Gaza Live: Kerry says no promise of ceasefire, US remains hopeful

10:30 pm: No promise of ceasefire from both sides

Secretary of State John Kerry said Thursday there is "no promise" of a negotiated cease-fire between Israel and militants in the Gaza Strip, but he said the U.S. remains hopeful.

Kerry told reporters in the India capital Thursday that the sooner a cease-fire happens, the better.

"We've never stopped working toward the notion that a cease-fire at some point is essential," Kerry said. "Yes, the United States remains hopeful that it is achievable. And sooner is better, because of the needs to get to the table and begin negotiations that could ultimately, hopefully resolve issues.

"There's no promise in that — I want to make that clear — no promise in that," he said. "But I think everybody would feel better if there was a bona fide effort to try to see that out."

The violence is now in its fourth week and has killed over a thousand Palestinians living in Gaza and several dozen Israeli troops fighting there.

7:30 pm: Palestinians mull war crime charges against Israel

Palestinian officials say President Mahmoud Abbas is seeking broad political support, including from rival Hamas, before making any attempt to press possible war crimes charges against Israel.

Abbas is under pressure to turn the International Criminal Court on the issue, as the death toll in Gaza rises.

Independent legislator Mustafa Barghouti revealed Thursday that Abbas asked for and received written support for such a move from the heads of PLO factions this week. Participants in the meeting say Abbas also wants written support from the Hamas and Islamic Jihad militant groups. They are vulnerable to war crimes charges because of their indiscriminate rocket fire at Israel.

Earlier, the top UN human rights official accused both sides of committing war crimes.

4:15 pm: Kerry justifies Israel's use of force in Gaza, says no way to know who shelled UN school

US secretary John Kerry told NDTV today that the he cannot judge if Israel's use of force in Gaza was excessive due to the factual inconsistency so far.

"I don't know if its [Israel's use of force] been excessive or not. 'Cause I don't know what happened. There are allegations of people firing their own rockets and accidentally hitting people and blaming it on the other side. There are allegations of people being deliberately put in harms way," he said in an interview with NDTV. "This is not the time for the United States to start making those judgments."

Kerry also denied that Israel had shelled the UN school in Gaza in which 15 including 4 children were killed. "Unfortunately Hamas has a record of also putting civilians in the harms way purposely as part of an effort. I don't know who did that and nor do you," he said.

Kerry referred to his own experience as a soldier during the Vietnam war. "Of course you don't bomb schools and you don't want children to be hurt. I've been to war. I know what happens when innocent civilians get killed. Its horrible. Absolutely horrible. And there is nobody in the world who hates the fact that innocent civilians are caught in this crossfire," he said.

He also reiterated the US support of the two-state solution to end the Israel-Gaza conflict for good.

"The Palestinians want and deserve a country and we support a two-state solution. President Obama supports it. We support it. We're working towards that," he said.

Referring to a "terrorist organisation firing rockets indiscriminately into another country", Kerry said that it was not fair that Israel has to live in a situation like this and justified the lack of criticism from the US.

"No country can sit there and live with tunnels being dug under its border out of which some people carrying hand guns and tranquilizer drugs in order to kidnap their citizens and take them back and hold them for ransom. No country can support that," he said.

"No one has been working harder than I have to try to find a way towards ceasefire so that we can actually negotiate very complicated, long-standing differences and issues that are at stake here. But the place to work on that isn't in the battle field bit at the negotiating table and that's where we want to go," he added.

3:00 pm: Israel will destroy tunnels with or without ceasefire: PM

The Israeli army will continue its work to destroy tunnels used by Gaza militants for cross-border attacks with or without a ceasefire, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Thursday.

"Until now, we have destroyed dozens of terror tunnels and we are determined to finish this mission -- with or without a ceasefire," he said in a live address at the start of a cabinet meeting.

2:38 pm: UN rights chief slams Israel's 'defiance' of international law

UN human rights chief Navi Pillay on Thursday slammed what she said was Israel's "deliberate defiance" of international law during the Gaza conflict.

Pillay lambasted the country's attacks on homes, schools, hospitals and United Nations facilities in Gaza.

"None of this appears to me to be accidental," she told reporters. "There appears to be deliberate defiance of obligations that international law imposes on Israel.

1:03 pm: Iran's Quds Force scoffs at calls to disarm Hamas

The chief of Iran's elite Quds Force has ridiculed calls for Hamas to be disarmed and urged the Palestinian Islamist movement in Gaza to "turn the land and skies into hell" for Israel.

Major General Qassem Suleimani's message to militant factions resisting Israel's military operations in the Gaza Strip was published late Wednesday by Iran's official IRNA news agency.

Suleimani "underlined that confronting the Zionist enemy is a necessity and the Palestinian resistance movement will turn the land and skies into hell for the Zionists."

"Disarmament of resistance is a daydream that will only come true in the graveyard" for Israel, said the rarely-quoted senior figure.

The Quds Force, a branch of Iran's Revolutionary Guard, is highly secretive and conducts security functions abroad deemed necessary to protect the Islamic republic.

As its leader, Suleimani is seldom mentioned or pictured in Iranian media but he has cultivated a reputation as one of the most influential security operatives in the Middle East.

"The painful scenes in Palestine dishearten us and fills our chests with deep grief arising from deep anger," his statement added.

"Martyrdom for Palestine is a dream of every noble Muslim and freedom-seeker."

12:14 am: UNRWA spokesman breaks down on TV while discussing Gaza

Chris Gunness, United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) spokesman broke down on air after he appeared on Al-Jazeera Arabic to discuss the Israeli air strike of the UN school in which 15 were killed.

Gunness, during his appearance started to discuss the attacks but shortly after his voice started breaking.

"The rights of Palestinians, even their children, are denied and its appalling," Gunness managed to say before breaking down into tears. The camera turns away as someone approachs Gunness to comfort him, as he sobbed uncontrollably on air.

Gunness also took to Twitter to express his sorrow and the desperate refugee situation in Gaza where close to 200,000 people have fled.

9:50 am: Israel mobilises 16,000 more reservists: spokesperson

Israel mobilised 16,000 additional reservists, taking their total to 86,000, as military operations in the Gaza Strip continue, an army spokeswoman said Thursday.

 Gaza Live: Kerry says no promise of ceasefire, US remains hopeful

Israeli soldiers patrol outside the northern Gaza Strip. Reuters image

"The army has issued 16,000 additional mobilisation orders to allow troops on the ground to rest, which takes the total number of reservists to 86,000," said the spokeswoman.

9:37 am: US restocks Israel with ammunition

The United States confirmed it had restocked Israel's supplies of ammunition, hours after issuing a strong condemnation of an attack on a United Nations school in Gaza.

The Israeli military requested additional ammunition to restock its dwindling supplies on July 20, the Pentagon said. The US Defense Department approved the sale just three days later.

"The United States is committed to the security of Israel, and it is vital to US national interests to assist Israel to develop and maintain a strong and ready self-defense capability," Pentagon spokesman Rear Admiral John Kirby said in a statement.

