Gaza Live: Israel shells UN school killing 15; death toll rises to 800

Follow live updates from the ongoing conflict in Gaza here.

Surabhi Vaya July 25, 2014 00:00:33 IST
Gaza Live: Israel shells UN school killing 15; death toll rises to 800

8:56 am: Astronaut tweets photo of strikes in Gaza as seen from space

German astronaut Alexander Gerst, who is presently working in the International Space Station tweeted a photo of Israel, Gaza and the surrounding region from space, showing strikes and rockets launched from both sides illuminating the otherwise black background.

"My saddest photo yet. From #ISS we can actually see explosions and rockets flying over #Gaza & #Israel," Gerst tweeted.

8:30 am: One more killed as Gaza death toll rises to 800

Israeli shell fire on a house in Gaza killed at least one person Friday, medics said, as the total death toll exceeded 800 Palestinians after one of the bloodiest days of the conflict.

The tank shell hit a home in the southern city of Khan Yunis, emergency services spokesman Ashraf al-Qudra said.

8:06 am: Israeli security forces shoot down Palestinian man at huge West Bank protest

Israeli security forces shot dead a Palestinian man Thursday night during a massive protest in the West Bank, just north of Jerusalem.

Palestinian security and medical officials named the man as Mohammed Al-Aaraj, 25, and said he was among at least 10,000 people clashing with soldiers and border police in Qalandiya, between Jerusalem and Ramallah.

They said that at least 20 people were injured in the protest, several by live fire.

"There are thousands of rioters there," an army spokeswoman told AFP.

"They are rolling burning tyres and throwing molotov cocktails and fireworks at soldiers and border police," she said.

"The soldiers are responding with riot disposal means," she added, a term used to cover less-than-lethal weapons such as rubber bullets and tear gas.

She could not confirm nor deny the use of live rounds.

Doctors in the main Ramallah hospital said they had received dozens of live fire victims and appealed for blood donors.

The confrontation, and several smaller skirmishes throughout Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem, came on Laylat al-Qadr, or Night of Destiny, when Muslims pray through the night as the holy month of Ramadan nears its end.

Earlier, police had said that due to fears of violent protest over the deadly Israeli military campaign in the Gaza Strip, they would bar men under the age of 50 from Jerusalem's flashpoint Al Aqsa mosque for what are usually packed prayers on the last Friday of Ramadan.

Large numbers of police deployed throughout the city on Thursday night and the police said in a statement that two officers were injured by stone throwers in the vicinity of the mosque.

Police said that 20 protesters were arrested in various violent disturbances in Palestinian areas of the city.

7:29 am: Canada faces criticism over pro-Israel stance

Four hundred and eighty academics, lawyers, community activists and others criticized Canada's government for taking a decisively pro-Israel position amid the current conflict in the Gaza Strip, saying it "discredits Canada."

In an open letter published in the daily Globe and Mail, they said they "are profoundly perturbed by the unbalanced and partisan position adopted by the Canadian government and federal political parties regarding the current violence in Gaza."

They noted that official statements have "focused exclusively on denouncing Hamas's rocket strikes and uncritically proclaiming Israel's right to self-defence."

And they said this "discredits Canada" as well as "subverts Canada's own official foreign policy goal of achieving a 'comprehensive, just and lasting peace settlement' between Israel and Palestine."

The group acknowledged that "Hamas's indiscriminate rocket firings are illegal under international law" but added that "Israel is still bound by basic international humanitarian law principles protecting civilians during times of war and prohibiting collective punishment."

Adam Hodge, spokesman for Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird, told AFP in response to the criticisms that "Canada mourns the death and suffering of innocent civilians in Gaza.

"However, responsibility rests solely with Hamas and its allies, who launched and continue to feed this crisis," he added.

"We stand by Israel's right to defend itself, by itself. Israel will be forced to continue defending itself as long as Hamas continues its rocket attacks against civilians."

7:24 am: Gaza toll hits 798 as 15 killed at UN shelter

Fifteen people were killed Thursday when Israeli fire hit a UN shelter in Gaza, as the Palestinian toll in the 17-day conflict rose to 798, medics said.

Emergency services spokesman Ashraf al-Qudra said at least 15 people had been killed and 200 wounded by Israeli shelling of a school run by the UN agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA) in the northern town of Beit Hanun, where hundreds of civilians had sought refuge from the violence.

He gave no immediate details of those killed, but an AFP correspondent reported that a mother and her one-year-old infant were among the dead brought into a nearby mortary.

UN chief Ban Ki-Moon said: "Many have been killed -- including women and children, as well as UN staff."

A later air strike between the southern cities of Rafah and Khan Yunis killed seven people, the "majority of them children" from three different families, Qudra said.

He gave the names and ages of three of the children -- Mahmud Abedin, 12, Nabeel al-Astal, 12, and Ashraf al-Najjar, 13 -- but no further details.

A nighttime shelling near a hospital east of Gaza City resulted in the death of a sick child and 30 others wounded, and an air strike in Khan Yunis killed four people, Qudra said.

The deaths raised Thursday's toll in Gaza to 98, according to Qudra's figures, with 798 killed in total and more than 5,000 wounded.

Those numbers do not include more than a dozen Palestinian militants killed after infiltrating southern Israel since the conflict began on July 8.

Among those killed on Thursday were seven who died in air strikes and tank fire in and around Khuzaa near Khan Yunis in southern Gaza.

Five people from the Abu Daqqa family were killed along with two from the Najjar family, Qudra told AFP.

Areas east of Khan Yunis near the Israeli border have come under heavy bombardment in recent days, with emergency services trying to coordinate with the Red Cross to gain access to evacuate civilians.

"We have been receiving dozens of appeals from residents of Khuzaa, Abasan and Bani Suheila in Khan Yunis asking us to evacuate them, and saying there were a lot of people killed and injured underneath the rubble of their houses," Qudra said.

7:00 am: Diplomatic talks over Gaza 'complicated' says US

Diplomatic talks to end the fighting in Gaza as civilian casualties mount are "very complicated," a US official admitted Thursday, refusing to predict how long they could take.

US Secretary of State John Kerry has been in Cairo since Monday trying to persuade Israel and Hamas to lay down their arms in the 17-day war in which some 788 Palestinians have been killed along with 35 Israelis, most of them soldiers.

Asked if it might be possible to agree a ceasefire before the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan due early next week, deputy State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said it was "a tough issue."

"We're on the ground working through these issues, but it is very complicated," she told reporters.

"I don't have predictions to make for how long this will take, but I think all you have to do is look at what's happening on the ground to see that this needs to happen as soon as possible."

She refused to get into specific details of what the framework of any eventual ceasefire might look like, other than to say that the US was backing an Egyptian initiative which was based on a 2012 truce which was violated almost immediately after it was put into place.

1:13 am: People take to the streets in Spain to protest Gaza

Several hundred protesters demanded a halt to Israel's ground offensive in Gaza during a peaceful demonstration Thursday outside the Israeli embassy in Madrid.

About 400 demonstrators, many of them waving Palestinian flags in red, white, green and black, chanted "murderers" as police looked on.

"Boycott Israel", "Peace" and "How many more have to die?" were among the signs on display wielded by demonstrators including university students, couples with their young children and pensioners.

The protest was organised by a coalition of over 40 peace groups and left-wing trade unions, including Spain's largest union Comisiones Obreras.

Fifteen Palestinians were killed Thursday when an Israeli shell slammed into a UN-run school in Gaza where hundreds of civilians had taken refuge, sending the Palestinian death toll from 17 days of fighting to 788.

12:50 am: Iran boasts it ptovided Hamas with rocket technology

Iran provided Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas with the technology it has used to rain down rockets on Israel from Gaza, its parliament speaker said on Thursday.

Tehran frequently boasts of the financial and material support it gives to Palestinian militant groups Hamas and Islamic Jihad but more rarely talks of its military assistance.

"Today, the fighters in Gaza have good capabilities and can meet their own needs for weapons," speaker Ali Larijani told the Arabic service of state television.

"But once upon a time, they needed the arms manufacture know-how and we gave it to them," he said.

During the last major conflict in and around Gaza in November 2012, Larijani said Iran was "proud" to have provided "both financial and military support" to Hamas.

Israel accused Iran of supplying Gaza militants with its Fajr-5 missile, which has a range of 75 kilomtres (45 miles), for use during that conflict.

But the commander of Iran's Revolutionary Guards, General Mohammad Ali Jafari, said at the time that it was not the missiles that had been supplied but their technology.

Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei called on the Palestinians on Wednesday to keep fighting Israel and to expand their resistance from Gaza to the occupied West Bank.

12:39 am: Israel should make more effort to spare civilian lives: US

The United States on Thursday urged greater effort to protect civilians in Israel's Gaza campaign as it voiced sadness over deaths at a UN school serving as a shelter.

"We are deeply saddened and concerned about the tragic incident," State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said in Cairo where Secretary of State John Kerry is trying to negotiate a ceasefire.

"We again urge all parties to redouble their efforts to protect civilians."

She did not explicitly blame US ally Israel for the shelling, which led to the deaths of at least 15 Palestinians at the school where hundreds of civilians had taken refuge from the military campaign.

In an allusion to the Islamist militant movement Hamas, Psaki also condemned the storage of weapons in UN facilities.

"We urge all parties to respect civilian life and comply with international humanitarian law," she said.

"This also underscores the need to end the violence and to achieve a sustainable ceasefire and enduring resolution to the crisis in Gaza as soon as possible."

--End of Updates for 24 June--

11:28 pm: UN staff killed in school shelling

An attack on a UN-run school in Gaza on Thursday has claimed lives among the UN staff, Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said.

"Many have been killed -- including women and children, as well as UN staff," Ban said in a statement.

Gaza's emergency services said 15 people were killed and more than 200 injured when an Israeli shell slammed into the school run by the UN agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA).

Ban said he was "appalled" by the news and "strongly condemned" the attack on the school in Beit Hanun, in the northern Gaza Strip.

"Today's attack underscores the imperative for the killing to stop -- and to stop now," he said in the statement released in Iraq, his latest stop on a tour to try to secure a ceasefire in Gaza.

UN spokesman Farhan Haq separately said officials were trying to determine the number of casualties among UN staff and stressed that it had not been established who had attacked the school.

The Israeli army said it would investigate the circumstances surrounding the school attack.

10:08 pm: Israeli air strike kills 7, most of them children

An Israeli air strike in the southern Gaza Strip killed seven people on Thursday, most of them children, medics said.

The dead included three people from one family and three from another, emergency services spokesman Ashraf al-Qudra said.

The strike hit between the cities of Khan Yunis and Rafah, he added, without giving further details.

10:00 pm: Israel swears in new president amid Gaza war

Israel's parliament has sworn in Reuven Rivlin as the country's new president, replacing Nobel Peace laureate Shimon Peres whose term ends as Israel is fighting a war against Hamas in Gaza.

Rivlin's swear-in ceremony came amid a particularly deadly day in the conflict, which erupted on July 8. So far, over 750 Palestinians, including many civilians, have died in the war. On the Israeli side, 32 soldiers, two civilians and a Thai worker have been killed.

Gaza Live Israel shells UN school killing 15 death toll rises to 800

Nobel Peace laureate Shimon Peres. AFP image

The Israeli presidency is a mostly ceremonial post but having Peres, a lifelong dove, at its helm for seven years helped the country's image abroad.

