Israel has rebuffed a ceasefire call from the Palestinian premier while leaving behind a wide path of destruction in northern Gaza and pounding militants in Gaza City with airstrikes.
It is insisting on freedom for a captured soldier and an end to rocket fire before it calls off its invasion.
Israeli forces pulled back from northern Gaza yesterday but crept closer to Gaza City. Palestinian casualties mounted, including a mother and two children killed in a blast in their house.
Palestinians blamed Israel. The army said an initial inquiry found it was not involved in the explosion, but an investigation was ongoing.
As Israel’s largest military operation since pulling out of Gaza entered its 11th day today, Israeli aircraft targeted a group of Islamic Jihad militants in the Shajaiyeh neighbourhood of western Gaza City, wounding four, one seriously, Palestinian hospital officials said.
The military said it targeted armed militants.
A few minutes later, an Israeli aircraft fired a missile at a bridge in northern Gaza, collapsing it, also knocking out a power transformer serving the town of Beit Hanoun, witnesses said. The military said it hit the bridge to stop transfer of rockets.
The airstrike followed Israel’s pullout from northern Gaza after an intensive two-day sweep.
Before sunrise today, Palestinian gunmen in Shajaiyeh exchanged fire with Israeli troops near the closed Karni cargo crossing, where soldiers took over an abandoned Palestinian factory, witnesses said. Two Islamic Jihad militants were wounded, they said.
Israeli troops invaded the Gaza Strip three days after Hamas militants captured an Israeli soldier in a cross-border raid June 25 and have been battering the coastal strip with heavy artillery barrages and airstrikes.
Most of the 44 Palestinians who have died in the offensive were gunmen. More than 160 Palestinians have been wounded, hospital officials said. An Israeli soldier also was killed.
In a strong statement released late yesterday, the United Nations blamed Israel for widespread human rights violations and hardships for civilians because of its operations, “which have seen innocent civilians, including children, killed, brought increased misery to hundreds of thousands of people and which will wreak far-reaching harm on Palestinian society”.
Israel rejected that, blaming the Palestinians for attacking the army post and firing rockets.
Yesterday, Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh urged Israel to halt its offensive, release Palestinian prisoners and resume indirect talks about the captured soldier through international mediators. But it did not offer to free Corporal Gilad Shalit, 19.
“We want to activate this initiative to bring the region out of this whirlpool of blood,” Haniyeh said while touring Beit Lahiya, the hardest-hit Palestinian town.