"This defense sale is consistent with those objectives."

Two of the requested munitions came from a little-known stockpile of ammunition stored by the US military on the ground in Israel for emergency use by the Jewish state. The War Reserve Stockpile Ammunition-Israel is estimated to be worth $1 billion.

Kirby stressed that those munitions had been in WRSA-I stock for "a few years, well before the current crisis."

"All stocks in WRSA-I, as required by law, are 'in excess to US requirements," he added.

"Issuing munitions from the WRSA-I stockpile was strictly a sourcing decision and White House approval was not required."

But Kirby did not indicate whether the White House was involved in the decision to supply the other ammunition.

The decision to provide ammunition to Israel could fuel controversy, coming just as Washington expresses growing concern about the deaths of more than 1,300 Palestinians, most of them civilians, since the Israeli operation began on July 8.

Kirby said Pentagon chief Chuck Hagel told his Israeli counterpart that the United States was concerned about the deadly consequences of the spiraling conflict, and called for a ceasefire and end to hostilities.

In a telephone call with Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon, Hagel expressed "the United States' continued concern about the rising number of Palestinian civilian deaths and loss of Israeli lives, as well as the worsening humanitarian situation in Gaza."

Hagel "stressed the need for a humanitarian ceasefire that ends hostilities and leads to a permanent cessation of hostilities," the spokesman added.

8:12 am: Canada blames Hamas for Gaza dead

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper on Wednesday blamed Hamas for the heavy loss of civilian life caused by Israel's deadly strikes on the Gaza Strip.

At least 110 people were killed on Wednesday alone in Gaza, one of the most densely populated areas in the world, as the Palestinian death toll from 23 days of unrelenting Israeli attacks soared to 1,360.

Israel says 56 of its soldiers have been killed.

"Obviously, no one likes to see the suffering and loss of life that has occurred," Harper said in televised remarks.

"That said, we hold the terrorist organization Hamas responsible for this. They have initiated and continue this conflict, and continue to seek the destruction of the state of Israel."

Canada's conservative government has long supported the Jewish state and stressed its recognition of Israel's right to defend itself.

Last week, hundreds of academics, lawyers, community activists and others criticized the government for its support of Israel in the conflict, a position they said in an open letter "discredits Canada."

7:45 am: France condemns shelling of Gaza UN school, demands truce

France on Wednesday condemned the shelling of a UN school in Gaza that killed 16 people, calling for an immediate ceasefire.

President Francois Hollande "joins the UN secretary general (Ban Ki-moon) in considering the act 'unjustifiable'," the president's office said in a statement.

Paris "demands the establishment of an immediate ceasefire," the statement said, adding that "all efforts must converge on this goal."

7:00 am: Bolivia declares Israel a terrorist state

Bolivia on Wednesday renounced a visa exemption agreement with Israel in protest over its offensive in Gaza, and declared it a terrorist state.

President Evo Morales announced the move during a talk with a group of educators in the city of Cochabamba.

It "means, in other words, we are declaring (Israel) a terrorist state," he said.

A Palestinian man sleeps in the courtyard of a United Nations-run school where 15 people were killed by explosions earlier in the day, at Beit Lahita in northern Gaza Strip. Reuters image

A Palestinian man sleeps in the courtyard of a United Nations-run school where 15 people were killed by explosions earlier in the day, at Beit Lahita in northern Gaza Strip. Reuters image

The treaty has allowed Israelis to travel freely to Bolivia without a visa since 1972.

Morales said the Gaza offensive shows "that Israel is not a guarantor of the principles of respect for life and the elementary precepts of rights that govern the peaceful and harmonious coexistence of our international community."

Bolivia broke off diplomatic relations with Israel in 2009 over a previous military operation in Gaza.

In mid-July, Morales filed a request with the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to prosecute Israel for "crimes against humanity."

1:40 am: Israeli criticism of Kerry 'offensive, absurd': US

Israeli attacks against US Secretary of State John Kerry accusing him being of a supporter of Islamic militants are "offensive and absurd," a senior US diplomat said Wednesday.

In a sharp exchange with reporters, deputy State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf hit out against a torrent of abuse from "respected voices in Israel talking about the secretary of state, claiming that he supports Hamas, which is offensive and absurd."

The United States had been giving Israel "a level of support which has been quite frankly unprecedented in our history, even when we stood alone," she added.

After last week's failed bid to mediate a ceasefire in the Gaza Strip, Kerry has been pilloried in the Israeli press for submitting a plan on Friday to the Israeli government, which the security cabinet unanimously rejected.

"He's a friend of Israel, but with friends like these, sometimes it's better to negotiate with your enemies," said Nahum Barnea, writing in the top-selling Yediot Aharonot.

The secretary of state has also been described in the press as a "bull in a china shop," and an "amateur who thinks he can solve the world's problems with his presence alone."

Harf hit back that saying "that kind of criticism coming from any ally, certainly Israel, just really has no place in this discussion."

"The hours all of us have spent with the secretary in Jerusalem, trying to get Middle East peace, trying to protect Israel's security, I think that's why it's so disappointing," Harf added.

12:50 am: White House condemns shelling of Gaza UN school

The White House on Wednesday condemned the shelling of a UN-run school in Gaza where displaced Palestinians were sheltering from an assault by Israeli forces on Hamas militants.

"The United States condemns the shelling of a UNRWA school in Gaza, which reportedly killed and injured innocent Palestinians, including children, and UN humanitarian workers," National Security Council spokeswoman Bernadette Meehan said.

Meehan said Washington was "extremely concerned that thousands of internally displaced Palestinians who have been called on by the Israeli military to evacuate their homes are not safe in UN designated shelters in Gaza."

"We also condemn those responsible for hiding weapons in United Nations facilities in Gaza," she said.

"All of these actions, and similar ones earlier in the conflict, are inconsistent with the UN's neutrality. This violence underscores the need to achieve a ceasefire as soon as possible."

12:09 am: Israeli negotiators land in Cairo for talks

An Israeli delegation arrived in Cairo on Wednesday to discuss possible ceasefire in the Gaza Strip with Egyptian officials, airport officials said.

Cairo, a key mediator in truce negotiations between Israel and Gaza's Hamas rulers, was also expected to host a Palestinian delegation later this week.

The Cairo airport officials did not identify the two-member Israeli delegation, but said they were scheduled to depart after a visit of several hours, in which they would discuss proposals for a truce.

End of updates for 30 July

11:29 pm: Israeli negotiators land in Cairo for talks

An Israeli delegation arrived in Cairo on Wednesday to discuss with Egyptian officials a possible ceasefire in the Gaza Strip, airport officials said.

Cairo, a key mediator in truce negotiations between Israel and Gaza's Hamas rulers, was also expected to host a Palestinian delegation later this week.

Protesters take part in a demonstration against violence in the Gaza strip in Maribor, Slovenia. Reuters image

Protesters take part in a demonstration against violence in the Gaza strip in Maribor, Slovenia. Reuters image

Hamas has rejected a ceasefire in the brutal 23-day conflict without guarantees to an end of the blockade of Gaza, while Israel says it is intent on destroying tunnels used by militants to conduct attacks on its territory.

