Gaza death toll exceeds 2012 conflict
GAZA CITY // The Arab League yesterday called for world powers to end Israel’s devastating bombardment of the Gaza Strip.
Egypt also proposed a truce to start early today to be followed by talks on easing the flow of goods into Gaza.
In more than a week, Israeli airstrikes on Gaza have killed 184 Palestinians, most of them civilians, and injured nearly 1,300. The death toll has surpassed that for the 2012 war .
In Cairo last night, a report presented to the 22-member Arab League called for “urgent steps” to end “Israeli aggression on Gaza and providing protection for the Palestinians”.
Israel targeted about 100 sites in Gaza yesterday, while more than 70 rockets were fired at Israel from the Palestinian territory, the army said.
“The heavier the blow we give from the air, the easier it will be to carry out a ground operation if that proves necessary,” Israeli deputy foreign minister Zeev Elkin said.
The Arab League documents said the Israeli attacks “have become a matter that cannot be met with silence any more”.
The meeting came amid an apparent increase in diplomatic activity to halt the fighting that Israel’s military says has seen Hamas in Gaza launch more than 1,000 rockets and a drone at Israeli cities.
At a meeting on Saturday with Britain’s former premier, Tony Blair, Egyptian president Abdel Fattah El Sisi confirmed that he wanted to broker an end to the fighting.
Cairo mediated the ceasefire that halted an eight-day war in 2012 between Hamas and Israel, but Mr El Sisi has tense relations with Hamas.
After removing Egypt’s president Mohammed Morsi, an Islamist ally of Hamas, last summer Mr El Sisi led the military’s destruction of tunnels linking Egypt to Gaza, badly damaging the Palestinian territory’s already fragile economy.
A spokesman for Mr El Sisi said the president was “in close contact with the Israelis and Palestinians.
The UN secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, was told in a call from Jordan’s King Abdullah yesterday that Israel must stop targeting civilians.
Jordan is one of two Arab countries with a peace treaty with Israel. Egypt is the other.
“The king and Ban discussed developments in the Gaza Strip and the monarch warned against their repercussions for the entire region and its stability,” the palace said.
Meanwhile, Israel’s military said it had shot down a drone flown from Gaza with a surface-to-air Patriot missile off the coast of Ashdod, a city just north of Gaza.
But Hamas said it had sent three drones towards Israel, in the first public acknowledgement that the Islamist group had a programme to build the unmanned aircraft.
The group said it had built drones for espionage purposes and another that could carry out attacks that, if confirmed, could enhance the group’s threat in a conflict in which its rockets had failed to kill a single Israeli.
“Hamas is trying everything it can to produce some kind of achievement and it is crucial that we maintain our high state of readiness,” said Israel’s defence minister, Moshe Yaalon.
“The shooting down of a drone this morning by our air defence system is an example of their efforts to strike at us in any way possible.”
Israeli forces also responded with artillery fire to attacks from Lebanon and Syria. At least one missile launched from Syria hit the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, which Syria claims, while rockets from Lebanon hit an empty area in northern Israel.
In the Gaza city of Khan Younis, two Israeli airstrikes killed four Palestinians, officials from the Gaza European hospital said.
It was not clear why Israel targeted the area in an attack that killed Saddam Moamar, his wife Hanadai and his father Mousa, as well as their neighbour, Maher Abu Mor.
The threat of an Israeli ground invasion has displaced thousands of Palestinians from the northern part of the enclave, forcing them to flee southward to Gaza City. Taking refuge in UN-run schools, most are still there, awaiting an end to their ordeal.
Also yesterday, a 21-year-old Palestinian was killed in confrontations with Israeli soldiers in the West Bank village of Samoa, near Hebron, Palestinian health officials said.
Residents of the village said soldiers opened fire at a group of Palestinians who were throwing stones at them.
US secretary of state John Kerry is expected in Egypt on Tuesday in the latest efforts to mediate an end to the conflict.
* Additional reporting by Agence France-Presse, the Associated Press and Bloomberg News
*Additional reporting by Agence France-Presse, the Associated Press and Bloomberg News
Updated: July 14, 2014 04:00 AM