Bloodiest day sees Gaza death toll pass 100
Updated: 2014-07-21 07:25
Israeli soldiers ride an armoured personnel carrier (APC) near the border with the Gaza Strip July 20, 2014.[Photo/Agencies]
GAZA/JERUSALEM - The Gaza Strip witnessed the bloodiest day on Sunday since Israel launched its offensive there nearly two weeks ago, as the death toll passed 100 in a single day after Israeli artillery bombing on the most densely populated neighborhood of Sheja'eya in eastern Gaza city.
Survivals from the stricken area, which is less than two km from the borders with Israel, said right after they had their Ramadan breakfast on Saturday evening, tank shells showered the neighborhood. Smell of gunpowder mixed with blood overwhelmed the narrow alleys and roads, where bodies of dead women and children were laying on the ground, according to witnesses.
Rescue teams of International Committee of the Red Cross as well as the Red Crescent Society were only able to get into the neighborhood to evacuate casualties after a two-hour humanitarian ceasefire was accepted by both Hamas and Israel on Sunday afternoon.
A Gaza Health Ministry spokesman said that rescue teams and ambulances are so far able to bring out about 70 bodies, including 18 children, 15 women and five aged men, while more people are still under the rubble of their destroyed houses. Among the dead were a local Palestinian cameraman, a paramedic and four family members of top Hamas leader Khalil al-Hayya.
It's the highest ever casualties in a single battle in the history of the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. Israel has waged two wars on Gaza before, one in late 2008 and the other in 2012.
The Israeli army said that it had warned people in the neighborhood earlier to evacuate from their homes at least one day before the attack, but many residents still would not listen. However, Mohamed al-Harazeen, a 50-year-old survival said he did not receive any warning.
"My house is in al-Mansoura road in Sheja'eya's neighborhood and it is far from where the operation was going on. I didn't receive any warning. The families which received warnings and left their homes in the evening were heavily struck," he said.
Ambulance and residents' cars were busy for more than 16 hours only bringing casualties to overcrowded Shiffa Hospital in western Gaza city. Bodies of women and children were laid on beds and on the ground amid screams and weeps of people.
"I always heard of massacres all over the world and never witnessed any, but this time it was a real massacre and I saw it with my own eyes," said Harazeen, who was injured in both of his legs.
The intensive Israeli artillery shelling came shortly after Hamas armed wing claimed responsibility of killing 13 Israeli soldiers during an ambush in Attufah neighborhood in southern Gaza earlier on Sunday. In addition to the killings, Hamas' armed wing Qassam Brigades announced that they had kidnapped an Israeli soldier during the ambush and hold him captive. The Israeli Defense Forces later said they are looking into the report and cannot confirm nor deny it so far. But a military source told Xinhua that the "kidnapped" soldier is already on the list of the 13 killed Israeli troops.
Israel's military operation in Gaza has resulted in the deaths of about 450 Palestinians and the injury of more than 3040 others for the past nearly two weeks. One Israeli citizen and 13 soldiers were also killed, while 65 others injured.
Efforts for a truce between Israel and Hamas-led Gaza militants are still on the way, but so far nothing positive has been achieved after Hamas rejected an Egypt-brokered ceasefire proposal a few days ago.
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