The Cairo airport officials did not identify the two-member Israeli delegation, but said they were scheduled to depart after a visit of several hours, in which they would discuss proposals for a truce.

11:16 pm: Israeli attack on Gaza school 'unjustifiable', says UN chief

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon condemned an Israeli strike on a Gaza school that killed 16 people as "unjustifiable", calling for those responsible to be held to account.

"This morning a UN school sheltering thousands of Palestinian families suffered a reprehensible attack," Ban said during a visit to Costa Rica.

"It is unjustifiable, and demands accountability and justice."

Ban accused the Israeli military of ignoring repeated communications on the location of the school.

"I want to make it clear that the exact location of this elementary school has been communicated to the Israeli military authorities 17 times, as recently as last night, just a few hours before this attack," he said.

"They are aware of the coordinates and exact location of where these people are."

Costa Rican President Luis Guillermo Solis meanwhile joined international calls for an end to the bloodshed.

"We want the immediate establishment of a UN-monitored ceasefire to enable an escape from this bloody vortex, which is an offense to humanity," he said.

Speaking at UN headquarters in New York, Deputy Secretary General Jan Eliasson voiced his "shock" and "dismay" at the attack.

"They were there under UN protection, under our protection," he said of the refugees.

He stressed that civilians seeking to flee the fighting had "nowhere to go" given that Gaza's borders with neighboring countries were shut.

"This is a moment when you really have to say 'enough is enough,'" he said.

John Ging, the director of operations for the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, said 229 children have died in the latest fighting between Israel and Hamas, 21 percent of all casualties.

He said a "child per hour is killed" in Gaza.

10:43 pm: Switzerland in talks over international Gaza conference

The Swiss foreign ministry said it is in talks about holding an international conference sought by Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas focusing on protecting civilians in Gaza.

"Switzerland has begun consultations with state parties to the Geneva Conventions, following an official Palestinian request that a conference be held by the end of the year," said a ministry statement.

It underlined that for a conference to take place, a broad consensus was required among the Geneva Conventions' 195 signatory states.

Although Abbas' request was prompted by the latest eruption of hostilities in Gaza -- which has so far killed more than 1,300 in 23 days of bloodshed -- longer-running concerns about the fate of Palestinians in areas under Israeli control are likely to be on the table.

The Geneva Conventions govern the conduct of belligerents during warfare and the treatment of civilians in occupied territories.

As the formal guardian of the accords, which originated in the 19th century and were revised after World War II, Switzerland received a request from Abbas on July 9.

Swiss President Didier Burkhalter, who is also the neutral nation's foreign minister, responded formally to Abbas on July 25, the statement said.

The Palestinian leadership was able to make the request to Switzerland because it adopted the Conventions in April.

The move, which was followed by its formal accession to a handful of United Nations treaties, was part of a diplomatic drive to win recognition as a state.

The Palestinians gained non-member observer status at the United Nations in November 2012, despite fierce opposition from Israel and the United States.

Switzerland said it urged Israel and Hamas to reach a genuine ceasefire agreement, to ensure the protection of civilians and aid the thousands of Gazans wounded or displaced in the embattled territory.

10:01 pm: Israel says three soldiers killed in Gaza fighting

The Israeli army said on Wednesday that three soldiers had been killed while trying to destroy a booby-trapped tunnel inside the Gaza Strip.

"Three soldiers were killed today inside the Gaza Strip," a spokeswoman told AFP.

In a statement, the army said they had been killed "while uncovering an offensive tunnel shaft in a residence in the southern Gaza Strip.

"The house and the tunnel were booby trapped with two explosive devices that were detonated against the soldiers," it said.

The attack was claimed by Hamas's armed wing, the Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades, which claimed to have killed a group of soldiers during the bombing of a house in Khan Yunis where they were operating, in a statement was issued earlier in the day.

Another 27 soldiers were wounded in other incidents inside Gaza, the army said.

Media reports said the three soldiers had been killed and 15 wounded when a wall collapsed on them.

9:32 pm: 5 dead, 150 wounded in Israeli strike on Gaza market

At least 15 people were killed and 150 people wounded in an Israeli air strike on a market near Gaza City on Wednesday, medics said.

Emergency services spokesman Ashraf al-Qudra said the strike hit a busy market in the battered Shejaiya neighbourhood, which lies between Gaza City and the border with Israel.

Palestinians carry the body of a man who medics said was killed by Israeli shelling near a market in Shejaia into a morgue in Gaza City. Reuters image

Palestinians carry the body of a man who medics said was killed by Israeli shelling near a market in Shejaia into a morgue in Gaza City. Reuters image

The strike came shortly after the Israeli army said it was observing a humanitarian lull that would be in force for four hours from 1200 GMT.

But it said the lull would not apply in areas where troops were "currently operating", in a move denounced as a publicity stunt by Hamas.

Thick black smoke billowed over the site as at least five ambulances raced to the scene where bodies lay strewn on the ground, an AFP correspondent said.

A bloodied, limp lifeless body lay in a pool of petrol and mud, his head crushed.

A nearby building belted out smoke, still on fire, and the street was strewn with debris.

Medics worked frantically to recover the wounded and dead, loading at least five bodies onto stretchers then driving them off in ambulances.

Among those lying on the ground was a man wearing a flak jacket marked "Press", although it was not immediately clear whether he was dead or wounded.

8:23 pm: Seven more killed in Israeli air strike in southern Gaza

Seven people were killed on Wednesday in an Israeli air strike near the southern city of Khan Yunis, medics said.

The strike hit Abasan east of the city and close to the border with Israel, emergency services spokesman Ashraf al-Qudra said.

3:19 pm: Gaza toll passes 1,300 on day 23 of Israeli assault

At least 72 people died in Israeli strikes across Gaza Wednesday, including 16 killed when shells hit a UN school, sending the Palestinian toll from 23 days of fighting to more than 1,300.

The latest violence saw six members of the same family, three of them children, killed when an Israeli shell hit the Tuffah neighbourhood in northeastern Gaza City, emergency services spokesman Ashraf al-Qudra said.

The deadliest strike was at a UN-run school in Jabaliya refugee camp in northern Gaza, with two shells hitting classrooms where dozens of Palestinians were sheltering, UN officials said.

An official from the UN agency for Palestinian refugees put the toll at 16 dead, although there was no immediate breakdown of the victims' identities.

At least six children were killed during the morning, among them an 11-year-old disabled girl who died in a shelling in Gaza City, and a 16-year-old girl killed in a strike on central Gaza.

In the southern city of Khan Yunis, a single strike killed nine members of the same family, including one child, Qudra said, and in a later incident, seven members of another family also died as Israeli tank shelling struck the city.

Seven other people died in various attacks across the Gaza Strip as Israeli ground troops made a "significant advance" into the tiny coastal territory which is home to 1.7 million people.

