Israel’s child death toll rises to 70 as more than 40,000 Palestinians are now homeless as result of Israel’s air and ground offensive
- The number of people who have fled fighting has doubled since the start of Israel’s offensive, according to the UN
- So far 300 people in the region have died, 60 from the ground offensive that began late on Thursday
- Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu orders military to prepare for a ‘significant expansion’ of the ground offensive
- Israeli aircraft have struck more than 2,000 targets in Gaza and killed 300 Palestinians since start of the fighting
- Israel lost its first soldier during the offensive after Sgt. Eitan Barak, 20, was killed behind enemy lines
- He was a member of Battalion 931 of the Nahal Brigade, one of the IDF’s five major infantry formations
A total of 50,000 people in Gaza have fled their homes as Israel steps up its ground offensive on the Gaza strip.
The refugees are seeking sanctuary in 34 UN shelters in the strife-hit region, relief workers said. At least 60 Palestinians are thought to have been killed since Israel launched the ground offensive in Gaza on Thursday.
Israeli troops battled Hamas militants in Gaza on the second day of the operation as the Palestinian death toll from the 12-day offensive topped 330, according to officials in Gaza. 70 of those killed are children.
Health Ministry spokesman Ashraf al-Kidra said overnight airstrikes killed 12 people, raising the death toll from the offensive to 310 Palestinians. An Israeli soldier was killed after the start of the ground operation, probably be friendly fire, and an Israeli civilian was killed earlier this week.
The sound of tank fire and heavy machine guns mixed with the mosques’ morning call to prayer along the Gaza-Israel border. The Israeli military said three soldiers were wounded in overnight fighting, one seriously. Israeli troops were staying close to the border and have yet to enter heavily populated areas.
Israel launched the ground operation late Thursday after hundreds of airstrikes on the Hamas-ruled territory failed to halt unrelenting rocket fire that has increasingly targeted major Israeli cities.
Prime Minister David Cameron and US president Barack Obama have discussed the worsening situation in Gaza during a phone conversation, Downing Street said.
A No 10 spokeswoman said: ‘Both leaders reiterated their support for Israel’s right to take proportionate action to defend itself from the barrage of rocket attacks from Gaza.’
An Egyptian truce proposal was rejected by the Islamic militant group Hamas, which has ruled the strip since 2007 and has demanded the lifting of an Israeli and Egyptian blockade as part of any cease-fire agreement.
Israeli officials say the offensive is aimed at destroying both rocket launchers and Hamas tunnels dug into Israel, and that it could last up to two weeks. The military reported making steady progress, uncovered 13 tunnels, but said dozens remain and would not give a time frame for its operation.
Israel’s military chief, Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz, visited troops on the Gaza border early Saturday and said ‘a strategic national patience is necessary’ to complete the mission.
Israel says it has encountered little resistance on the ground so far, and has killed about 20 militants in sporadic gun battles. Three soldiers were wounded in overnight fighting, one seriously, the military said.
In one case, it said troops encountered a man who appealed for medical assistance before pulling out grenades and trying to hurl them at soldiers. He was shot dead. Troops also encountered a donkey with explosives strapped to it.
Gaza militants have fired more than 1,500 rockets at Israel over the past 11 days, and rocket fire continued overnight. Israel has launched more than 2,000 airstrikes over the same period.
They have remained defiant despite the rising death toll.