Rivlin is a veteran politician and supporter of settlements in areas Palestinians demand as part of their future state.

9:47 pm: Pakistan calls for 'humanitarian pause' in Gaza

Pakistan on Thursday called for an immediate end to the blockade of Gaza to allow humanitarian relief to reach Palestinians as the death toll in the besieged territory rose to more than 740.

The appeal came a day after Pakistan voted along with other UN Human Rights Council members to launch a probe into Israel's offensive in the territory, with rights chief Navi Pillay saying the Jewish state's military actions could amount to war crimes.

The 47-member council backed a Palestinian-drafted resolution by 29 votes, with Arab and fellow Muslim countries joined by China and Russia, plus Latin American and African nations.

"The blockade of Gaza must be ended in order to allow access of any humanitarian assistance," Pakistan's most senior foreign office bureaucrat Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry told a press briefing.

"And that is why even in the UN Security Council and later in UN Human Rights Council we called for humanitarian pauses," Chaudhry said.

"Unless this blockade is lifted we cannot send any relief assistance," he continued.

Some 746 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza since Israel launched a military operation to halt rocket fire from the besieged territory on July 8.

Chaudhry said the Israeli military offensive had led to the killings in Gaza of "innocent non-combatant and unarmed Palestinians including women and children".

"We have spoken clearly and unambiguously in the United Nations Security Council yesterday and call for an end to hostilities and to revive the peace talks."

He said Pakistan was also actively working with Muslim and like-minded countries to secure humanitarian access to those who are badly wounded and stranded in the shelters.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has announced Friday as a day of mourning to show solidarity with people of Gaza, his office said in a statement.

"Moreover, the Prime Minister has ordered to contribute one million dollars in UN flash appeal for Gaza Palestinians," it said.

9:41 pm: UN chief condemns attack on UN school in Gaza

The Palestinian mission in France said on Thursday that it had received death threats in a letter posted from Israel and claiming to carry a virus.

"We received this letter this morning threatening to kill members of the Palestinian mission in France and those who took part in recent demonstrations for Palestine," Noha Rashmawi, the chief of staff at the mission, told AFP.

The letter, written in English, places a death sentence on those who took part in pro-Palestinian demonstrations in France recently in which Jewish shops were looted and attempts made to storm synagogues.

It signs off with the words: "Participants in the said activities are convicted to death. The verdict will take place soon by infecting the convicts with the powerful virus Gurion-48."

David Ben-Gurion was Israel's first prime minister and the Jewish state was founded in 1948.

Rashmawi said the letter was signed by an association based in the United States but posted from Israel. She said police had taken the letter and were conducting laboratory tests.

"We receive many such letters... if it's a joke it's in extremely poor taste," she said.

"If it's a threat or an attempt at intimidation it has failed because we will carry on with more determination," Rashmawi said.

The violence in Gaza has roused strong emotions in France, which has Western Europe's largest Muslim and Jewish populations.

9:30 pm: UN chief condemns attack on UN school in Gaza

United States: Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is condemning a deadly attack on a U.N. school for Palestinian refugees in northern Gaza that killed many Palestinians who sought refuge there from Israeli shelling as well as UN staff.

The UN chief again demanded that Israel and Hamas abide by international humanitarian law during their conflict and respect "the sanctity of civilian life, the inviolability of UN premises" and protect humanitarian workers.

He said in a statement in Erbil, Iraq, which was released at U.N. headquarters, that the "circumstances are still unclear."

Ban said UN staff are attempting to arrange "a humanitarian pause in the hostilities so that civilians could be evacuated."

"Today's attack underscores the imperative for the killing to stop — and to stop now," Ban said.

9:12 pm: West losing sympathy for Israel as Gaza toll mounts: UK

Western nations are losing sympathy for Israel as casualties mount from its military operation in Gaza, Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said on Thursday.

Speaking on his first official visit to the region since taking over as Britain's foreign affairs chief, Hammond insisted however that the cause of the crisis was Hamas militants firing rockets from Gaza into Israel.

"As this campaign goes on and the civilian casualties in Gaza mount, Western public opinion is becoming more and more concerned and less and less sympathetic to Israel," Hammond told Britain's Sky News television.

"That's simply a fact and I have to tell that to my Israeli counterparts," Hammond added before meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Hammond later said at a news conference with Netanyahu that Britain was "gravely concerned" by the violence that has claimed the lives of more than 740 Palestinians in Gaza, 34 Israelis, mainly soldiers, and a Thai worker.

But he did not repeat the warning about Western public opinion.

Instead, he expressed Britain's support for Israel's right to self-defence and called for Hamas to agree to a ceasefire.

9:10 pm: Israeli fire hits UN facility in Gaza, killing 15

Israeli tank shells hit a compound housing a UN school in the Gaza Strip on Thursday, killing at least 15 people and wounding dozens who were seeking shelter from fierce clashes on the streets outside, Palestinian officials said, as Israel pressed forward with its 17-day war against the territory's Hamas rulers.

Pools of blood stained the school courtyard in the northern town of Beit Hanoun, amid scattered books and belongings. There was a large scorch mark in the courtyard marking the place where one of the tank shells hit. Dozens of people, including children were wheeled into a nearby hospital as sirens wailed.

The strike occurred during a day of heavy fighting throughout the coastal territory. Israel says the war is meant to halt rocket fire from Palestinian militants in Gaza and destroy a sophisticated network of cross-border tunnels. International efforts to bring about a truce appeared elusive, with the violence continuing and Hamas reiterating its demand for a cease-fire that a crippling Egyptian and Israeli blockade on Gaza be lifted.

Gaza health official Ashraf al-Kidra said the dead and injured in the school compound were among hundreds of people seeking shelter from heavy fighting in the area.

3:35 pm: Britain alarmed over civilian toll in Gaza: Foreign Secretary

Britain is "gravely concerned" by the high number of civilian casualties resulting from Israel's military operation in Gaza, Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said on Thursday.

Speaking on his first official visit to the region since taking over as Britain's top diplomat, Hammond said London would do everything it could to help broker a quick end to the hostilities which have so far claimed more than 730 lives in Gaza and 35 in Israel.

At a news conference with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Hammond expressed Britain's support for Israel's right to self-defence, acknowledging that the current fighting was caused by Hamas firing rockets "indiscriminately" at Israeli towns and cities.

"But we are gravely concerned by the ongoing heavy level of civilian causalities," he said as another 30 Palestinians were killed in ongoing fighting in Gaza, among them at least six children.

The Gaza-based Palestinian Centre for Human Rights published figures on Wednesday showing more than 80 percent of the casualties were civilians, and a quarter of them children.

Netanyahu said Israel was doing everything it could to minimise casualties, pinning the blame on Hamas for using civilians as "human shields".

"We seek as best as we can to target (our attackers) but all the civilian deaths that are there -- and we regret each one of them -- are the responsibility of Hamas," he said, describing its use of civilians as "grotesque (and) inhuman."

But he said a decision by the UN's Human Rights Council to probe Israel's actions in Gaza while ignoring Palestinian rocket fire on Israel, was "equally grotesque," vowing that it would not stop Israel from acting to defend itself.

3:09 pm: UN humanitarian chief Valerie Amos says not possible for Palestinians to hide from strikes 

UN humanitarian chief Valerie Amos expressed deep concern Thursday about the mounting civilian casualties in Gaza, warning that it was "almost impossible" for Palestinians to shelter from Israeli airstrikes.

"The reality in Gaza is, it doesn't matter how hard Israel tries to minimise harm, this is an extremely overcrowded stretch of land," Amos told BBC radio.

"Forty-four percent of that land has been declared a no-go zone by the Israeli army so there aren't that many places for people to go."

She described "people crowded into a sliver of land, almost impossible for them to move".

More than 700 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza in 17 days of conflict between Israel and Hamas.

The United Nations said on Wednesday that three quarters of those killed were civilians and one third of those were children -- the equivalent of one child killed each hour over the previous two days.

"The trauma that they are experiencing is terrible, and one child killed every hour in the past two days -- each and every one of us should sit up and take notice of this," said Amos.

The British peer, the UN's Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, added her call for a ceasefire to end this "devastating situation".

"No one is denying the right of Israel to defend itself but there are huge concerns about the impact this is having on ordinary people on the ground," she said.

Situated on the Mediterranean coast, flanking Israel and Egypt, the Gaza Strip is home to 1.7 million Palestinians who live in an area stretching just 362 square kilometres (140 square miles), making it one of the most densely-populated territories on the planet.

2:41 pm: Kerry meets counterparts to broker truce 

US Secretary of State John Kerry spoke Thursday to his counterparts in Qatar and Turkey, which support the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, as he pressed for a Gaza ceasefire.

Kerry -- who is in Egypt, which has drafted a truce proposal for the Israel-Hamas conflict -- spoke by phone with the foreign ministers of Qatar and Turkey, a US official said.

The top US diplomat was hoping Qatar and Turkey would use their influence to encourage Hamas to accept a ceasefire plan, which the Islamist group has so far rejected, the official said.

Kerry also spoke with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, after meeting him for two hours late Wednesday.

Hamas chief Khaled Meshaal is based in Qatar, while Turkey's Islamist-oriented Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has harshly criticised Israel's assault on Hamas-ruled Gaza as well as Egypt's role in trying to clinch a ceasefire.

A senior Hamas official acknowledged Wednesday that it was unrealistic to expect the blockade to end in tandem with a ceasefire and instead called for a firm agreement on principles on how to lift the siege.

Officials said Kerry, who briefed President Barack Obama overnight on his efforts to halt the bloodshed in Gaza, would be making more telephone calls from Cairo.

2:30 pm: Seven killed in Israeli airstrikes 

Seven Palestinians were killed on Thursday in a series of Israeli air strikes and tank fire in a flashpoint area near Khan Yunis in southern Gaza, the emergency services said.

The attacks took place in Khuzaa on the Israeli border, and the neighbouring district of Abasan, which has been the scene of intensive fighting since Tuesday, emergency services spokesman Ashraf al-Qudra said.

"Five people from the Abu Daqqa family were killed and two from the Najjar family in heavy shelling by tanks and planes east of Khan Yunis," he told AFP, saying the bodies were retrieved in pieces and one was completely charred, making it very difficult to identify them.

"We have been receiving dozens of appeals from residents of Khuzaa, Abasan and Bani Suheila in Khan Yunis asking us to evacuate them, and saying there were a lot of people killed and injured underneath the rubble of their houses," Qudra said.

"A while ago, two ambulances went into Khuzaa with a Red Cross car after the ICRC told us they coordinated with Israel to evacuate the wounded. The cars were shot at and were unable to reach the area."

10:00 am: US lifts ban on flights to Israel 

The Federal Aviation Administration has lifted its ban on US flights to Israel, which it had imposed out of concern over the risk of planes being hit by Hamas rockets.

The agency made its decision late Wednesday after working with other US government entities to assess the security situation in Israel. Its decision was effective at 11:45 pm EDT.

The FAA instituted a 24-hour prohibition Tuesday on flights to Ben Gurion International Airport in response to a rocket strike that landed about a mile from the airport.

The directive, which was extended Wednesday, applied only to US carriers. The FAA has no authority over foreign airlines operating in Israel.

7:00 am: Family of 6, including 2 children killed in Israeli air raids 

A family of six, including two young children, was killed Thursday in an Israeli air strike in the south of the Gaza Strip, Palestinian emergency services said.