So far, according to Palestinian medics, 1,301 people have been killed and more than 7,200 wounded since the start of the Israeli offensive, which began with an intensive air campaign on July 8 and expanded when Israel sent ground troops into the Gaza periphery on July 17

On the Israeli side, the conflict has also cost the lives of 53 soldiers, all of whom were killed since the ground operation began, as well as two civilians and a Thai agricultural worker who were killed by rocket fire.

The army says that during its offensive it has attacked some 4,100 targets in Gaza, and militants have fired over 2,670 rockets, of which 2,102 struck Israel and another 513 of which were shot down by its missile defence system, Iron Dome.

Since midnight (2100 GMT Tuesday), two rockets have struck Israel, a military spokeswoman said. -AFP

2:44 pm: Israel army okays 4-hour Gaza ceasefire

The Israeli army has agreed to observe a four-hour humanitarian lull in the fighting in the Gaza Strip, which will begin at 1200 GMT Wednesday, a statement said.

A Palestinian boy cries as he comforts his father, who wounded by Israeli shelling near a market in Shejaia. Reuters Image

A Palestinian boy cries as he comforts his father, who wounded by Israeli shelling near a market in Shejaia. Reuters Image

"The IDF (army) has authorised a temporary window in the Gaza Strip. The window will commence today between 15:00-19:00 (1200 - 1600 GMT)," it said.

But the lull would not apply in areas where ground troops were "currently operating", it said, without elaborating in a statement which came several hours after the army advanced deeper into the Gaza Strip.

"Residents must not return to areas that have previously been asked to evacuate," it added.

2:30  pm: UNRWA chief openly accuses Israel of striking Gaza school‎

The head of UN agency for Palestinian refugees issued a furious denunciation of an Israel strike on one of its schools in Gaza which killed 16 people.

"I condemn in the strongest possible terms this serious violation of international law by Israeli forces," said UNRWA Commissioner General Pierre Krahenbuhl, saying the school's location had been communicated to the Israeli army 17 times.

Shortly after dawn, two shells slammed into classrooms in the school where thousands of Palestinian refugees were sheltering after fleeing their homes following an Israeli warning, as the fighting intensified in northern Gaza.

At least 16 people were killed in a strike which Krahenbuhl described as "intolerable".

"No words to adequately express my anger and indignation," he wrote on his official Twitter account.

"This is the sixth time one of our UNRWA schools has been struck. Our staff leading the international response are being killed," he wrote, indicating some 3,300 people had been sheltering in the school in Jabaliya refugee camp at the moment it was struck.

"Children, women and men killed and injured as they slept in place where they should have been safe and protected. They were not. Intolerable."

1:50 pm: Three more children among six killed in Israeli strikes

Three children were among six people killed in an Israeil tank shelling on Gaza City on Wednesday, medics said.

The attack took place in Tuffah neighbourhood in the northeastern part of the city, killing six members of the Al-Khalili family, emergency services spokesman Ashraf al-Qudra said.

The violence raised Wednnesday's death toll in Gaza to well over 30 people, among them at least 16 who were killed in the shelling of a UN school in Jablaliya refugee camp in the north, the agency said.

12:20 pm: IDF claims it has found a Hamas bomb making manual

Israeli forces found what they claim is a Hamas training manual in Gaza which purportedly shows steps to make a different types of explosives.

In a blog post on their website, Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) explain what the manual is an how it shows different steps of making a bomb along with illustrations.

IDF also tweeted a photo , of an alleged map found in the pocket of a Hamas operative showing the tunnels from where they purportedly infiltrate Israel:

9:10 am: Medics raise Gaza UN school shelling death toll to 20

An Israeli shelling of a UN school in northern Gaza killed around 20 people, medics said, raising their earlier toll of 10 dead.

But UN a official put the number at between 13 and 15, in the shelling that hit the UNRWA girls' school in Jabalia in the north of the Palestinian territory.

8:42 am: Israeli shelling of north Gaza UN school kills 20 people: medics

An Israeli shelling on a UN school being used as a shelter in the northern Gaza Strip killed 20 people on Wednesday, medics said.

A Palestinian woman stands in a classroom doorway at a United Nations run school acting as a shelter for residents who fled their homes during an Israeli ground operation, in Jabaliya in the northern Gaza Strip. Reuters image

A Palestinian woman stands in a classroom doorway at a United Nations run school in Jabaliya in the northern Gaza Strip. Reuters image

The shelling hit the school in Jabalia refugee camp, emergency services spokesman Ashraf al-Qudra said, on the 23rd day of Israel's military campaign against the Palestinian coastal territory.

8:20 am: Israel air strike kills eight in southern Gaza: medics

An Israeli air strike killed eight people in southern Gaza early on Wednesday, medics said, on the 23rd day of a bloody battle between Israel and Hamas.

The victims were all members of the same family, who were killed in a strike that hit the southern city of Khan Yunis, emergency services spokesman Ashraf al-Qudra said.

Their deaths took the total Palestinian toll from 23 days of Israeli bombardments to more than 1,240, according to Qudra's figures.

Fifty-six Israelis have been killed, 53 of them soldiers and three civilians inside Israel by cross-border rocket or mortar fire.

Israel also hit three mosques in Gaza City, security sources said.

7:00 am: Israeli strikes kill two children: medics

Israeli bombardments in the early hours of Wednesday killed two Palestinian children, medics said, as a bloody Gaza conflict entered its 23rd day.

A shelling in the northern Gaza Strip killed an 11-year-old handicapped girl, emergency services spokesman Ashraf al-Qudra said, with a subsequent shelling in the centre of the small coastal territory killing a 16-year-old girl.

The deaths brought the total Palestinian toll from an Israeli operation to stamp out militant rocket fire to at least 1,232, according to Qudra's figures.

On the Israeli side, militant fire, including cross-border rocket fire, has killed 53 Israeli soldiers in addition to three civilians inside Israel.

--End of updates for July 29--

9:55 pm: 13 Gaza dead in Israeli shelling: medics

At least 13 Palestinians were killed by Israeli shelling on Jabaliya in the northern Gaza Strip on Tuesday, emergency services spokesman Ashraf al-Qudra said.

The latest fatalities took the number of Palestinians killed in the Israeli offensive, which began on July 8, to more than 1,200, with over 7,000 injured.

8:33 pm: Hamas military says no to truce without end to blockade

Hamas' armed wing, the Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades, said Tuesday that any truce with Israel must include a stop to Israeli "aggression" and lifting of its Gaza blockade.

"We don't accept any condition of ceasefire," Mohammed Deif said in an audio address carried by Hamas radio and television. "There is no ceasefire without the stop of the aggression and the end of the siege." -AFP

7:29 pm: On day 22, Gaza toll crosses 1,190

More than 100 corpses were brought to Gaza morgues on Tuesday after intense Israeli fire, bringing the number of Palestinians killed in the 22-day assault to over 1,200.

Israel stepped up its artillery fire overnight, especially in central Gaza's Bureij refugee camp, spreading in the afternoon to Jabaliya in the north and Rafah in the south.

