Israeli air strikes raise Gaza toll above 200



The death toll from Israel’s operation in the besieged Gaza Strip has been raised to 203, medics said, after new air strikes on the Palestinian territory.

Two men were killed early Wednesday after a strike was launched on their house in the southern city of Rafah.

A separate raid killed a young man who witnesses said was an Islamic Jihad fighter, according to Agence France-Presse.

Another Rafah strike shortly afterwards left one man dead emergency services spokesman Ashraf al-Qudra told AFP, while a raid on the home of Mohammad al-Arjani in the southern city of Khan Younis killed his son Abdullah, 19.

About an hour later, tank fire from inside Israel hit the eastern part of Khan Yunis, killing on person, Qudra said.

Another attack destroyed the house of Mahmoud Zahar – who is believed to be in hiding elsewhere – in the first apparent targeting of a top Hamas political leader. There were no reports of casualties in that strike.

It was the ninth day of Israel’s Operation Protective Edge, which aims to stamp out rocket fire from Gaza.

Since July 8, militants have fired nearly 1,000 rockets and mortars into the Jewish state, and Israel has carried out around 1,500 strikes against targets inside the Gaza Strip, according to the army.

Tuesday saw Israel’s first fatality, when a man died from a rocket attack near the Erez border crossing. Four Israelis have been seriously injured by rocket fire, and Israel’s air strikes have wounded more than 1,500 Palestinians.

The Gaza-based Palestinian Centre for Human Rights said on Sunday, when the Gaza toll stood at over 150, that three quarters of the dead were civilians.

Egyptian-proposed truce fails

Israel had suspended strikes after accepting truce proposed by neighboring Egypt, but the deal failed to get Hamas militants to halt rocket attacks.

Under a blueprint announced by Egypt – Gaza’s neighbour and whose military-backed government has been at odds with Islamist Hamas – a mutual “de-escalation” was to have begun at 9 a.m. (0600 GMT), with hostilities ceasing within 12 hours.

Hamas’ armed wing, the Izz el-Deen al-Qassam Brigades, rejected the ceasefire deal, a proposal that addressed in only general terms some of its key demands, and said its battle with Israel would “increase in ferocity and intensity”.

But Moussa Abu Marzouk, a Hamas political official who was in Cairo, said the movement, which is seeking a deal that would ease the Egyptian and Israeli border restrictions throttling Gaza’s economy, had made no final decision on Cairo’s proposal.

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