"Six members of the Al-Aftal family, including a five-year-old girl and a boy of three, were killed," said emergency services spokesman Ashraf al-Qudra, bringing the number killed Thursday to 18.

--End of updates for 23 June--

9:51 pm: Iran's supreme leader urges Palestinians to keep fighting 

Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei urged Palestinians Wednesday to keep fighting Israel and to extend a conflict that has killed nearly 700 Gazans to the occupied West Bank.

"The only way to deal with this savage regime is to continue resistance and armed struggle and extend it to the West Bank," the official IRNA news agency quoted Khamenei as saying.

Iran, which does not recognise Israel, is a supporter of the Palestinian Islamist groups Hamas and Islamic Jihad that have been at the forefront of the fighting in Gaza.

9:30 pm: US pushes for truce as Gaza battle rages 

Israeli troops battled Hamas militants on Wednesday near a southern Gaza Strip town as the top US diplomat reported progress in efforts to end fighting that has so far killed more than 680 Palestinians and 34 Israelis.

But neither side appeared to be backing down, after Palestinian rocket fire led several international airlines to cancel flights to Tel Aviv and Israeli troops clashed with Hamas near the Gaza town of Khan Younis in heavy fighting that forced dozens of families to flee.

Israel has insisted it must substantially curb the military capabilities of the Islamic militant group Hamas -- a position that appears to have gained support within the US administration -- while Hamas has demanded the lifting of a crippling Israeli and Egyptian blockade on the impoverished coastal territory it has ruled since 2007.

US Secretary of State John Kerry flew into Tel Aviv despite a Federal Aviation Administration ban following a Hamas rocket that hit near the airport the day before, reflecting his determination to achieve a cease-fire.

8:44 pm: Oxfam warns food, water running perilously low in Gaza

Thousands of Palestinians have fled their homes but have nowhere safe to shelter from Israeli airstrikes, charity Oxfam said on Wednesday, warning supplies of water and food are dangerously low.

Over 120,000 people are displaced but are prevented from escaping violence because borders with Israel and Egypt are shut, Oxfam said.

"The terrible toll on civilians is shocking. Hospitals and water supplies are under massive strain and the needs are increasing by the day. People are fleeing terrified," said Nishant Pandey, Oxfam's head in Occupied Palestinian Territory and Israel.

Normally such crises would cause people to flee the area, but this was impossible as the blockade prevented people escaping the violence, Pandey said.

"Lasting peace and security for both sides means ending the blockade and the collective punishment of people in Gaza."

The charity said water supplies were disrupted to over one million people, raw sewage was at risk of contaminating the water due to the destruction of sanitation plants, and only half of Gaza's sewage plants are working.

Much of the area, a densely populated strip of land along the Mediterranean Sea, has electricity for four hours a day or less, Oxfam said.

The charity said it was trucking water supplies to 19,000 people sheltering in a mosque, a church, schools and Al Shifa hospital, but that airstrikes made it difficult to deliver aid, and that many of its staff had also had to leave their homes.

8:30 pm: European carriers suspend more Tel Aviv flights

Air France and Germany's two largest airlines on Wednesday canceled more flights to Tel Aviv because of safety concerns amid the fighting between Israel and Hamas.

Lufthansa and Air Berlin extended their cancelations through Thursday and Air France said it was suspending its flights "until further notice."

The European Aviation Safety Agency late Tuesday said it "strongly recommends" that airlines refrain from operating flights to and from Tel Aviv. It said it would "monitor the situation and advise on any update as the situation develops."

EASA acted after the US Federal Aviation Administration prohibited American-based airlines from flying to the airport following a Hamas rocket explosion nearby. The FAA was expected to issue a new statement later Wednesday.

Lufthansa said its decision applies also to its subsidiaries Germanwings, Austrian Airlines, Swiss and Brussels Airlines. In all, 20 flights from Frankfurt, Berlin, Munich, Zurich, Vienna and Brussels were cancelled for Thursday.

7:46 pm: Hamas rejects truce, says won't accept unless blockade lifted

Hamas Wednesday rejected a ceasefire to end 16 days of deadly fighting with Israel unless the blockade on the Gaza Strip is lifted, its chief Khaled Meshaal said in Doha.

"We reject today... and will reject in the future" a ceasefire before negotiations on Hamas's demands, which include lifting years of blockade against the Palestinian enclave, Meshaal told reporters.

Listing the eight-year blockade is a main demand of Hamas which also wants the opening of the Rafah border crossing with Egypt and Israel to free prisoners.

As international calls for an end to the fighting in Gaza mount, Meshaal insisted that the Islamist Hamas "welcomes all efforts to end the aggression" and "does not object" to mediation by any party, including Egypt.

"We will not accept any initiative that does not lift the blockade on our people and that does not respect their sacrifices.

"Let us agree on achieving our demands and we will then agree on the zero-hour for a ceasefire," Meshaal said.

7:12 pm: UN rights council launches probe into Israel's Gaza offensive

The UN Human Rights Council on Wednesday launched a probe into Israel's Gaza offensive, backing efforts by the Palestinians to hold the Jewish state up to international scrutiny.

The 46-member council backed a Palestinian-drafted resolution by 29 votes, with Arab and fellow Muslim countries joined by China, Russia and Latin American and African nations.

The United States was the sole member to vote against, while European countries abstained.

6:47 pm: Three Israeli soldiers killed

Three Israeli soldiers were killed in fighting inside the Gaza Strip on Wednesday, the army said, taking the total number of military deaths in the past six days to 32.

"Today, three IDF soldiers were killed in combat in the Gaza Strip," a statement said

It said two soldiers were also severely wounded in ongoing fighting in the coastal enclave where Israel launched a ground operation on July 17 to destroy a sophisticated network of tunnels used by militants for cross-border attacks.

6:47 pm: Israeli airstrike kills 5

An Israeli air strike on the northern Gaza Strip killed five people on Wednesday evening, medics said, as Israel's army announced two more soldiers had died in fighting.

Earlier, Israeli tank fire killed five people, including two children, in southern Gaza, emergency services spokesman Ashraf al-Qudra said, as Wednesday's body count reached at least 47 Palestinians.

A series of other strikes and shellings throughout Gaza brought the total number killed from 16 days of conflict between Israel and Hamas to 678 Palestinians, according to figures from Qudra.

Another air strike on Wednesday killed a two-year-old girl, Qudra said.

6:30 pm: Sisi defends Egypt's role in brokering Gaza truce

President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi on Wednesday defended Egypt's role in trying to broker a Gaza truce between Israel and Hamas, which accuses him of proposing a ceasefire favourable to Israel.

Unlike his Islamist predecessor Mohamed Morsi whom he toppled and detained last year, ex-army chief Sisi has sought to isolate the militant Palestinian movement in the neighbouring Gaza Strip.

The Cairo government worked to contain the crisis even before it escalated into a full-blown conflict on July 8 that has killed more than 650 Palestinians and at least 31 Israelis, Sisi said.

"Egypt has sacrificed, for the Palestinian cause and the Palestinians, 100,000 martyrs," he said in a televised address, referring to casualties in Egypt's wars with Israel between 1948 and 1973, before Cairo signed a 1979 peace treaty.

"So it is difficult for anyone to engage in one-upmanship, not just regarding (our role) with the Palestinian brothers but also the Arab region," he said in a speech to mark the 1952 military overthrow of the monarchy in Egypt.

Since Morsi's overthrow in July 2013, Egypt has been at odds with Turkey and Qatar, both of which back his Muslim Brotherhood and have been critical of Sisi's stand on the Gaza conflict.

5:58 pm: Cops ramp up security as Paris readies itself for more protests

Police in Paris ramped up security ahead of a fresh protest Wednesday days after similar rallies against the Israeli offensive in Gaza descended into violence and looting.

The government, which had banned the prior protests seeking to restrain what it called anti-Semitic radicals, authorised Wednesday's march after its organisers gave "security guarantees", Prime Minister Manuel Valls said.

A police source said more than 1,000 undercover and uniformed officers would be deployed along the march route, which ends in the upscale Invalides area where several government ministries are located.

In addition to the Paris event, staged by a coalition of pro-Palestinian and left-wing groups, demonstrations were also to be held Wednesday in the cities of Lyon, Toulouse, Lille and Reims.

President Francois Hollande issued a reminder to protesters that the "responsibility of the state, the government and the president is to ensure that order is respected."

Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve meanwhile warned that anyone caught shouting "Death to the Jews!" or burning an Israeli flag during the marches would be arrested.

But Cazeneuve also denounced the Jewish Defence League -- deemed a "right-wing terrorist group" by the FBI -- whose members clashed with pro-Palestinian supporters in an earlier Paris demonstration.

5:27 pm: Merkel pledges to protect Jews in Germany against attacks

German Chancellor Angela Merkel pledged the country's Jewish community Wednesday her unwavering support as she condemned anti-Semitic slurs and threats at pro-Palestinian demonstrations, a government spokesman said.

The spokesman, Georg Streiter, said Germany would not tolerate aggression against the resurgent Jewish population, after protests against the Israeli offensive in Gaza where violent slogans were used.

"The chancellor and the entire German government condemn the anti-Semitic remarks made at pro-Palestinian and anti-Israeli demonstrations in Germany in the strongest terms," Streiter told reporters.

"These outbursts are an attack on freedom and tolerance and an attempt to shake the foundations of our free and democratic system. We cannot and will not tolerate this."

Streiter said any violence against Jewish people or institutions would be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.

"The chancellor and the entire government welcome the revival of Jewish life in Germany and will continue to stand up for the security of Jewish citizens," he said.

He added that the German government saw Israel as a "friend and partner" and would work with "all its strength" to maintain those ties.

5:23 pm: Israel, Hamas hold fire as convoy of ambulances removed the wounded

Fighting between Israeli troops and Hamas militants was briefly suspended in several flashpoint areas of Gaza on Wednesday to allow convoys of ambulances to retrieve the wounded, an ICRC spokeswoman said.

"A convoy of seven ambulances and two Red Cross cars went inside Shejaiya to evacuate the wounded," ICRC spokeswoman Cecilia Goin told AFP, saying the move had been coordinated with both Israel and Hamas.

A second convoy of nine ambulances and two Red Cross vehicles went into Khuzaa near the southern city of Khan Yunis, an area which also came under very heavy Israeli fire overnight, she said.

A third team went into the northern town of Beit Hanun, the agency said.

"We have coordinated with both Hamas and the Israelis to be able to take out the wounded," Goin told AFP, indicating both sides had agreed to hold their fire, although it was not immediately clear for how long.

There was no immediate comment from the Israelis and an AFP correspondent in Khuzaa said the shooting appeared to be ongoing.

4:33 pm: Palestinian FM accuses Israel of committing crimes against humanity

Israel is committing "a crime against humanity" during its offensive in the Gaza Strip, Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki told an emergency session of the UN Human Rights Council on Wednesday.

"Israel is in the process of committing hideous crimes. Israel is destroying residential areas completely. Israel is targeting journalists. Israel has destroyed 2,500 houses. Infrastructure has been destroyed. Israeli forces are targeting Gaza's medical centres. What Israel is doing is a crime against humanity," he said.

4:19 pm: Kerry says some progress in truce talks

US Secretary of State John Kerry said Wednesday that diplomacy to end the Gaza bloodshed has made progress, but warned more time was needed.