Palestinians ride a donkey cart as smoke rises from Gaza's main power plant was hit in Israeli shelling. Reuters image

Palestinians ride a donkey cart as smoke rises from Gaza's main power plant was hit in Israeli shelling. Reuters image

Two Palestinians brought to a Jerusalem hospital for treatment died of their injuries, and the Israeli army said troops killed five militants in a Gaza tunnel.

Since the Israeli offensive began on July 8, 1,191 have been killed in Gaza, emergency services spokesman Ashraf al-Qudra said, while another 7,000 have been injured.

Most of the dead were civilians, according to the United Nations.

Fifty-six lives have been lost on the Israeli side, including 53 soldiers, two Israeli civilians and a Thai agricultural worker killed in southern Israel.

7:05 pm: Netanyahu asked for US help on Gaza truce, says Kerry

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has asked for fresh US help in trying to broker a ceasefire in Gaza, top US secretary of state John Kerry.

"Last night we talked, and the prime minister talked to me about an idea and a possibility of a ceasefire. He raised it with me, as he has consistently," Kerry said, adding Netanyahu had said he "would embrace a ceasefire that permits Israel to protect itself against the tunnels and obviously not be disadvantaged for the great sacrifice they have made thus far."

6:41 pm: Israel troops kill 5 Palestinian militants in Gaza gun battle

Israeli troops on Tuesday killed five Palestinian militants as they left a tunnel in the Gaza Strip, an army statement said.

Israeli "forces identified five terrorists emerging from a tunnel shaft in the Gaza Strip. The terrorists fired at the troops, who responded and engaged the perpetrators," the military said, adding it had "targeted over 110 terror sites" in Gaza since midnight. -AFP

6:12 pm: At least 13 dead in Israel strike on north Gaza

At least 13 Palestinians were killed by Israeli shelling on Jabaliya in the northern Gaza Strip on Tuesday, medics said.

Emergency services spokesman Ashraf al-Qudra said they died when a number of tank shells hit houses in the area.-AFP

5:00 pm: Hamas, other PLO factions agree for 24-hour truce

The Palestinian leadership, along with Hamas and Islamic Jihad, are willing to observe a 24-hour ceasefire in the war-torn Gaza Strip, a senior PLO official said on Tuesday.

"After extensive calls and consultations with the brothers in Hamas and Islamic Jihad, the Palestinian leadership announces on behalf of everyone the willingness for a ceasefire and humanitarian truce for 24 hours," said Yasser Abed Rabbo, Secretary General of the Palestine Liberation Organisation.

"We call on all Arab and international parties to support this ... and hold Israel fully responsible for the consequences of refusing it," he said, reading out a statement.

The Palestinian leadership was also considering "positively" a UN call for a 72-hour halt to the fighting, he said.

"There is also a suggestion from the United Nations to extend this truce for 72 hours and we are dealing positively with this suggestion," Abed Rabbo said.

Abed Rabbo also said a senior Palestinian delegation led by Abbas and including representatives of all the factions would travel to Egypt for talks on ending the conflict.

"The Palestinian leadership decided that a unified Palestinian delegation will go to Cairo to look into everything regarding the next step," he said.

The announcement confirmed remarks to AFP by a senior Palestinian official, in which he said Abbas would visit Cairo with Hamas and Jihad representatives for fresh talks with the Egyptians on ending 22 days of violence in and around Gaza.

He did not say when the visit would take place.

Abed Rabbo also said the Palestinian leadership had "started procedures to internationally prosecute the Israeli government as murderers" in a likely reference to steps to hold Israel accountable through the international justice system.

3:19 pm: England batsman banned from wearing 'Save Gaza' wristband

England batsman Moeen Ali has been banned from wearing wristbands featuring the slogans "Save Gaza" and "Free Palestine", the International Cricket Council (ICC) announced on Tuesday.

Reuters reported that Moeen, who is Muslim and of Pakistani descent, helped raise funds for charities working with those affected by the three-week conflict with Israel.

He wore the wristbands on Monday's second day of the third test against India at Southampton.

England's Moeen Ali wears wristbands supporting Gaza and Palestine during the third cricket test match against India at Southampton. Reuters Image

England's Moeen Ali wears wristbands supporting Gaza and Palestine during the third cricket test match against India at Southampton. Reuters Image

Moeen, 27, risked disciplinary action under the ICC Code of Conduct, which forbids players wearing, displaying or conveying messages through arm bands or other items on clothing or equipment without prior approval.

Moeen was backed by the England and Wales Cricket Board but was told by match referee David Boon to remove the wristband and not wear them again while playing for England.

"The ICC Equipment and Clothing Regulations do not permit the display of messages that relate to political, religious or racial activities or causes during an international match," an ICC statement said on Tuesday.

"Moeen Ali was told by the Match Referee that whilst he is free to express his views on such causes away from the cricket field, he is not permitted to wear the wristbands on the field of play and warned not to wear the bands again during an international match."

12:32 pm: Gaza's sole power plant down after Israel attack

Israeli tank fire hit the fuel depot of the Gaza Strip's only power plant on Tuesday, witnesses said, cutting electricity to Gaza City and many other parts of the Palestinian enclave of 1.8 million people.

According to Reuters, a thick column of black smoke rose from the facility, which supplies the territory with two-thirds of its energy needs, and the fuel containers were in flames.

"The power plant is finished," said its director, Mohammed al-Sharif.

He said the local fire brigade was not equipped to extinguish the blaze.

An Israeli military spokeswoman had no immediate comment and said she was checking the report.

The plant had already been hit last week and was working at a reduced capacity of about 20 percent, allowing only a few hours of electricity a day for Gaza's residents.

12:14 pm: Violent protests breakout in Kashmir on Eid over Israel's Gaza offensive

Massive protests broke out in several parts of Kashmir over the recent violence in Gaza, right after Eid prayers in Srinagar, police said.

Although peaceful protests were held at many places against the Israeli action, groups of youth indulged in stone-pelting at Hyderpora and Maulana Azad Road in the city soon after the Eid prayers in these areas concluded.

Reports of similar incidents were reported from Sopore town in Baramulla district, Janglat Mandi area of Anantnag district and Shopian town, police said.

Law enforcing agencies fired several rounds of tear smoke shells to chase away the protesters, they said, adding no one was injured in the incidents. More than a lakh came together for a planned protest which turned violent, CNN-IBN reported.

Protesters chanted slogans against Israel, and were seen carrying the Palestinian flag as well as flags of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.

Several separatist leaders were also detained in the run up to Eid, CNN-IBN reported.

10:45 am: Arm Palestinians against 'rabid dog' Israel, says Iran's supreme leader

Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei accused Israel of committing "genocide" in Gaza and called on the Islamic world to arm Palestinians fighting "the Zionist regime".

In a speech marking the Muslim festival of Eid al-Fitr, Khamenei said Israel was acting like a "rabid dog" and "a wild wolf" in acts that are causing a human catastrophe and which must be resisted.

Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Reuterd/Khamenei.ir

Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Reuters/Khamenei.ir

"A people surrounded in a small place with closed borders, unsure of having water and electricity, this population faces an armed enemy," he said of three weeks of fighting in the Gaza Strip that has killed more than 1,100 Palestinians and 53 Israelis.

