Israel expands Gaza offensive, death toll spirals towards 400

Gaza/Jerusalem, Jul 20:  Over 40 Palestinians were killed on Sunday in Israel's fiercest attack on Gaza since the start of its offensive 13 days ago, as the death toll in the conflict spiralled towards 400 after the Israeli assault was expanded to pound Hamas targets.

Hundreds of Palestinians fled in panic into Gaza City today as Israeli troops focused their firepower on the nearby town of Shaja'ia. The shelling and bombing killed over 40 people and injured about 380 others, a Gaza hospital spokesman said. More bodies lay in the streets under gashes blasted into apartment buildings, people who had escaped the violence said, as the shelling continued.

The Palestinian death spiralled towards 400, with medics warning it could rise further due to the ongoing bombardment of areas north and east of Gaza City. The death toll on the Palestinian side included children and women, with over 2,500 injured and almost 61,000 displaced seeking refuge in 49 UN Relief and Works Agency run centres, sources in the Gaza Strip said.

Over 40 Palestinians were killed today, including Osama Al-Haya, son of Hamas leader Khalil al-Haya. The IDF bombed the house in which he was staying. There were reports of multiple deaths in Israeli attacks on Shejaiya and the neighbouring Zeitun district, as well as in Jabaliya to the north.

The streets of Shejaiya were filled with thousands of people fleeing for their lives. Seven Israelis, including five soldiers, have been killed in the fighting and dozens others injured while a large section of the Israeli population struggles to carry out normal life under attack, trying to stay put close to safe shelters under instructions from the Home Front.

Four soldiers were killed yesterday, including two who died when militants disguised in military uniforms emerged from a tunnel shaft and opened fire at them inside Israel.

One of the militants was also killed on Israeli soil while the rest fled back to Gaza and were killed by a helicopter gunship. Describing Israel's overnight offensive in Gaza as "a war crime", Hamas asked for a two-hour humanitarian ceasefire through Red Cross. Hamas made the request around noon today to rescue the wounded and to retrieve the dead in the Saja'iyya.

Palestinians have released gruesome images of the dead and wounded, including children, who were killed overnight in the massive IDF attack in the area.

"The massacre of civilians in Saja'iyya is a war crime that will not break the will of our people. The resistance will not allow the enemy to trample over the soil of Gaza," Hamas' armed wing said in a statement.


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