"We have certainly made some steps forward, but there is still work to be done," Kerry said in Jerusalem as he started a meeting with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

Kerry flew into Tel Aviv from Cairo on Wednesday -- despite US warnings over airline safety after a Hamas rocket landed near Ben Gurion airport -- as global concerns mount over rising body count in the 16-day conflict in Gaza.

Kerry, who declined to elaborate further on the shape of diplomatic efforts, is due to meet later Wednesday with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas.

Aides said Kerry, who has been holding talks in Cairo since Monday, had spoken late into the night with regional diplomats.

Ban, who is on his own regional tour and met Kerry in Cairo on Monday, also voiced guarded hope for ending the violence.

"We are now joining our forces in strength to make a ceasefire as soon as possible, but there is still some detailed way which we have to make," he said.

"We do not have much time to wait and lose," added Ban, who said he had spoke during the morning with Netanyahu.

4:03 pm: Foreign worker killed in mortar strike fired from Gaza

A foreign worker in southern Israel died after being hit by a mortar round fired from the Gaza Strip, police said on Wednesday.

"There was a foreign worker killed by a mortar," police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld told AFP, bringing the number of civilians in Israel killed by Gaza fire to three in 16 days of violence.

2:33 pm: Strong possibility Israel, Hamas committed war crimes: UN rights chief

Israel's military actions in the Gaza Strip could amount to war crimes, UN rights chief Navi Pillay said Wednesday while also condemning indiscriminate rocket attacks by Palestinian militants Hamas.

"There seems to be a strong possibility that international law has been violated, in a manner that could amount to war crimes," Pillay told an emergency session on Israel's Gaza offensive at the UN Human Rights Council, citing attacks that have killed Palestinian civilians, including children.

She said Israeli children and other civilians also had a right to live without constant fear of rocket attacks.

"Once again, the principles of distinction and precaution are clearly not being observed during such indiscriminate attacks on civilian areas by Hamas and other armed Palestinian groups," she said.

1:39 pm: Kerry defies FAA ban, flies to Tel Aviv to broker truce

US Secretary of State John Kerry flew into Tel Aviv on Wednesday, defying a US flight ban, to try to broker an end to 16 days of violence in Gaza.

He immediately set off for Jerusalem where he was to meet visiting UN chief Ban Ki-moon, after which he was to travel to the West Bank city of Ramallah for talks with Palestinian leader Mahmud Abbas, a State Department official said.

12:13 pm: Israeli raids kill 5, including 2 children

Israeli tank fire killed five people, including two children, in southern Gaza on Wednesday, medics said, on the 16th day of a campaign against militants in the besieged Palestinian territory.

The shelling hit houses east of the city of Khan Yunis, emergency services spokesman Ashraf al-Qudra told AFP.

10:30 am: Paris readies itself for fresh protests as Israel batters Gaza

The French capital braced Wednesday for a fresh protest against the Israeli offensive in Gaza after similar rallies ended in violence and looting, raising concerns in the Jewish community about anti-Semitism.

The government, whose ban on several weekend rallies failed spectacularly after they went ahead anyway and descended into chaos, decided to authorise Wednesday's protest in Paris after discussions with organisers who gave "security guarantees", Prime Minister Manuel Valls said.

The protests at the weekend in Paris and in the suburb town of Sarcelles were marred by clashes between demonstrators and the police that sent locals scurrying as tear gas permeated the air, and scores were arrested.

Protesters in a previous Paris demonstration had attempted to storm synagogues and in Sarcelles, several Jewish businesses were looted, prompting Roger Cukierman, the head of the country's main CRIF Jewish grouping, to voice fears of "pogroms."

Gaza Live Israel shells UN school killing 15 death toll rises to 800

A pro-Palestinian protester throws a bottle at police during a demonstration against violence in Gaza, in Paris. Reuters image

On Tuesday, four men were sentenced to between three and six months in prison for their role in the Sarcelles violence, and three others were given between three and five months suspended jail sentences for their involvement in the Paris unrest.

The main organiser of Wednesday's protest, the National Collective for Just and Durable Peace between Israelis and Palestinians, hailed the decision to let the demonstration go ahead.

"It's a victory for democracy and freedom of expression," said Taoufiq Tahani, president of the France-Palestine Solidarity Assocation which is part of the collective that called the rally.

Other demonstrations will be held Wednesday in the cities of Lyon, Toulouse, Lille and Reims. They have been called by far-left groups, pro-Palestinian organisations and some unions.

Another demonstration is due to be held in Paris on Saturday, and it is as yet unclear whether authorities will decide to ban it over fears of unrest.

The Israeli-Palestinian offensive has stirred up huge passions in France -- home to the largest Muslim and Jewish communities in western Europe with around five million Muslims and half a million Jews.

10:08 am: Outcry after British MP tweets he would fire rockets at Israel

A British lawmaker was criticised Wednesday for tweeting that he would fire rockets at Israel if he lived in Palestinian territory.

"The big question is - if I lived in Gaza would I fire a rocket? - probably yes," Liberal Democrat member of parliament David Ward tweeted.

Ward has previously been suspended from the junior party in Britain's coalition because of remarks about the Jewish state.

Some on social media called on party leader Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg to suspend Ward from the Liberal Democrats, while others described the comment as an incitement to violence.

The party distanced itself from the comments and said Clegg had long called for a peaceful solution to the conflict.

"We utterly condemn David Ward's comments, they are not representative of the Liberal Democrats," the party said in a statement. "The party takes this matter very seriously and will treat it as a disciplinary issue."

10:01 am: Israeli forces gun down Palestinian in West Bank

Israeli forces shot dead a Palestinian man in clashes early Wednesday at the West Bank village of Hussan, near Bethlehem, Palestinian security sources told AFP.

They named the man as Mahmud al-Hamamra, 32, and said he was shot in the chest while throwing rocks at Israelis. The Israel military told AFP it had no immediate word on such an incident but would look into it.

The clash was reported shortly after the Palestinian leadership, meeting in Ramallah, called for "widespread popular protest in solidarity with Gaza and the resistance."

9:31 am: Canada demands UN probe into weapons caches found at schools

Canada's top diplomat on Tuesday called for a UN investigation of the discoveries of weapons caches at schools it operates in the Gaza Strip. "I was appalled to hear reports, one as recent as today, of stockpiles of rockets in a school run by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency in Gaza," Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird said.

"Even more alarming were reports that in the first case, officials with the United Nations returned these weapons to Hamas (which Canada lists as a terrorist organization), once Israeli officials discovered their location," he said. Baird did not specify the source of these allegations.

Baird went on to say, "Canada unequivocally calls on the United Nations to launch an immediate independent investigation to determine the facts surrounding these reports.

Canada also calls on the United Nations to ensure that in the second case, no rockets are returned to Hamas. Anything less than an independent investigation would be absolutely unacceptable."

UN officials had earlier announced the discovery of weapons in a vacant school in the Gaza Strip, the second time in a week.

The UN agency for Palestinian refugees UNRWA last Thursday said it had launched an investigation after finding 20 rockets hidden in another of its vacant schools in the Gaza Strip.

It condemned the incident -- the first of its kind -- as a "flagrant violation" of international law, and said the rockets had been removed and the "relative parties" informed.

9:12 am: EU asks Israel to respond proportionately as Gaza toll spikes

The European Union appealed to Israel on Tuesday to keep its military operation in Gaza "proportionate" and expressed concern about the deteriorating humanitarian situation, as the Palestinian death toll mounted to more than 620.

"The EU calls on all sides to implement in good faith an immediate ceasefire," a statement from a meeting of European foreign ministers in Brussels said. The EU "condemns the firing of rockets into Israel by Hamas" as "criminal and unjustifiable", the statement said, and calls on it to "put an end to these acts and to renounce violence".

The ministers also condemned "the loss of hundreds of civilian lives, among them women and children" as the Israeli offensive against Hamas-controlled Gaza entered its third week. While recognising Israel's right to defend itself from attacks, they added: "The EU underlines that the Israeli military operation must be proportionate and in line with international humanitarian law."

They also stressed the "need for protection of civilians at all times. The EU is particularly appalled by the human cost of the Israeli operation in Shuja'iyya," the eastern suburb of Gaza where more than 70 people were killed on Sunday, "and is deeply concerned at the rapidly deteriorating humanitarian situation.

"This tragic escalation of hostilities confirms the unsustainable nature of the status quo in the Gaza Strip," the statement added.

The ministers also called for the "immediate and unconditional opening of border crossings for the flow of humanitarian aid, commercial goods and persons to and from the Gaza Strip in line with UN resolutions."

8:51 am: European doctors slam Gaza assault

Two dozen European doctors who had previously worked in Gaza expressed their dismay in a leading medical journal Tuesday at the plight of the wounded and ill in the conflict.

"Wounded and sick people cannot leave easily to get specialised treatment outside Gaza. Entries of food and medicines into Gaza have been restricted and many essential items for survival are prohibited," the group of 20 doctors from Italy, Britain and Norway wrote in The Lancet.

"Before the present assault, medical stock items in Gaza were already at an all time low because of the blockade. They have run out now." Along with reports of hospitals being shelled, there were also allegations of "threats to the medical personnel in emergency services and denial of entry for international humanitarian convoys," wrote the group.

"We as scientists and doctors cannot keep silent while this crime against humanity continues." They urged others in the medical fraternity to speak out, and expressed dismay that "only five percent of our Israeli academic colleagues signed an appeal to their government to stop the military operation against Gaza.

"We are tempted to conclude that with the exception of this five percent, the rest of the Israeli academics are complicit in the massacre and destruction of Gaza."

The letter was signed by genetics professor Paola Manduca of the University of Genoa in Italy, Sir Iain Chalmers of the James Lind Library at Oxford, Derek Summerfield of Kings' College London's Institute of Psychiatry, Mads Gilbert of the University Hospital of North Norway's Clinic of Emergency Medicine, and Swee Ang, an orthopaedic surgeon at Barts and the Royal London Hospital, on behalf of 24 doctors.

8:42 am: French Foreign Minister blasts Israel over civilian casualties

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius on Tuesday blasted as unacceptable the number of Palestinian casualties as Israel continued its bloody offensive on Gaza.

Gaza Live Israel shells UN school killing 15 death toll rises to 800

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius. Reuters image

"It's unacceptable that a country be threatened by rockets, but the response has to be proportionate," he said in a televised interview, as the Palestinian death toll rose to more than 620 on the 15th day of a conflict that has also killed 29 Israelis.

"600 deaths is obviously something that we cannot accept."

Fabius's comments are a marked change from France's initial stance at the beginning of the conflict, when Israel launched an air offensive on Gaza in response to rockets fired into the Jewish state by Hamas militants.

8:42 am: Greek leftists protest against Gaza conflict

Hundreds of Greeks took part Tuesday in a protest by leftist parties against the conflict in Gaza, which has killed more than 620 Palestinians and 29 Israelis in 15 days.

"Hands off Gaza," around 2,000 protesters chanted as they marched past parliament and the European Union offices in Athens.

Several of them carried placards reading "Freedom to Palestine, No to (Israeli) occupation." "This brutality must stop," said main opposition leader Alexis Tsipras, whose radical leftist party Syriza was one of the organisers of the protest.

"We cannot stand idle while children are killed on coasts of a sea shared with the European continent. Tomorrow this could happen on our own side," said Tsipras, a Palestinian keffiyeh headscarf draped around his shoulders.

7:22 am: Rocket fire on Israel airport prompts US, Europe to suspend flights

A rocket fired from Gaza hit north of Tel Aviv's Ben Gurion airport on Tuesday, police said, prompting US and European airlines to suspend flights to and from Israel.

