-de-guerre Abu Obeida said in a televised address.
A spokeswoman for the Israeli military said they were investigating the claim.
More than half of Sunday's Palestinian victims were killed in a blistering hours-long Israeli assault on Shejaiya, near Gaza City, which began before dawn and claimed 62 Palestinian lives, with another 250 wounded.
With ambulances unable to reach the area, the International Committee of the Red Cross arranged a brief ceasefire that allowed paramedics to evacuate some of the dead and wounded before hostilities resumed.
- Ban in peace push -
As the violence raged, Abbas arrived in Qatar to discuss a ceasefire with Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal, and UN chief Ban Ki-moon arrived later to push truce efforts.
"I am calling for an urgent session tonight of the UN Security Council," Abbas said in a speech broadcast on Palestinian TV.
"What the occupation forces did today in Shejaiya is a crime against humanity," he said. "Those who committed it will not go unpunished."
Ban also condemned the "atrocious action" in Shejaiya and urged Israel to "exercise maximum restraint".
"Too many innocent people are dying...(and) living in constant fear," he told a news conference in Doha.
So far, truce efforts have been rejected by Hamas which has pressed on with its own attacks, undaunted by the Israeli bombardment by land, sea and air.
Following a night of terror in Shejaiya, thousands fled for their lives at first light after heavy shelling, an AFP correspondent reported.
The UN agency for Palestinian refugees UNRWA has opened 61 of its schools to shelter more than 81,000 people who have fled their homes.
- Netanyahu blames Hamas -
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has blamed the civilian casualties on Hamas using innocents "as human shields."
He insisted on Sunday that the military campaign had strong international backing.
"We are carrying out a complex, deep, intensive activity inside the Gaza Strip and there is world support for this... very strong support," he said before a security cabinet meeting.
Although Israel said earlier Sunday it was expanding its ground operation to destroy the network of tunnels used by militants to stage cross-border attacks and fire rockets, Netanyahu said troops could end their mission "fairly quickly".
His Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon also suggested it could end within days.
"My assessment is that in another two or three days, the lion's share of the tunnels, from our perspective, will be destroyed," Yaalon said.
But he demanded international action to "demilitarise Gaza", the tiny coastal enclave which is home to 1.7 million Palestinians and is one of the most densely-populated areas on the planet.
Palestinian militants have over the past 12 days fired 1,414 mortars and rockets that hit Israel, with the Iron Dome air defence system intercepting another 377, the army said.
Israel's right to self-defence in the face of rocket fire from Gaza has won repeated US support, but President Barack Obama has expressed concern over the loss of life in a call to Netanyahu.
Secretary of State John Kerry, who is to travel to Cairo to seek an end to the fighting, meanwhile, blamed Hamas for perpetuating the conflict by "stubbornly" refusing all ceasefire efforts.
By its behaviour, Hamas had "invited further actions" by Israel, he said, in remarks which drew an angry response from Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan who accused Israel of killing Palestinians "mercilessly".
Thousands participated in rallies in France, Vienna, Stockholm and Amsterdam to oppose Israel's offensive, with a demonstration in the northern Paris suburb of Sarcelles descending into chaos as protesters set fire to bins and looted shops.
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Monday, July 21st 2014
Sara Hussein, Mai Yaghi
           


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