"The people resist unabated. This is a lesson for all."

Khamenei dismissed talk of a ceasefire in Gaza, saying it was a ploy by the United States and European states to save Israel and said Hamas should be re-armed, rather than disarmed as otherwise they will be "unable to defend themselves".

"The US president issued a fatwa that the resistance is disarmed so that they cannot respond to all those crimes (committed by Israel)," the supreme leader said, referring to a call by Barack Obama for the "disarmament of terrorist groups and the demilitarisation of Gaza".

"We say the opposite. The world and especially the Islamic world should arm ... the Palestinian people," Khamenei said.

His comments follow rallies held across Iran on Friday in a show of support for Palestinians and to protest against Israeli military action in Gaza.

Iran does not recognise Israel's existence and supports Palestinian Islamist groups that fight it.

On Thursday, the speaker of Iran's parliament, Ali Larijani, told state television's Arabic service that Tehran had provided Hamas with the technology it has used to rain down rockets on Israel.

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 kilometres (45 miles), during that conflict.

10:15 am: Five Israeli soldiers killed in clashes with Palestinian infiltrators

Five Israeli soldiers died in clashes with a Palestinian commando that tried to reach Israel through a tunnel at Nahal Oz, near the border with Gaza, the army said Tuesday.

"Infantry soldier Daniel Kedmi, 18; Barkey Ishai Shor, 21; Sagi Erez, 19; and Dor Dery, 18, were killed in this attempted attack," said a military statement. The name of the fifth soldier cannot be made public, it added.

9:27 am: Israel shells house of Hamas political leader Haniya

Israeli warplanes hit the house of Hamas' top leader in Gaza, Ismail Haniya, inside the Shati refugee camp, his son said Tuesday.

"The Israeli enemy struck our house twice," Abed Salam Haniya said in a statement.

9:11 am: Six Palestinians die in Israeli strike at refugee camp

Six Palestinians were killed by Israeli artillery fire at the Bureij refugee camp in the central Gaza Strip Tuesday, medics said.

The six include three children and two women. Another 15 people were wounded, emergency services spokesman Ashraf al-Qudra said.

8:29 am: Egypt's Air Sinai cancels flight to Israel

Egypt's Air Sinai cancelled its flight on Monday to Israel's Ben Gurion International airport although the facility was operating as normal, an airport official said.

The Egyptian carrier operates two flights per week, on Mondays and Thursdays, and it was unclear whether the flight on Thursday will take off, the official said.

Monday's flight was cancelled due to the situation in Israel, the official said without elaborating.

Several airlines including American, Russian and European had cancelled their flights to Israel for two days after a rocket fired by Hamas militants struck a neighbourhood to the north of Ben Gurion airport last Tuesday.

8:00 am: Seven Palestinians killed in Rafah bombardment

Seven Palestinians were killed in an Israeli bombardment of the city of Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip Tuesday, taking to 1,092 the number of Palestinians who have died since the start of Israeli military operations in the area, medics said.

The seven, including five women and one child, died when their three-storey building was destroyed, said the spokesman for Gaza rescue services.-AFP

End of updates for July 28

11:29 pm: Brazil president condemns Israel's 'massacre' in Gaza

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff condemned Israel's offensive in Gaza as a "massacre" on Monday, joining international calls for a halt to the bloodshed.

"What's happening in Gaza is dangerous. I don't think it's a genocide, but I think it's a massacre," Rousseff said at a forum organized by newspaper Folha de Sao Paulo, endorsing the United Nations' call for an immediate ceasefire.

"It's a humanitarian issue. This can't be done in such a small strip (of territory), with people who are in a situation of great insecurity, very threatened, with many women and children," she said.

"We know that in a war like this, the ones who pay are the civilians."

The rubble of a building in Gaza. AFP.

The rubble of a building in Gaza. AFP.

She criticized the Israeli campaign as "disproportionate" -- echoing a statement released by the Brazilian foreign ministry last week when it recalled its ambassador to Israel, a move that caused a row between the two countries.

Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor responded by calling Brazil a "diplomatic dwarf."

"I regret those words," Rousseff said. "Words, including the spokesman's, sometimes create a very bad climate. In this case, we have to be very careful."

10:32 pm: Five killed in strike on Khan Yunis in south Gaza

Five Palestinians were killed in an Israeli strike on Khan Yunis in southern Gaza late on Monday, emergency services spokesman Ashraf al-Qudra said.

The strike hit close to the city's Islamic University, killing four members of one family, and leaving another 20 people injured, he said.

Their deaths raised the overall Palestinian death toll from 21 days of bloody violence in Gaza to 1,067, he said.

9:56 pm: Three children among 10 dead in raids across Gaza

Three children were among 10 people killed in Israeli raids across Gaza late on Monday, emergency services spokesman Ashraf al-Qudra said.

Five people, including three children, were killed when a tank shell slammed into a house in the northern town of Jabaliya, said Qudra.

Another person died in a strike on central Gaza, and four more were killed in and around the southern city of Khan Yunis, he added.

The strikes came as Israel began an intensive bombardment of the battered Palestinian enclave after four soldiers were killed in a mortar attack on southern Israel and a fifth died in fighting in southern Gaza, the army said.

9:49 pm: Israel army says 5 soldiers killed in and around Gaza

The Israeli army said five of its soldiers have been killed in and around the war-torn Gaza Strip on Monday.

The number included four soldiers killed by a mortar shell in southern Israel who media reports had initially identified as civilians.

"Over the course of the day, 5 IDF soldiers were killed," a statement said, indicating that four of them "were killed along the border of the Gaza Strip as a result of mortar fire".

8:18 pm: Israel must be ready for long Gaza campaign: Netanyahu

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Monday Israelis must be ready for a long military campaign in Gaza, after mortar fire from the enclave killed four people in the Jewish state.

"We must be prepared for a lengthy campaign," Netanyahu said in a speech broadcast live, soon after the news of the shelling of the Eshkol region that also reportedly wounded at least 12 people.

"Israeli citizens cannot live with the threat from rockets and from death tunnels -- death from above and from below," he said.

"We will not end this operation without neutralising the tunnels whose sole purpose is killing our citizens," he said, referring to a sophisticated network of cross-border tunnels used by militants to infiltrate southern Israel.

Israel began a major air campaign in Gaza on July 8 to wipe out rocket fire, expanding it with a ground operation on July 17 with the aim of destroying the tunnels.

Dealing with the tunnels was the "first and essential step in demilitarising the Gaza Strip," which along with disarming militants must be part of "any solution, and the international community must insist on it," Netanyahu said.

The Israeli premier also demanded the international community supervise and monitor construction materials entering the Gaza Strip, which he said were used to construct tunnels.

Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon also spoke of a lengthy campaign saying it could take "many more days until the quiet is restored."

And military Chief of Staff Benny Gantz reiterated a warning to civilians in Gaza to stay away from Hamas.