"A house was damaged in a rocket strike in the Kiryat Ono Yehud region, several kilometres (miles) from the airport," police spokeswoman Luba Samri told AFP.

The US Federal Aviation Authority later banned US airlines from flying to or from the Jewish state, which is in a bloody two-week conflict with Gaza militants. Air France and Lufthansa cancelled their flights shortly afterwards.

7:19 am: Talks on with Hamas for Gaza truce: Palestinian President's aide

A senior Palestinian official said Tuesday talks were ongoing with Hamas for a truce to end its war in Gaza with Israel, adding both sides have refused a humanitarian ceasefire.

Azzam al-Ahmed, an aide to Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas, landed again in Cairo on Tuesday where he could meet US Secretary of State John Kerry, already in the Egyptian capital pushing for a truce.

Hamas has said it would not accept an Egyptian proposal that calls for a ceasefire followed by indirect talks, insisting instead on firm commitments first to end Israel's eight-year blockade of Gaza.

The West Bank-based president Abbas, who recently agreed a unity deal with Hamas, met the militant Islamists' leader Khaled Meshaal in Qatar on Monday bidding to find a compromise.

The two-week-old Gaza conflict has killed more than 600 Palestinians and 29 Israelis. Ahmed said they had recommended that the Egyptian proposal set a timetable of five days of talks after a ceasefire, although Hamas was still refusing. "

According to the Egyptian proposal, negotiations (between Israel and Hamas) should start within 48 hours," he told reporters in Cairo. Abbas's camp "fine-tuned this so the negotiations last for a duration of five days," he said, adding however that Hamas had shown no interest in this amendment.

"Hamas until now is sticking to its position. But we agreed to continue communicating with them, so we could perhaps agree on a final draft," he said.

Abbas is supported by Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, whose government has blacklisted Hamas and accused the movement across the border of aiding militants in the restive Sinai Peninsula.

Egypt has said it would not amend its truce proposal, initially accepted by Israel before it launched a blistering ground offensive last week after bombarding Gaza for days.

US officials said they were also looking to see if they could encourage changes in Egypt's proposal to secure the backing of Hamas, which believes Israel has reneged on previous agreements.

Both sides have refused another humanitarian lull, Ahmed said, as Israeli soldiers and Hamas gunmen fought in close quarters in parts of the densely populated Gaza.

7:19 am: Germany, France, Italy condemn anti-Semitic slurs, violence at protests

The foreign ministers of Germany, France and Italy on Tuesday condemned anti-Semitic slurs and violence at pro-Palestinian demonstrations in Europe and pledged to take firm action. Frank-Walter Steinmeier of Germany, France's Laurent Fabius and Italy's Federica Mogherini issued a joint statement in Brussels warning of a rise in anti-Jewish incidents in Europe during the bloody conflict in Gaza.

"Whipping up anti-Semitism (and) attacking Jewish people and synagogues have no place in our societies," they said, according to a German statement.

"We condemn the ugly anti-Semitic remarks, demonstrations and attacks in recent days in the strongest terms." The ministers added: "Nothing, not even the dramatic military confrontation in Gaza, justifies such actions in Europe."

They said their countries would "use all the instruments available to states founded on the rule of law against acts and remarks that cross the line into anti-Semitism, racism and xenophobia".

And they added they would work together and in their own countries to ensure that "our fellow citizens can continue to live in peace without anti-Semitic hatred".

7:00 am: UN school sheltering displaced Palestinian hit by Israeli fire The Palestinian envoy to the United Nations held up photographs of slain children and read out the names of the dead on Tuesday as he pleaded for action from the Security Council.

"On behalf of the Palestinian people, we ask: What is the international community doing to stop this bloodletting, to stop Israel's atrocities?" Riyad Mansour said at a debate on the Gaza crisis.

Wearing a black ribbon, he held up photographs of families overcome with grief and of children's corpses, and read out the names of young victims who lost their lives. "Umama Al-Hayyeh, age 9; Dima Isleem, age 2; Mohamad Ayyad, age 2; Rahaf Abu Jumaa, age 4...".

Gaza Live Israel shells UN school killing 15 death toll rises to 800

Palestinian children sleep as they stay inside a classroom at a United Nations-run school in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip. Reuters image

The Security Council opened debate on the Gaza crisis as Israel kept up its barrage of shells and air strikes and Hamas militants hit back with rockets, pushing the Palestinian death toll to more than 600 in a conflict now in its third week.

Israel's deputy envoy asserted that his country was acting in self-defence against Hamas, which it accused of using Palestinian casualties as "fuel for a propaganda machine."

"This is not a war we chose. It was our last resort," said David Roet, who added that Israel had accepted ceasefire offers, unlike Hamas which has rejected a truce.

1:17 pm: UN school sheltering displaced Palestinian hit by Israeli fire

A United Nations school sheltering displaced Palestinians in central Gaza came under Israeli fire on Tuesday as a team was inspecting damage from a day earlier, a UN official said.

The official said a team, with Israeli clearance, was at the school run by the UN agency for Palestinian refugees UNRWA in Al-Maghazi when Israeli tank shelling resumed, hitting the building on Tuesday afternoon.

"Yesterday we got reports that it was shelled and so today we sent our guys down to investigate and see which side the fire came from," the official said, speaking to AFP on condition of anonymity.

"They went down there with Israeli clearance, and while they were there, they came under Israeli shelling," he added. He said that there were holes blown through the walls of the school compound and that the gates had been blown off but no one was injured in the shelling.

The school has been evacuated and UNRWA has submitted a formal letter about the shelling to Israel, he added. UNRWA is sheltering more than 100,000 people at more than 60 of its schools throughout the Gaza Strip.

Many Palestinians living in border areas of Gaza have been warned by Israel to flee their homes, but they say they feel nowhere in the coastal enclave is safe for them.

On Thursday, UNRWA said it was investigating after finding 20 rockets hidden in one of its vacant schools. It condemned the incident as a "flagrant violation" of international law and said the rockets had been removed and the "relative parties" informed. It said the incident was the first of its kind.

12:17 am: Israel should get Nobel Prize for restraint: Envoy

Israeli soldiers should be given the Nobel Peace Prize for the "unimaginable restraint" they are showing in fighting Hamas, Israel's ambassador to the US has said, backing his country's right to self-defense. Ambassador Ron Dermer made the comments at an event hosted by the Christians United for Israel group late Monday, according to a text of the speech posted on his Facebook page.

Comparing Hamas rocket fire on Israel to Germany's bombardment of London during World War II, Dermer slammed those "shamelessly accusing Israel of genocide and (who) would put us in the dock for war crimes."

"The truth is that the Israeli Defense Forces should be given the Nobel Peace Prize... a Nobel Peace Prize for fighting with unimaginable restraint."

Addressing journalists early Tuesday at a separate event, Dermer did not go quite as far, and admitted Israel was "not perfect, we make mistakes." "A missile can hit the wrong place. We can have intelligence failures. But we don't target civilians," he insisted.

Israel was making "remarkable" efforts, he added, to get civilians to clear an area that was about to be hit including by sending out leaflets, text messages and dummy bombs ahead of the real strike. "Israel does not target a single Palestinian civilian... when a civilian is killed it's an operational failure... and a tragedy in and of itself."

The Palestinian death toll in the 15-day war is at 620, most of them civilians, with some 29 Israelis, all but two of them soldiers, also having been killed.

"I think Israel should earn the admiration of the international community for the restraint that it has shown in the face of these threats," Dermer told a breakfast organized by the Christian Science Monitor. "Our soldiers are dying so that innocent Palestinians can live. That is what's happened."

"You have to ask yourself the simple question... what would America do... what would Britain, what would Canada, what would France do? Ask yourself how another country facing a similar threat would respond?" Dermer said many Palestinian civilians were being used as human shields by Hamas militants who were placing their missile batteries in strategic places such as hospitals and schools, calling on the United Nations to denounce Hamas for such "war crimes."

"When a school, house, hospital, mosque is turned into a military command, or a weapons depot or a place where you can fire rockets, it becomes by the rules of war a legitimate target."

He added the Israeli ground offensive was triggered by Hamas's use of tunnels to try to sneak into the Jewish state, saying the Israeli army had destroyed about 20 tunnels so far. "Militarily and diplomatically if we can achieve a sustained peace and quiet for Israel then that's what we're looking to do," Dermer said.

--End of updates for July 22--

11:12 pm: Jordan condemns Israel's "brutal, racist aggression"

The lower house of Jordan's parliament Tuesday condemned Israel's "brutal and racist aggression" on Gaza, describing the death of more than 590 Palestinians as "the most atrocious mass killing operation."

"Palestinians in Gaza are facing the the atrocious mass killing operation by the brutal racist Israeli occupation, which is violating international laws," the 150-member lower house said in a statement.

"The lower house warns against the international silence and its repercussions for Gaza, which is suffering from an ongoing a humanitarian disaster." Jordan and Israel signed a peace treaty in 1994, the second Arab state to do so after Egypt in 1979.

"We demand the international community immediately intervene to stop the Israeli aggression and escalation against the unarmed Palestinian people," the MPs said.

10:49 pm: Israeli air raids kill 6 in Gaza as toll nears 600 A series of Israeli air strikes across the Gaza Strip killed six people on Tuesday, medics said, as the death toll from the 15-day conflict pushed towards 600.


Gaza Live Israel shells UN school killing 15 death toll rises to 800

Palestinians evacuate a building after what witnesses said were warning Israeli air strikes next to their homes in Gaza City. Reuters Image

An elderly woman and her brother were among those killed in three separate raids targeting Bureij and Al-Maghazi in central Gaza, and Rafah in the south, emergency services spokesman Ashraf al-Qudra said.-AFP

10:30 pm: Al-Jazeera Gaza office evacuated after gunshots

TV channel Al-Jazeera evacuated its bureau in Gaza when it came under fire today, the Qatar-based network said.

Two warning shots were fired at the 11-storey Jalaa building in central Gaza City, housing local and international media as well as private apartments, an AFP correspondent reported.

"Two very precise shots were fired straight into our building," said Al-Jazeera reporter in Gaza Stefanie Dekker, according to the channel's English-language website.

The empty missiles were directed at Al-Jazeera's office, prompting journalists, along with a number of families who had sought refuge there from Sunday's fighting in Shejaiya, to leave. "We came here from Shejaiya," said a woman standing outside with three female relatives, nine children and an elderly man. "There doesn't seem to be anywhere that is safe."

On the streets there were very few people about and the only shops doing business were those selling fruit and vegetables. Elsewhere in the city, rescue teams were seen outside the 10-storey Salaam tower block which was hit a day earlier, causing the top five floors to cave in on themselves.

Towards the top, a dusty limb could be seen sticking out from under a large piece of rubble, which had trickles of dried blood on it. The pan-Arab Al-Jazeera channel has offered extensive coverage from Gaza since Israel began its military campaign against the Hamas-controlled coastal strip on 8 July.

The channel "holds Israel responsible for the safety of its team in Gaza after its bureau came under fire," Al-Jazeera Arabic-language channel said.

Ynet news website quoted Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman as saying on Monday that Al-Jazeera "stands at the heart of the propaganda of terrorist organisations". Al-Jazeera accused Lieberman of "direct incitement" against it. The channel is funded by gas-rich Qatar, which backs the Islamist Hamas movement.

