World Bulletin/News Desk
Israeli fire killed at least 43 Palestinians in the Gaza Strip early on Wednesday, while Egyptian mediators prepared a revised ceasefire proposal.
Israeli tank shells and air strikes on houses and a school in Jebalya in northern Gaza killed at least 43 people and wounded many others, including 20 in a U.N. school, health ministry spokesman Ashraf Al-Qidra said. Among the dead were a medic and an infant.
Eight people, including five members of the same family in Jebalya, were killed in other strikes, Gaza officials said.
Hospital officials put the total number of Palestinians killed in the conflict at 1,245, most of them civilians. On the Israeli side, 53 soldiers and three civilians have been killed since the start of the offensive on July 8.
UNRWA, the main U.N. relief agency in Gaza, said it was at "breaking point" with more than 200,000 Palestinians having taken shelter in its schools and buildings following calls by Israel for civilians to evacuate whole neighbourhoods before military operations.
The Israeli assault intensified after the deaths of 10 soldiers in Palestinian cross-border attacks on Monday. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned of a long conflict ahead.
The security cabinet convenes again on Wednesday to assess the situation in the conflict and consider future steps.
The army said it needed about a week to complete its main mission of destroying cross-border infiltration tunnels and there has been strong Israeli public support for holding course.
"Chile observes with great concern and discouragement that the military operations - which at this point appear to be a collective punishment to the Palestinian civil population in Gaza - don't respect fundamental norms of international humanitarian law," its foreign ministry said.
In a bid to boost Palestinian morale and demoralise Israel, Hamas TV aired footage it said showed its fighters using a tunnel to reach an army watchtower on Monday. They are seen surprising an Israeli sentry, at which point they open fire and storm the watchtower compound to surround a fallen soldier.
Mohammed Deif, the shadowy leader of Hamas's armed wing, said in a voiceover message in the broadcast that Palestinians would continue confronting Israel until its blockade on Gaza - which is supported by neighbouring Egypt - was lifted.
"The occupying entity will not enjoy security unless our people live in freedom and dignity," Deif said. "There will be no ceasefire before the (Israeli) aggression is stopped and the blockade is lifted. We will not accept interim solutions."
Israel has balked at freeing up Gaza's borders under any de-escalation deal unless Hamas's disarmament is also guaranteed.
Egypt said it was revising an unconditional truce proposal that Israel had originally accepted but Hamas rejected, and that the new offer would be presented to a Palestinian delegation expected in Cairo later on Tuesday. An Israeli official said Israel might send its own envoy to Cairo in the evening too.
"We are hearing that Israel has approved a ceasefire but Hamas has not," an Egyptian official told Reuters, an account that the Netanyahu government neither confirmed nor denied.
The U.S.-backed administration of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, saying it was also speaking for Hamas and Islamic Jihad in the Gaza Strip, voiced support on Tuesday for a 24-72 hour ceasefire.
Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri disputed that statement but confirmed there were "intensive, ongoing contacts" on a truce.
Outside pressure has been building on Netanyahu to rein in his forces, while few Israelis want the operation to end now.
A Tel Aviv University poll published on Tuesday found 95 percent of Israel's Jewish majority felt the offensive was justified. Only 4 percent believed too much force had been used.
Both U.S. President Barack Obama and the U.N. Security Council have called for an immediate ceasefire to allow relief to reach Gaza's 1.8 million Palestinians, followed by negotiations on a more durable end to hostilities.
Efforts led by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry last week failed to achieve a breakthrough, and the explosion of violence appeared to dash international hopes of turning a brief lull for the Muslim Eid al-Fitr festival into a longer-term ceasefire.
Thick black smoke rose from blazing fuel tanks at the power station that supplies up to two-thirds of Gaza's energy needs. Officials said the plant could be out of action for a year.
Electricity was cut to the city of Gaza and many other parts of the territory after what officials said was Israeli tank shelling of the tanks containing about 3 million litres of diesel fuel.
"The power plant is finished," said its director, Mohammed al-Sharif.
Gaza City municipality said damage to the station could halt many of the area's water pumps, and it urged residents to ration water consumption. South Gaza gets some power from neighbouring Egypt. Power lines from Israel have been damaged during the war.
Palestinians launched 54 rockets towards southern and central Israel, including the Tel Aviv and Jerusalem area, the military said, adding that five were shot down by Iron Dome interceptors while the rest fell wide, causing no damage.
The Israeli military said soldiers killed five gunmen who opened fire after emerging from a tunnel inside the Gaza Strip and that 110 targets were struck in the enclave on Tuesday. They included four weapons caches and a rocket launcher. Residents said 20 houses were destroyed and two mosques hit.
Hospitals said tank shells and air strikes killed 12 people in north Gaza, including an UNRWA doctor and his brother.
UNRWA spokesman Chris Gunness said that UNRWA would find it impossible to cope with a further influx of refugees to its shelters, warning that tens of thousands of people would soon be stranded on Gaza's streets.
"We have reached breaking point with this massive wave of human displacement. This will leave the warring parties, especially the government of Israel, to assume direct responsibility" for the displaced Palestinians, Gunness said.
Before dawn, Israeli aircraft fired a missile at the house of Hamas deputy leader Ismail Haniyeh, a former Palestinian prime minister, destroying the structure but causing no casualties, Gaza's Interior Ministry said.
"My house is not dearer than any of the houses of our people," Haniyeh was quoted as saying on a Hamas website. "The destruction of stones will not break our will and we will continue our resistance until we gain freedom."
Güncelleme Tarihi: 30 Temmuz 2014, 10:29