"Gaza residents should distance themselves from areas in which Hamas is acting because we will get there and it will be painful," he said, shortly after the army sent messages to residents living near Gaza City to flee their homes.

"A short while ago, phonecalls were made and text messages were sent out to the civilian population of Shejaiya, Zeitun and eastern Jabaliya calling them to evacuate immediately towards central Gaza City," an army statement said, referring to areas north, south and east of Gaza City.

Shortly afterwards it said it had also sent similar messages to the civilian population of Jabaliya, Beit Hanun and Beit Lahiya in the north.

7:42 pm: 8 children among 10 dead as rockets hit Gaza refugee camp

At least eight children were among 10 people killed at a Gaza City refugee camp, medics said, with witnesses saying several missiles were fired from an F16.

But the Israeli army categorically denied any attack on the camp, accusing Palestinian militants of firing rockets at Israel which apparently misfired.

Emergency services spokesman Ashraf al-Qudra said 10 people had been killed, among them eight children who had been playing in the beachfront Shati refugee camp.

He said another 46 were injured, among them many children.

Palestinian baby girl Shayma Shiekh al-Eid lies in an incubator after doctors delivered her from the womb of her mother, who was killed in an Israeli air strike in Gaza. Reuters image

Palestinian baby girl Shayma Shiekh al-Eid lies in an incubator after doctors delivered her from the womb of her mother, who was killed in an Israeli air strike in Gaza. Reuters image

Local residents told AFP that several missiles were fired at a tuktuk motorised rickshaw near a children's playground.

"An F16 fired five rockets at a street in Shati camp where children were playing, killing some of them and injuring many more," one told AFP.

Inside Shifa hospital, an AFP correspondent saw the bodies of at least seven children from the blast at the camp, with more bodies being brought in on bloodied stretchers.

They were unloaded and taken directly to the mortuary, he said.

Near the site of the blast, women wailed and men screamed in anguish in scenes of utter confusion and distress.

Shortly before the blast, another missile hit a building inside the Shifa hospital compound, causing damage but no injuries, medics and an AFP correspondent said.

An AFP correspondent at the scene said a wall of a building inside the compound was damaged by a missile apparently fired by a drone.

But the army denied they had fired on Shati camp or Shifa hospital.

"We have not fired on the hospital or on Shati refugee camp," Major Arye Shalicar told AFP.

"We know that Hamas was firing from both areas and the missiles struck these places," he said, adding that since the violence began on July 8, around 200 missiles fired at Israel had fallen short and landed inside the Gaza Strip.

Asked about witness reports of a drone strike, he categorically denied it.

"That's a lie. We have drones there but they are only for surveillance," he told AFP, saying they were not equipped to fire missiles.

7:22 pm: 5 Gaza militants killed in Israel shootout

Five militants from the Gaza Strip were shot dead in a gun battle with Israel troops in southern Israel on Monday, a security source told AFP.

The clash occurred just outside kibbutz Nahal Oz, the source said.

Nahal Oz lies very close to kibbutz Beeri where four civilians were killed by a mortar shell fired from Gaza.

Hamas's armed wing, the Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades, claimed a raid "behind enemy lines" in the same area, and said it had killed 10 Israeli soldiers, but denied losses on its side.

"The Qassam Brigades executed a heroic operation behind enemy lines east of Shejaiya (near Gaza City) and confirm killing more than 10 soldiers. All the (Qassam) fighters returned to their bases safely," it said in a statement.

Israel's army gave no comment on any of its soldiers being killed.

7:03 pm: Hamas claims shelling that killed four in Israel

Hamas claimed responsibility for shellfire that killed four civilians in southern Israel and wounded another 10 people on Monday, but insisted the victims were soldiers.

"The Zionist enemy acknowledges that four of its soldiers were killed and 10 wounded in a Qassam shelling in Eshkol," said a statement from the Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of Hamas.

6:48 pm: Any Gaza truce must lead to Hamas disarmament: Kerry

US Secretary of State John Kerry Monday said that international efforts to agree a truce between Israel and the Palestinians in Gaza must lead to the disarmament of Hamas.

Palestinians look on at the site of a fire following what witnesses said was an Israeli air strike on a building in Gaza City. Reuters image

Palestinians look on at the site of a fire following what witnesses said was an Israeli air strike on a building in Gaza City. Reuters image

Kerry told reporters he was continuing to work "toward establishing an unconditional humanitarian ceasefire." But he added: "We also believe that any process to resolved the crisis in Gaza in a lasting and meaningful way must lead to the disarmament of Hamas and all terrorist groups."

6:12 pm: Israel army warns Palestinians around Gaza City to flee

The Israeli army on Monday sent messages to thousands of Palestinians living near Gaza City to flee shortly after a mortar shell killed at least four people in Israel.

"A short while ago, phonecalls were made and text messages were sent out to the civilian population of Shejaiya, Zeitun and eastern Jabaliya calling them to evacuate immediately towards central Gaza City," a statement from the army said, referring to three areas to the north, south and east of Gaza City.

5:50 pm: Major Western nations urge more pressure for Gaza ceasefire

The United States and major EU nations called Monday for more pressure to get a ceasefire between Hamas and Israel, the French presidency said, as a conflict that has killed more than 1,000 Palestinians rages on.

The leaders of the United States, Germany, France, Britain and Italy "agreed to redouble their efforts to obtain a ceasefire. Pressure must increase to get there," the French presidency said.

It issued its statement after President Barack Obama, Chancellor Angela Merkel, President Francois Hollande, Prime Minister David Cameron and Prime Minister Matteo Renzi held phone calls to establish their joint position.

World powers have for days been ramping up pressure on the warring sides to end the 21-day conflict, with the United States and United Nations calling for an "immediate ceasefire".

But while Israel and Hamas had implemented temporary, hours-long ceasefires, efforts to secure a longer-term mutual truce have proved unsuccessful.

"The deterioration of the situation just plays into the hands of extremists," the presidency said in a statement.

5:34 pm: Four dead as Gaza mortar strikes southern Israel: media

At least four civilians were killed when a mortar shell fired from Gaza struck southern Israel on Monday, Israeli media reported.

According to reports on public radio and Channel 10 television, the four were killed when a mortar shell hit the Eshkol regional council which flanks Gaza's southern border with Israel.

Army radio said at least 12 other people had been injured in the strike which hit close to Beeri kibbutz, some six kilometres (four miles) from the border, in an area close to Gaza City.

5:12 pm: Israel denies fire on Gaza hospital, camp, blames Hamas

The Israeli army on Monday categorically denied firing on a hospital and a refugee camp in Gaza City, accusing Hamas militants of misfiring their own rockets.

Palestinian children react at the scene of an explosion that medics said killed eight children and two adults. Reuters image

Palestinian children react at the scene of an explosion that medics said killed eight children and two adults. Reuters image

"We have not fired on the hospital or on Shati refugee camp," Major Arye Shalicar told AFP, referring to a strike on a beachfront refugee camp where 10 people were killed, eight of them children.

"We know that Hamas was firing from both areas and the missiles struck these places," he said, indicating that over the past three weeks around 200 missiles fired by Gaza militants had fallen short and landed inside the Gaza Strip.