10:25 pm: Kerry urges Hamas to accept ceasefire

US Secretary of State John Kerry on Tuesday again placed the onus on Hamas to accept a ceasefire along the lines of an Egyptian proposal to end the raging conflict in Gaza.

The top US diplomat was speaking in Cairo after meeting Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, whose government's ceasefire proposal last week was accepted by Israel but rejected by Gaza's Hamas rulers.

Kerry voiced support for the initiative as a "framework" to end the fighting that has killed almost 600 Palestinians and 29 Israelis in two weeks of fighting.

But Hamas, which has been relentlessly firing rockets into Israel, insists the Jewish state lift its eight-year blockade of Gaza before it agrees a truce.

"While we still have work to do, it is clear to each party I met that there is a framework available to end the violence, and that framework was the Egyptian initiative," Kerry said at a press conference after meeting Sisi.

Egypt, which shares a border with Gaza and Israel, has brokered truces in past conflicts but has had less sway over Hamas after blacklisting the militant movement earlier this year. The government accuses it of aiding Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood, which Sisi overthrew last year.

Kerry, who has invested much of his tenure in an unsuccessful bid for a lasting Middle East peace agreement, again placed the blame for the latest conflict on Hamas, having made a similar statement to ABC television at the weekend.

"For two weeks now, we have seen Hamas launch rocket after rocket at Israeli neighbourhoods," he said Tuesday.

"Israel responded as any country has the right to do when it is under attack," he said. "Hamas has a fundamental choice to make," he added.

"If we could get both sides to agree on a ceasefire immediately that was relatively free of conditions, we would take that in a second," a US official travelling with Kerry said on condition of anonymity.

"But it's going to require conversations with both parties on the ground before we really know what exactly a ceasefire that can work is going to look like," the official said.

10:00 pm: UN chief believes Gaza fighting will end soon

The UN secretary-general said Tuesday it is his "hope and belief" that his emergency mission to the Middle East will lead to an end to the fighting between Hamas and Israel "in the very near future."

Ban Ki-moon told the Security Council by video conference from the West Bank city of Ramallah that he could not publicly reveal details "at this highly sensitive moment."

As he started to address the council a siren could be heard in the background. The UN chief has also visited Qatar, Kuwait, Cairo and Jerusalem. He said he will go on to Jordan and Saudi Arabia on what he called his mission "of solidarity and peace," as Israelis fight Hamas militants in the third conflict in just over five years.

In the last three days he has met with the head of the Arab League and Arab, Palestinian and Israeli leaders as well as US Secretary of State John Kerry and Norway's foreign minister. He also spoke to French President Francois Hollande.

"Suffice it to say, it is my hope and belief that these talks will lead to results and an end to the fighting in the very near future," Ban said. He cautioned, however, that "of course there are many obstacles and complexities."

Ban said "the most promising prospect of a cease-fire" in an Egyptian initiative to return to the cessation of fighting in November 2012 that has been endorsed by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and the Arab League — but unfortunately not Hamas.

"I encourage all those with influence to urge constructive action," Ban said. "This is the most meaningful path to peace." The UN chief stressed, however, that a cease-fire without addressing the root causes of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will only delay the problem for yet another time.

9:20 pm: Gaza rocket lands near Israel's main airport

A rocket fired from the Gaza Strip landed near Israel's main airport Tuesday, wounding one Israeli and prompting at least two American airlines to cancel flights to Israel in a reflection of high anxiety over air travel after last week's attack on a Malaysian jet over Ukraine.

It was the latest blow to Israel on a day when it announced that an Israeli soldier went missing following a deadly battle in the Palestinian territory, where the Israelis are fighting Hamas militants in the third conflict in just over five years.

Palestinian militants have fired more than 2,000 rockets toward Israel, and several heading toward the area of Ben-Gurion Airport have been intercepted by Israel's Iron Dome defense system, but police spokeswoman Luba Samri said Tuesday's landing was the closet to the airport since fighting began on 8 July.

The rocket damaged a house and lightly injured one Israeli in Yehud, a Tel Aviv suburb near the airport, Samri said.

As a result, Delta Air Lines and US Airlines decided to cancel their scheduled flights to Israel. Israel's Transportation Ministry called on the companies to reverse their decision and said it was trying to explain that the airport was "safe for landings and departures."

8:40 pm: US airlines scrap Israel flights over missile fear

Two US airlines cancelled all flights to Israel until further notice, after a rocket landed near Tel Aviv's Ben Gurion Airport. Delta Air Lines and United Airlines said Tuesday they are suspending service between the US and Israel indefinitely.

US Airways scrapped its Tel Aviv service Tuesday and said it is monitoring the situation in regards to future flights. Delta Air Lines' one daily flight was already in the air.

Delta said a Boeing 747 from New York was flying over the Mediterranean headed for Tel Aviv when it turned around and flew to Paris instead. Flight 468 had 273 passengers and 17 crew on board.

Gaza Live Israel shells UN school killing 15 death toll rises to 800

A departure time flight board displays various cancellations at Ben Gurion International airport in Tel Aviv. Reuters image

Israeli police confirmed that a rocket from Gaza landed in an area near the airport.

Police spokeswomen Luba Samri said the rocket caused damage to a house and slightly wounded one Israeli.

Airlines and passengers are growing more anxious about safety since last week, when a Malaysia Airlines jet was shot down over Ukraine, killing all 298 people on board.

Airlines have rerouted planes to avoid the area over eastern Ukraine where pro-Soviet separatists are battling the Ukrainian army.

Officials from the Federal Aviation Administration had no immediate comment.

A Delta spokesman declined to go beyond the details released in a statement. United Airlines has cancelled its two daily flights to Israel out of Newark, NJ, according to spokesman Rahsaan Johnson.

US Airways, which has one daily flight from Philadelphia, canceled that flight Tuesday and the return trip from Tel Aviv. "We are in constant contact with the FAA and are monitoring the situation closely," said Casey Norton, spokesman for US Airways' parent company American Airlines.

The airline has not yet made a decision about flights to Israel scheduled for Wednesday and beyond.

07:15 pm: 5 political parties in India threaten to "occupy" Israeli consulate over Gaza violence

Five political parties jointly, today threatened to "occupy" the Israeli consulate on Friday to demonstrate their support for the Palestinian people. "We have decided to occupy the Israeli consulate on Friday to show our support for the Palestinian people.

We urge the people of the country to boycott all Israeli products to financially weaken them," Samajwadi Party's Maharashtra unit chief and MLA Abu Azmi told reporters. The decision was taken at a meeting attended by representatives from SP, CPI, CPI(M), Janata Dal (S) and Bharip Bahujan Mahasangh.

Azmi said the UN Security Council had failed to take effective steps to end the conflict which has resulted in a huge civilian casualties. "I don't understand why the UN Security Council exists in the first place if it cannot stop this violence. When Saddam Hussain killed a few people in Iraq, see what they did to him.

Here civilians, hospitals and universities are being destroyed (by the Israel forces) but the UN has taken no firm steps to stop violence," he said. He criticised the NDA government for stalling adoption of a resolution by the Rajya Sabha condemning Israel's assault on Hamas-ruled Gaza strip and said it could result in "severe economic loss" for India.

"The present day government is communal. Whenever there is a chance to stand up for Muslims, it opposes any move that could benefit the community. Here too they want to stay away and not interfere.

If they show their communal face to the world, we can face a severe economic loss as India has friendly relations with many Muslim countries," he said. Azmi said even if India is on friendly terms with both countries, a firm stand should be taken for what is right.

Maintaining that it does not want to take sides in the conflict, the government had yesterday called for talks to end it but forestalled a resolution in the Rajya Sabha as demanded by the opposition.

4:28 pm: Israel to finish Gaza tunnels assault before truce: Senior Israeli minister Israel will not halt its fire in Gaza until it finishes an operation aimed at destroying tunnels used by militants for cross-border attacks, a senior minister said on Tuesday.

As world efforts to broker a ceasefire in war-torn Gaza gathered speed, Israeli Justice Minister Tzipi Livni also ruled out any acceptance of the "unacceptable" demands laid out by Hamas as a condition for halting its fire.

She said the question of an immediate ceasefire with Hamas was not going to happen at this stage.

"First of all, it won't happen before we really finish the tunnels project which was laid out as a strategic objective," she told Ynet news website, referring to a major operation that started on the evening of July 17.

"Second, it won't happen in a way in which Hamas's completely unacceptable conditions are met, because it just wont," she said.

"Until now, Hamas is presenting demands that have no chance of being accepted by anyone - not by us, not by Abu Mazen, not by the Egyptians and not by the Americans," she said, referring to Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas.

"In a situation where Hamas says 'Give us everything or the fighting will continue,' well then the fighting will continue," she said.

4:01 pm: Israel soldier 'kidnapped' by Hamas is dead The Israeli army on Tuesday confirmed that a soldier who Hamas militants claimed they had kidnapped is dead and his body remains unaccounted for.

The army named the soldier, whose body is still missing, as Oron Shaul, two days after Hamas said they had kidnapped an Israeli soldier of the same name.

A spokeswoman said Israeli pathologists had identified 12 out of 13 soldiers killed in Gaza over the weekend but that 21-year-old Shaul's body was still unaccounted for. Publication of the name suggested Hamas was likely to be holding the soldier's remains, although it was not clear if the entire body or only part of it was missing.

Israeli dog tags carry a soldier's name and his army number, and are designed to be broken in two, with half worn around the neck and the other half inserted into his boot to allow for identification in the event of death.

Shaul was part of a group of seven troops from the elite Golani unit who died in an attack on an armoured vehicle in Gaza. A spokeswoman flatly denied any possibility that the soldier was alive.

"The identification process of six of the soldiers killed has been completed and confirmed. The efforts to identify the seventh soldier are ongoing and have yet to be determined," an army statement

3:44 pm: Friendship Chart shows relation between nation in the Middle East As the ISIL onslaught began in Iraq and now with the ongoing Gaza crisis, the Middle East's diplomatic relations are shifting at a rapid pace. But Slate, in a cleverly represented infographic simplifies the relations between the various parties involved in the conflict.

Gaza Live Israel shells UN school killing 15 death toll rises to 800

Screengrab of the infographic.

The infographic filled with illustration of a smiling face, straight face and sad face show the relations between friends and enemies as well as an added category of "It's complicated" shows those which can't be categorised into either. See inforgraphic here.

3:32 pm: IDF shows Taj Mahal being attacked, asks what would you do if nation attacked

The Israeli Defence Forces uploaded a photo on their official Facebook page showing an illustration of the Taj Mahal being attacked with a question under it asking "What would you do?" as the photo began getting circulated on the web.

IDF had also uploaded a similar photo showing London being attacked asking the same question as Israel intensified strikes in Gaza.

3:19 pm: A child, three women, one of them pregnant killed in Israeli air raids

A child and three women, one of them pregnant, were killed in two separate Israeli air strikes in the Gaza Strip on Tuesday, medics said.

Two women were killed in air strikes in the eastern Gaza district of Zaitun, along with a pregnant woman and a child killed in a second strike in northern Beit Hanun, emergency services spokesman Ashraf al-Qudra said.

3:00 pm: Israeli Army fires warning shots at Al Jazeera bureau in Gaza

Al Jazeera reports that warning shots were fired by the Israeli army on their bureau in Gaza.

