As Israel’s assault on Gaza enters its twelfth day, the death toll has reached 337, including 77 children, 24 women and 18 senior citizens. More than 2,385 people have been injured in the onslaught.
Israel’s military began a ground invasion of the Gaza Strip late on Thursday with the aim, according to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office, of destroying of all tunnels between the territory and Israel.
At least 34 people were killed in persistent bombardment from tanks and artillery on the second day of ground troops being dispatched to the beleaguered territory. The incursion has forced thousands of residents to flee their homes.
In Israel, one civilian and two others were injured by a rocket strike on a Bedouin community near Dimona, bringing the Israeli death toll to two civilians.
With the death toll mounting, UN chief Ban Ki-moon headed to the region on Friday to join truce efforts.
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius called Saturday for an “urgent” truce in Gaza and renewed support for an Egyptian initiative accepted by Israel but spurned by its Hamas foes.
Fabius issued the call at a Cairo press conference after talks with Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi.
AFP reported the foreign minister said he would meet Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Saturday night, following a stopover in Amman.
Fabius has said that Abbas had asked for French help in lobbying Qatar and Turkey, which have good ties with Hamas, to pressure the militants.
Qatar repeated Hamas’s position, Fabius said.
“The Qataris say we are for a ceasefire but they convey what Hamas is saying, that there must be a certain number of conditions,” Fabius told reporters after the press conference.
“I made it known to the Qataris and the Turks that for us the priority is an urgent ceasefire,” he said.
Egypt has rejected Hamas demands to involve Turkey and Qatar — both regional rivals to the new government in Cairo — in the ceasefire efforts, Palestinian officials said.
“We are having a series of contacts today with all those who can influence that, notably Qataris and Turks,” Fabius told reporters.
On Friday, Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukri said his government’s proposal still stood and had the backing of the international community and the Arab League.
Egypt’s President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi and his Palestinian counterpart Mahmoud Abbas met in Cairo on Thursday and agreed on the necessity of an immediate ceasefire.
A convoy of Egyptian activists left Cairo in the early hours of Saturday morning on the way to Gaza to deliver humanitarian aid to the stricken enclave, but was not allowed to pass into Sinai by Egypt’s military.
Activists travelling with the convoy told Ahram Online on Saturday afternoon that the convoy had been stopped at a Sinai checkpoint by the Egyptian security forces, and was not being permitted to pass due to “security reasons.”
Also on Saturday, Palestinian ambassador to the UN Riyad Mansour read aloud to the Security Council the names of Palestinian dead, including women and children, and at one point appeared close to tears.
President Barack Obama said on Friday that Washington was “deeply concerned about the risks of further escalation and the loss of more innocent life.”
He added that Washington was “hopeful” that Israel would operate “in a way that minimises civilian casualties”.
source: ahram online