International
Nir Elias/REUTERS

As cease-fire talks continue, so does fighting — for 14th day

Early Tuesday, Israeli aircraft hit more than 70 targets in Gaza, police said

As Israel’s offensive against Gaza entered the 14th day and as the Palestinian death toll to more than 580 people — most of them civilians — cease-fire efforts continued in Doha and Cairo.

Early Tuesday, Israeli aircraft hit more than 70 targets in Gaza, including the home of the late leader of Hamas' military wing, five mosques and a football stadium, said Gaza police spokesman Ayman Batniji.

Batniji said tank shells damaged several houses along the eastern border of the territory and that Israeli navy shells fired from the Mediterranean burned at least 19 fishing boats.

With air strikes and shelling raining down across the besieged coastal enclave, Israel's army on Tuesday said two of its soldiers had been killed the day earlier, bringing the Israeli toll to 27 troops and two civilians in the bloodiest Gaza conflict since 2009.

Washington urged Israel to take "greater steps" to prevent innocent casualties, and U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon appealed for the violence to "stop now" as it emerged most of the dead were civilians.

Hamas insisted on a lifting of Israel's siege of Gaza and the release of prisoners in order to agree to any ceasefire accord.

US Secretary of State John Kerry pledged $47 million in humanitarian aid to Gaza as he called for an end to the violence.

"We are deeply concerned about the consequences of Israel's appropriate and legitimate effort to defend itself," he told reporters as he met with Ban.

Kerry, Ban, and Arab League chief Nabil al-Arabi urged Hamas to accept the Egyptian-proposed ceasefire. Talks are to continue.

President Barack Obama, meanwhile, tried to maintain a delicate balancing act on the Mideast conflict. Obama on Monday reaffirmed his belief that Israel has the right to defend itself against a barrage of more than 1,500 rockets launched by Hamas, while voicing fresh concern about civilian casualties.

He said Israel's military assault of Gaza had already done "significant damage" to the Hamas network of tunnels, safe havens and other infrastructure as he talked of the need for a cease-fire.

"We have serious concerns about the rising number of Palestinian civilian deaths and the loss of Israeli lives," Obama said in Washington. "And that is why it now has to be our focus and the focus of the international community to bring about a cease-fire that ends the fighting and can stop the deaths of innocent civilians, both in Gaza and in Israel."

In Doha, Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal and Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, held talks, pledging to work together for a ceasefire and to lift the blockade on Gaza.

Hamas reiterated the necessity on a lifting of Israel's blockade of Gaza and the release of prisoners to halt its rocket fire.

"The conditions for a ceasefire are ... a full lifting of the blockade and then the release of those recently detained in the West Bank," its leader in Gaza, Ismail Haniya, said on television.

"We cannot go backwards, to a slow death," he said, referring to the Israeli blockade in force since 2006.

Monday's attacks across Gaza killed at least 56 people including 16 children, bringing the overall death toll since Israel launched its operation on July 8 to 583 Palestinians, according to figures provided by Gaza emergency services spokesman Ashraf al-Qudra. More than 3,600 Palestinians have been injured in the attacks.

In the costliest single Israeli bombardment, an air strike hit a residential tower block in central Gaza City, killing 11 people, including five children.

It came after Israeli tank shells struck a hospital in Deir al-Balah, killing at least five people, including doctors, officials said, indicating at least 70 people were wounded.

Amnesty International warned Monday that the shelling of the hospital as well as the "continuing bombardment of civilian homes" in Gaza, "add to the list of possible war crimes that demand an urgent independent international investigation."

The United Nations says more than 100,000 people have sought shelter in 69 schools run by its Palestinian refugee agency (UNRWA) since the Israeli operation began on July 8.

Violence also broke out in the West Bank, where an Israeli shot dead a Palestinian who had been throwing stones at his car, Palestinian security sources said.

An Israeli army spokeswoman said the military was investigating the death, which she said took place during "a violent riot".

Israeli police said Palestinians had rioted in East Jerusalem neighborhoods Monday night, with no casualties.

Elsewhere in the West Bank, an Israeli was wounded after a Palestinian opened fire at him from a travelling car, the army said.

On Monday, Israeli forces killed more than 10 fighters who had infiltrated southern Israel, the army said, later announcing it had lost four soldiers in that battle.

The troops who died in that clash were among seven killed in 24 hours, said the Israeli army, adding 30 soldiers were wounded over the same period. Two soldiers were also killed in the Gaza Strip, the army said on Tuesday.

That brought its toll to 27 soldiers killed since the start of the operation, including 13 on Sunday, the bloodiest single day for the Israeli military since the Lebanon war of 2006.

At least 116 rockets hit Israel on Monday, one striking the greater Tel Aviv area, and another 17 were shot down, the Israeli army said.

Al Jazeera and wire services

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