"Two very precise shots were fired straight into our building. The Israeli army has confirmed it hit two warning shots into our office I am not sure what the reason would be," the live blog quoted Al Jazeera correspondent Stefanie Dekker as saying.

Read more here.

1:09 pm: One Israeli soldier missing

Israeli pathologists have identified 12 out of 13 soldiers killed in Gaza over the weekend, the army said Tuesday, indicating one body was still unaccounted for inside the Palestinian territory.

The announcement came two days after militants from the Islamist Hamas movement claimed they had snatched an Israeli soldier, publishing a name and military identification number, raising fears they had seized his remains.

There were a series of exchanges between the army and Hamas militants in and around Gaza on Sunday and seven were posted missing after the deadliest.

"The identification process of six of the soldiers killed has been completed and confirmed. The efforts to identify the seventh soldier are ongoing and have yet to be determined," an army statement said.

It was not immediately clear whether the entire body was missing, or only part of it.

The army refused to confirm or deny claim by Hamas on Sunday that it had captured a soldier, saying it was investigating, although Israel's ambassador to the UN Ron Prosor said the rumours of an abduction were "untrue".

A spokeswoman flatly denied any possibility that the soldier was alive.

Hamas militants have long sought to abduct soldiers to use as bargaining chips to obtain the release of Palestinian prisoners held by Israel.

In 2006, it captured conscript Gilad Shalit and held him for five years before freeing him in exchange for more than 1,000 Palestinian prisoners.

In the same year, Lebanon's Hezbollah also seized and killed two soldiers, triggering a devastating war with Israel, and later exchanging their remains in a massive prisoner exchange.

12:57 pm: French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius calls for immediate ceasefire

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius called Wednesday for an immediate ceasefire between Israel and Hamas to end violence in Gaza which has left nearly 600 Palestinians dead.

"In Israel and in Gaza, the situation is very hard," Fabius said as he arrived for a meeting of European Union foreign ministers.

"Nothing justifies continued attacks and massacres which do nothing but only claim more victims and stoke tensions, hatred," he said.

"France will act forcefully to demand an immediate ceasefire," he added.

11:23 am: Israeli strikes kill 7

A series of Israeli air strikes early Tuesday killed seven people in Gaza, including five members of the same family, emergency services spokesman Ashraf al-Qudra said.

Gaza Live Israel shells UN school killing 15 death toll rises to 800

A wounded baby receives treatment at al-Shifa hospital, in Gaza City. AFP image

The deaths hike the total Palestinian toll to 583 since the Israeli military launched Operation Protective Edge on July 8 in a bid to stamp out rocket fire from Gaza.

Qudra said a strike on Deir el-Balah in central Gaza killed five family members, four of them women.

Another person was killed in a strike in nearby Nusseirat, and one more died in the southern city of Khan Yunis.

10:42 am: Israeli shells hit Gaza hospital

Zee News reported that Israeli shelling killed at least 5 and injured dozens at a Gaza hospital as Operation Protective Edge's 14 day came to a close, with no end to the violence in sight.

The report says that Israel was targetting a cache of anti-tank missiles in the "immediate vicinity" of a hospital.

Read more here.

10:36 am: Two Israeli soldiers killed in Gaza: army

Two Israeli soldiers were killed in combat in the Gaza Strip, the army said Tuesday, raising the number of troops killed in the 15-day conflict with Hamas to 27.

"Yesterday, Monday, two IDF (Israel Defence Forces) soldiers were killed during battles of Operation Protective Edge," a statement from the army read.

The army said three other soldiers were seriously wounded over the course of the night.

US condemns attack on Egyptian soldiers

The United States on Monday condemned a weekend attack on an Egyptian border checkpoint which left 21 soldiers dead, and vowed to keep up support for Egypt's security.

"We extend our condolences to the families of the victims, and hope for the quick and full recovery of the wounded," deputy State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said in a statement on the attack, which took place near Egypt's desert frontier with restive Libya.

"A prosperous and dynamic Egypt requires an environment of security and stability, and the United States continues to support the Egyptian government's efforts to counter the threat of terrorism in Egypt as part of our commitment to the strategic partnership between our two countries."

10:27 am: Kerry promises $47 million in humanitarian aid to Gaza

The United States will provide $47 million (35 million euros) in humanitarian aid to help Palestinians hit by Israel's campaign in the Gaza Strip, Secretary of State John Kerry pledged Monday.

"We are deeply concerned about the consequences of Israel's appropriate and legitimate effort to defend itself," Kerry said in Cairo as he met UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

"No country can stand by while rockets are attacking it, and tunnels are dug in order to come into your country and assault your people," Kerry told reporters.

Gaza Live Israel shells UN school killing 15 death toll rises to 800

A Palestinian boy carries belongings as he walks past a house which was destroyed in an Israeli air strike in Gaza City. Reuters image

"But always, in any conflict, there is concern about civilians -- about children, women, communities that are caught in it," Kerry said.

Of the funding, the United States will provide $15 million to the UNRWA, the Palestinian refugee agency, to meet part of its $60 million appeal for assistance due to the crisis.

The remaining $32 million will come from the US Agency for International Development, including $10 million that was already directed toward the Palestinians but will be rechanneled to meet immediate needs, the State Department said.

10:22 am: Israeli shoots Palestinian dead in West Bank

An Israeli shot dead a Palestinian who had been throwing stones at his car north of Jerusalem in the West Bank, a Palestinian security source told AFP late Monday.

The security source named the fatality as Mahmud Shawamreh, 21, of Ar-Ram. He said the incident took place between Ar-Ram and the Hizma checkpoint, and the body was taken to Israel.

The Israeli police and army had no immediate comment on the incident.

9:49 am: US warns against travel to Israel, Gaza

The United States on Monday warned Americans against traveling to Israel and the Gaza Strip, urging them to postpone any visits due to the current conflict.

"The US Department of State warns US citizens of the risks of traveling to Israel, the West Bank and Gaza due to ongoing hostilities," it said in an updated travel warning, adding it "recommends that US citizens consider the deferral of non-essential travel to Israel." -AFP

9:33 am: Arab League chief urges Hamas to accept ceasefire

Arab League chief Nabil al-Arabi urged Hamas on Monday to accept an Egyptian proposal to end the fighting between the militants in Gaza and Israel that has killed almost 600 Palestinians.

"The Egyptian proposal clearly calls for a ceasefire. We hope Hamas accepts it," he told reporters after meeting UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon in Cairo, where US Secretary of State John Kerry also arrived to push for a truce.

Israel accepted the Egyptian proposal last week but Hamas spurned it, demanding a guarantee that the Israeli and Egyptian blockade of Gaza, an impoverished coastal strip, be lifted.

9:30 am: Two Americans killed fighting for Israel

Two American members of the Israeli Defense Force have been killed in Gaza fighting, US officials confirmed Monday.

"We can confirm that two IDF soldiers killed in Gaza were US citizens -- Sean Carmeli and Max Steinberg," State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf told reporters.

Gaza Live Israel shells UN school killing 15 death toll rises to 800

Israelis mourn during the funeral of Israeli soldier Amotz Greenberg in the central town of Hod Hasharon. Reuters Image

"We obviously extend our deepest condolences to the families on their loss," she said, adding that officials from the US embassy in Tel Aviv and the State Department had been in touch with relatives of the two men.

She could not confirm reports that the two were members of the Golani Brigade, 13 of whom were killed in Hamas attacks on Sunday.

Carmeli, 21, of Israeli parents, grew up in Texas, while Steinberg, 24, grew up in southern California, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Steinberg, who lived in the city of Beersheba, joined the IDF in late 2012 and was a sniper in the brigade, according to the Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles.

9:28 am: Kerry working for immediate ceasefire: Obama

The United States is working for an "immediate" ceasefire in Gaza, President Barack Obama said Monday, as the White House called on Israel to do more to protect Palestinian civilians.

While Israel has the right to defend itself against a barrage of Hamas rockets launched from the Gaza Strip, Washington has "serious concerns about the rising number of Palestinian civilian deaths and the loss of Israeli lives," Obama said.

"That is why it now has to be our focus and the focus of the international community to bring about a ceasefire that ends the fighting and that can stop the deaths of innocent civilians, both in Gaza and in Israel," he said.-AFP

9:11 am: UAE pledges $41 million for Gaza reconstruction

The United Arab Emirates said Monday it will offer nearly $41 million in aid for the reconstruction of Gaza homes hit by Israel's military offensive against rocket-firing militants.

Of that figure, 150 million dirhams ($40 million) was part of an agreement between Abu Dhabi and the Emirati Red Crescent and the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, according to the Red Crescent.

The initiative was aimed at reconstructing "damaged homes and rehabilitating hospitals, education and services" hit by Israeli military strikes in the Gaza Strip, the organisation's president, Sheikh Hamdan Ben Zayed Al-Nahyan, was quoted as saying in a statement.

The UAE government already pledged $52 million in humanitarian aid for Palestinians in the coastal enclave in the early stages of the Israeli military offensive.

9:04 am: Over 100,000 Palestinians displaced: UN

The UN agency for Palestinian refugees said Monday the number of people seeking refuge at its sites in Gaza to escape a two-week-old Israeli offensive on the enclave has soared to more than 100,000.

"This is a watershed moment for UNRWA, now that the number of people seeking refuge with us is more than double the figure we saw in the 2009 Gaza conflict," climbing to above 100,000, the agency's spokesman Christopher Gunness said in a statement.

UNRWA says it has opened 69 shelters in the war-torn Gaza Strip to cope with the rising numbers of displaced people, as Israel rains down air strikes, tank and artillery shells on homes, offices and other targets in its campaign to stamp out militant rocket fire.

8:46 am: Kerry arrives in Cairo to press for ceasefire

US Secretary of State John Kerry arrived in Cairo on Monday to throw his weight behind efforts to secure a ceasefire in neighbouring Gaza.

Kerry will meet UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon who is also in Cairo for talks with Egyptian officials aimed at ending the two-week conflict between Israel and Gaza militants.

8:27 am: Israel must take 'even greater steps' to protect civilians: White House

Israel must do more to protect civilians caught up in the crossfire of its assault on Hamas in the Gaza Strip, the White House said Monday.

"We would like the Israelis to take even greater steps to ensure the protection of civilians," spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters. His comments came as US Secretary of State John Kerry headed to the region to push for a ceasefire.

Reaffirming Israel's right to defend itself, Earnest said it was "unacceptable" for Hamas "to continue firing rockets squarely at Israeli civilians."

"At the same time, we also want to make sure that Israel is doing everything that they can to live up to their own standards related to protecting the welfare and well-being of innocent civilian bystanders," he added.

7:56 am: The violence must stop now: UN chief

UN chief Ban Ki-moon demanded an immediate end to the raging conflict in Gaza and Israel on Monday, during a visit to Cairo to push for a ceasefire.

The "violence must stop, it must stop now," Ban said at a news conference.

Gaza Live Israel shells UN school killing 15 death toll rises to 800

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. Associated Press

"I urge all parties to stop violence unconditionally and return to dialogue," he added.

Egypt had proposed a truce which Israel accepted and Hamas in Gaza spurned, saying they wanted guarantees that a blockade of the enclave will end.

7:25 am: Israeli airstrikes kill 11, including 5 children

An Israeli air strike in Gaza City killed 11 people on Monday, including five children, medics said, hiking the total Palestinian death toll to more than 560.

The strike hit a residential tower block in the centre of the city, emergency services spokesman Ashraf al-Qudra said, adding another person was killed in a separate, simultaneous strike in Deir al-Balah in the central Gaza Strip.

