Death toll climbs as Palestinians flee Israeli fire in Gaza

Death toll climbs as Palestinians flee Israeli fire in Gaza”

Prospect for ground operation: Conricus said the IDF moving into Gaza would not be in anyone's interest, and that such actions are always "high intensity and unsafe", but did not rule it out and said Hamas should make the first move towards a ceasefire by stopping rocket fire into Israel.

Israel stepped up its attacks on the Gaza Strip, flattening a high-rise building on Tuesday as Palestinian rockets rained down nearly nonstop on parts of Israel, according to AFP.

US President Joe Biden gave a show of support to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a call a day earlier, saying "there has not been a significant overreaction" in Israel's response to Hamas rockets.

Decrying the "overwhelming violence and force from Israeli police and settlers" against Palestinians at the Al-Aqsa Mosque during the holy month of Ramadan, the statement notes specific disturbing incidents that have occurred in East Jerusalem, including "a police officer kneeling on a protester's neck while he shouts he is being suffocated" and Jerusalem Deputy Mayor Arieh King telling a Palestinian activist it was a "pity" that he wasn't shot in the head.

Several people are also reported trapped under rubble.

Palestinians living outside Gaza City, near the northern and eastern frontiers with Israel, fled the intense artillery bombardment Friday.

Israel has come under heavy worldwide criticism for civilian casualties during three previous wars in Gaza, which is home to more than two million Palestinians. The Hamas and Islamic Jihad militant groups have confirmed 20 deaths in their ranks, but the Israeli military said the real number is far higher.

At least seven Palestinian civilians, including five children, were killed and others wounded when Israeli warplanes bombed and destroyed a residential house in western Gaza City.

Israel appeared determined to inflict as much damage as possible on Gaza's Hamas rulers before global efforts for a cease-fire accelerated.

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There was some confusion as to whether Israel had authorized a ground invasion of the Hamas-ruled coastal enclave but it turns out that the ground support was from outside of Gaza's border.

Israeli army spokesman Jonathan Conricus said he expected the fighting to intensify and, when asked about unconfirmed reports that Hamas might seek a ceasefire, said: "I don't think my commanders are aware, or particularly interested".

The rockets have brought life in parts of southern Israel to a standstill, and several barrages have targeted the seaside metropolis of Tel Aviv, some 70 kilometers (45 miles) from Gaza. The protests are a gesture of solidarity towards the Palestinian people.

Hamas showed no signs of backing down.

Of these, 850 rockets have hit in Israel or been intercepted by Israel's Iron Dome air defence system, while the rest have crashed inside Gaza, the army said.

The US Embassy in Israel said the aim was "to reinforce the need to work toward a sustainable calm".

"Nothing justifies the lynching of Arabs by Jews, and nothing justifies the lynching of Jews by Arabs", he said, adding Israel was fighting a battle "on two fronts".

The fighting cast a pall over the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Fitr, normally marked by family gatherings and festive meals.

Amid the rocket fire, Israel's civil aviation authority said it had diverted all incoming passenger flights headed for Tel Aviv's Ben Gurion airport to Ramon airport in the south. Israel regards all of Jerusalem as its capital, while the Palestinians want east Jerusalem, which includes sites sacred to Jews, Christians and Muslims, to be the capital of their future state.

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