7:00 am: Arab-Israelis clash with police over Gaza

Arab Israelis clashed with police in the northern city of Nazareth on Monday, police said, at the end of a protest against Israel's deadly military strikes in the Gaza Strip.

The clashes came as Nazareth and cities in the West Bank observed a general strike to mourn the victims of the Gaza conflict between Israel and Hamas -- the bloodiest since 2009 -- that has cost more than 500 Palestinian lives in two weeks.

Police spokeswoman Luba Samri said about 200 Arab Israelis in Nazareth clashed with security forces, who responded with water cannon and stun grenades, arresting 16 people after the 3,000-strong demonstration in Israel's largest Arab city.

Demonstrators held up placards reading "Israeli army commits genocide in Gaza".

--End of updates for 21 July--

12:00 am: Toll rises to 556 after bloodiest day since 2009

The death toll in Gaza rose to 556 on Monday following the bloodiest day in the Palestinian enclave since 2009 where Israel is pressing a punishing military operation.

And the Israeli army said another seven soldiers had been killed in fighting in Gaza, raising the overall Israeli death toll to 27, including 25 troops.

The announcement came a day after 13 soldiers were killed in one day in what was the highest one-day death toll sustained by the army since the 2006 Lebanon war.

Gaza emergency services spokesman Ashraf al-Qudra said air strikes killed 39 people across the enclave on Monday, and another 68 bodies were pulled from the rubble in areas hit by heavy fighting a day earlier.

The army also said its troops had killed "more than 10 militants" who had infiltrated southern Israel through two tunnels, sparking a firefight that reportedly wounded several soldiers.

Militants killed inside Israel are not included in Qudra's Gaza toll.

The latest deaths included six people killed in two artillery strikes, three of whom died in the southern city of Rafah and another three in Deir al-Balah in central Gaza.

Of the 39 people killed on Monday, around a third of them were children, Qudra said.

Seven children were among nine dead in an early air raid on a house in Rafah, and another four children were killed in another strike on a house in Gaza City that killed nine people.

And Israeli tank shells slammed into a hospital in Deir al-Balah, killing four people, among them doctors, Qudra said, indicating at least 70 people were wounded.

Another 28 people were killed in a series of air strikes and tank shelling across the strip.

Of the 68 bodies recovered on Monday, 13 were from Shejaiya, hiking the death toll from a blistering Sunday attack to 74. Qudra said the vast majority were women, children and the elderly.

Another 23 of the bodies were pulled from a three-storey house belonging to the Abu Jamaa family in the southern city of Khan Yunis which was hit on Sunday, raising the overall death toll from a single strike to 28, Qudra said.

So far, Palestinian figures show 556 Gazans have been killed and more than 3,350 wounded since the start of the Israeli campaign to stamp out cross-border rocket fire on July 8.

On the Israeli side, 27 people have died, including two civilians killed by rocket fire and 25 soldiers all of whom were killed since the start of a ground operation late on July 17.

Army figures indicate another 30 soldiers were wounded in Gaza in the past day, three of whom were in serious condition. Military radio put the overall injury toll at more than 90 soldiers since the ground assault began.

Since the Israeli military started Operation Protective Edge on July 8 in a bid to stamp out rocket fire, Palestinian militants have fired 1,488 mortars and rockets that hit Israel, with air defences intercepting another 392, the army said.

Approximately 84 stuck Israel on Monday, one of them in the greater Tel Aviv area, while another 16 were shot down, the army said.-AFP

11:49 pm: Turkey declares three days of mourning over Gaza deaths

Turkey on Monday declared three days of national mourning for the Palestinian victims of Israel's military operation in the Gaza Strip, denouncing the assault as a "massacre".

Gaza Live Israel shells UN school killing 15 death toll rises to 800

Two Palestinians, who medics said were wounded in Israeli shelling, sit at a hospital in Gaza City. Reuters Image

"We condemn Israel's massacre of the Palestinian people," Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc told reporters in Ankara in televised comments as the Palestinian death toll topped 500. "In a show of solidarity with the Palestinian people, three days of mourning have been declared starting from tomorrow (Tuesday)." -AFP

10:20 pm: 7 soldiers killed in fighting with Hamas, raising Israeli death toll to 25

Israeli military: 7 soldiers killed in fighting with Hamas, raising Israeli death toll to 25.

9:30 pm: UN's Ban Ki-moon lands in Cairo for Gaza ceasefire talks

UN chief Ban Ki-moon today arrived in Cairo for talks to build support for a truce in Gaza as part of his whistlestop tour of the region, an airport official said.

Ban, who arrived from Kuwait, is due to meet Egypt's Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukri as international efforts to end the deadly conflict in the Palestinian territory intensified, with US Secretary of State John Kerry also expected to arrive in the Egyptian capital later in the evening.

8:15 pm: Truce elusive as Hamas, Israel stick to positions

he top Hamas leader in the Gaza Strip signaled Monday that the Islamic militant group will not agree to an unconditional cease-fire with Israel, while Israel's defense minister pledged to keep fighting "as long as necessary" — raising new doubt about the highest-level mediation mission in two weeks.

UN chief Ban Ki-moon and US Secretary of State John Kerry were heading to Cairo on Monday to try to end the deadliest conflict between Israel and Gaza's Hamas rulers in just over five years.

Meanwhile, cross-border fighting continued unabated, with Israeli strikes leaving entire families buried under rubble and Hamas militants firing more than 50 rockets and trying to sneak into Israel through two tunnels, the latest in a series of such attempts.

Palestinian health officials said at least 550 Palestinians have been killed and 3,350 wounded since the new round of fighting started on 8 July. Twenty Israelis, including 18 soldiers, were also killed and several dozen wounded, including soldiers.

4:25 pm: Opposition walks out of Rajya Sabha as government refuses resolution

Opposition staged a walkout in Rajya Sabha after demands for resolution on Gaza were not accepted.

External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj rejected calls for Parliament resolution on Gaza violence, despite the opposition's demands.

"Israel and Palestine should have peace talks," she said rejecting any resolution by House on Gaza.

1:30 pm: Kerry caught on tape criticising Israel

US Secretary of State John Kerry appeared to criticize Israel in candid remarks caught on an open microphone between television interviews Sunday.

Kerry was heard talking about Israeli soldiers killed in Gaza to a State Department official identified as Jonathan Finer just before appearing on the "Fox News Sunday" political talk show.

Gaza Live Israel shells UN school killing 15 death toll rises to 800

John Kerry. AFP.

"I hope they don't think that's an invitation to go do more," Kerry says. "That better be the warning to them."

A frustrated Kerry then says: "It's a hell of a pinpoint operation, it's a hell of a pinpoint operation," in apparent frustration over the civilian toll in the Israeli operation.

"We've got to get over there," Kerry is heard saying on the Sunday recording. "I think, Jon, we ought to go tonight. I think it's crazy to be sitting around. Let's go."

When confronted over the remarks by Fox host Chris Wallace, Kerry reiterated Israel's right to self-defense.

"I think it's very, very difficult in these situations, obviously very difficult," Kerry said.

"You have people who've come out of tunnels. You have a right to go in and take out those tunnels. We completely support that. And we support Israel's right to defend itself against rockets that are continuing to come in. Hamas has started this process of rocketing, after Israel was trying to find the people who killed three young -- you know, one American kid, three young Israeli citizens. It's disgraceful," Kerry said.

"It's tough to have this kind of operation. I reacted obviously in a way that ... anybody does with respect to young children and civilians.

"But war is tough, and I've said that publicly and I've said it again. We defend Israel's right to do what it is doing in order to get at those tunnels," Kerry said.
Kerry then urged Hamas to "step up and be reasonable and understand that you accept the cease-fire, you save lives."

1:30 pm: Sitaram Yechury speaks on Gaza

Addressing the Rajya Sabha on the ongoing Gaza crisis, CPM leader Sitaram Yechury called on the government to immediately suspend all military purchases from Israel.

"This is a genocide of sorts, we cannot remain silent to violations of International Law," he said. "You are the biggest terrorist by illegally occupying Palestine land," Yechury said about Israel. India cannot be party to this genocide. This must stop," he said.

Yechury also mentioned Vajpayee's condemnation of US invasion of Iraq, calling on the Rajya Sabha to pass a resolution doing the same about Gaza.

"This is against Insaniyat (Humanity) completely. Modi has signed BRICS resolution with East Jerusalem as capital. So why are we afraid to pass resolution?" Yechury asked the house.

"India is the only non-Arab country that opposed partition of Palestine. Let Israel vacate all illegally held properties in Palestine. Countries can go to war, but can we ever say we are against an elected govt and therefore go to war? Govt of Palestine has been elected by the people, we must respect it," he said.

12:51 pm: JD(U) leader Sharad Yadav addresses the Rajya Sabha

"People are being forced to leave their own land. How can we let this happen? We must discuss this. It will have a major impact on the future of our country," Sharad Yadav said as he addressed the Rajya Sabha on the Gaza crisis.

"How can people run away from a strip of land that's just 6 km in width?" he said urging the Rajya Sabha to focus and debate the role India could play in the ongoing humanitarian crisis.

However, as time ran out, Yadav said that discussions like these should not be restricted by logistical considerations/ "This is a discussion on humanity, please don't restrict the timing of speakers," he said wrapping up.

12:33 pm: BJP leader Anil Dave addresses the Rajya Sabha

Addressing the Rajya Sabha, BJP leader Anil Dave said that there ought to be discussion of "global issues of peace."

"What is happening in Israel and Gaza is also happening in various other parts of the world. Mani Shankarji, the problem is you get uneasy too soon," Dave said

Dave also said that there is need to inform the youth that heavens cannot be attained if one chooses a violent path. "You cannot achieve jannat through guns, but only through namaz and prayer," he said.

"Doesn't matter which side of the border, people are dying. We must stop this," said Brajesh Pathank, BSP leader.

"This is a war but it's an unequal war," Ahmed Hussein, TMC MP on Israel's war on Gaza terming it the "new Holocaust".

"Our party, led by Mamata Banerjee, condemns this violence," Hussein added discussing Gaza in Parliament.

12:00 pm: Palestine belongs to the Arabs: Ghulam Nabi Azad tells Rajya Sabha

Leader of Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad addresed the Rajya Sabha on Gaza crisis and urged the house to pass a resolution against Israel as well as Hamas for the use of force.
"We should have been the first nation to discuss Gaza, we are the largest democracy. It is India's job to defend a small nation that is being pressurised," Azad said addressing the Rajya Sabha.

"Palestine belongs to the Arabs in the same sense as England belongs to English," Azad said quoting Mahatma Gandhi's article which appeared in a pre-Independence publication called The Harijan.

Nabi added that it was wrong to impose Judaism on Arabs. "We must insist on just statement of Jews wherever they are born or bred. Jews in france are French, Christians born in France are French," he said.

"We want to know from government if there is any change in our foreign policy since the time of Nehru and Vajpayee. From labourers to nurses, there's no company in West Asia where an Indian is not employed" he said.

Azad also said that in the fighting until three days ago, 1500 tonnes of ammunition was used on Gaza strip. Nabi also cited UN figures and said that the death toll had crossed 400 while 60,000 had been rendered homeless as the conflict steadily escalated.

"Hospitals have been destroyed. No medication available. 3,500 are injured. Who will help them?" asked Azad.

Read older updates here.

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