4:34 pm: 7 children killed in strike on Gaza refugee camp: medics

Seven children were killed on Monday when an Israeli missile slammed into a playground in a Gaza City refugee camp, a doctor at the city's main hospital said.

The missile struck a group of children running around at a public playground in the beachfront Shati refugee camp, a doctor from Shifa hospital told AFP.

4:29 pm: Israel missile hits compound of Gaza's largest hospital

An Israeli missile struck a building inside the compound housing Gaza's largest hospital on Monday, medics and an AFP correspondent said.

The attack hit a building close to the main gate of Shifa hospital in Gaza City, medics said.

An AFP correspondent at the scene said a wall of a building inside the compound was damaged by a missile apparently fired by a drone.

There was no immediate comment from the Israeli army.

Statistics published by OCHA, the UN humanitarian agency, show that some 22 hospitals, clinics and medical centres have been hit and damaged by Israeli shelling since the devastating military operation began on July 8.

In a statement issued shortly before the strike, the World Health Organisation said it was "appalled" by the number of strikes on healthcare facilities and personnel.

"The World Health Organisation has been appalled by the continuing trend for healthcare facilities, staff and vehicles to come under direct fire in Gaza since the escalation of violence on 8 July 2014," a statement from the Geneva-based body said.

"It is vital for health facilities and staff to be able to perform their life-saving work without fear of attack," it said, recalling that all parties are obliged under international humanitarian law "to "protect medical services."

3:43 pm: Ban urges Israel, Hamas to build on Gaza lull

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Monday urged Israel and Hamas to build on a lull in fighting in Gaza to lay the groundwork for talks on a lasting peace.

The appeal came a few hours after the UN Security Council called for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza during the Muslim Eid al-Fitr holiday marking the end of Ramadan.

"As people around the world mark Eid al-Fitr, the end of the holy month of Ramadan and a time for overcoming differences, the Secretary-General calls on parties to build on the current calm," Ban's spokesman said.

The suspension of fighting should be prolonged for an extra 24 hours to allow humanitarian efforts to continue, he said.

Ban "calls on the parties to renew a humanitarian pause in Gaza and reiterates his demand for a durable ceasefire that could set the ground for the start of comprehensive negotiations".

3:32 pm: 45,000 rally for Gaza at Jerusalem Eid prayers

Tens of thousands of Palestinians rallied in support of war-torn Gaza on Monday as they gathered to pray at Jerusalem's Al Aqsa mosque at the start of the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Fitr.

Police put the number of worshippers at 45,000 people, with an AFP correspondent saying many were dressed in black t-shirts emblazoned with slogans reading "Gaza, supporting you is our Eid" and "We are all Gaza."

Others wore T-shirts proclaiming support for Hamas's armed wing, the Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades, which has been locked in a 21-day confrontation with Israeli troops in Gaza.

The conflict has so far claimed 1,036 lives in Gaza and 46 in Israel.

Among the crowds was a young child on someone's shoulders holding up a plastic gun.

"Kidnap more soldiers!" they chanted. "Our blood for Gaza."

Police distanced themselves from the crowd which soon dispersed without incident, the correspondent said.

3:20 pm: Four-year-old killed in renewed strikes

Israeli tank fire killed a four-year-old boy in the northern Gaza Strip on Monday in the first death since the two sides began observing an unofficial lull, Palestinian medics said.

According to emergency services spokesman Ashraf al-Qudra, the child was killed when a shell hit a house to the east of Jabaliya where clashes had recently erupted between Israeli troops and Hamas militants.

2:31 pm: Israeli army carries out three airstrikes on Gaza

The Israeli military says it has carried out three airstrikes on Gaza, targeting Hamas rocket launchers and infrastructure in the strip.

The strikes broke a relative lull in the fighting at the start of a major Muslim holiday.

The military says Israeli jets hit two rocket launchers and a rocket manufacturing facility in central and northern Gaza on Monday.

It says the airstrikes were in response to a Hamas rocket launched into Israel earlier in the morning.

The strikes followed an almost 12-hour lull in war-torn Gaza.

9:07 am: UNSC calls for immediate truce in Gaza

The UN Security Council called for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza to allow for urgent aid to reach civilians as the conflict between Israel and Hamas entered its third week.

The 15-member Council released a statement shortly after midnight Sunday calling for the truce during the Muslim Eid festival marking the end of Ramadan.

The Council expressed "strong support" for an "immediate and unconditional humanitarian ceasefire," and urged all sides to accept and fully implement the truce.

It voiced "grave concern regarding the deterioration in the situation as a result of the crisis related to Gaza and the loss of civilian lives and casualties."

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon (on screen) addresses the Security Council about the situation in Gaza. AFP image

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon (on screen) addresses the Security Council about the situation in Gaza. AFP image

More than 1,030 Palestinians have died in the fighting as well as 43 Israeli soldiers.

Palestinian representative to the United Nations, Riyad Mansour, expressed disappointment with the statement, saying it fell short of a formal resolution demanding that Israel withdraw its forces from the Gaza Strip.

"They should have adopted a resolution a long time ago to condemn this aggression and to call for this aggression to be stopped immediately," said Mansour following the meeting.

"We are disappointed in that sense," he said, adding that the Palestinians would continue pressing the Security Council to move toward a formal binding resolution.

The emergency session came after Israel and Hamas ignored calls for a truce, with Israel pounding Gaza with artillery on Sunday after a night of rocket fire from Hamas.

The two sides observed a 12-hour pause on Saturday, allowing Gaza medics to pull bodies from rubble.

The Council said "civilian and humanitarian facilities, including those of the UN, must be respected and protected" following outrage over the Israeli attack on a UN-run school in Gaza this week that left 15 dead.

The Council called on Israel and the Palestinian Hamas to try to reach a ceasefire based on the Egyptian initiative, and applauded US Secretary John Kerry's efforts to broker a deal.

9:07 am: UNSC to hold emergency session

The UN Security Council will hold an emergency session on the situation in Gaza, diplomats said.

The meeting will start at midnight New York time (0400 GMT) and the 15 members of the panel are expected to adopt a declaration calling for a ceasefire in the war-torn enclave, according to the diplomats.

A draft of the declaration obtained by AFP shows that the Council is poised to express "strong support" for "an immediate and unconditional humanitarian ceasefire, allowing for the delivery of urgently needed assistance."

The document also urges "all parties to accept and fully implement the humanitarian ceasefire into the Eid period and beyond."

It also "emphasizes that civilian and humanitarian facilities, including those of the UN, must be respected and protected" and "urges the parties and the international community to achieve a comprehensive peace based on the vision of a region where two democratic states, Israel and Palestine, live side by side in peace."

The emergency session comes after Israel and Hamas ignored calls for a truce and the raging conflict enters its third week Monday

8:51 am: Need immediate ceasefire, Obama tells Netanyahu

US President Barack Obama spoke with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Sunday, and stressed the need for an immediate and sustainable ceasefire.

In a statement, the White House said Obama "made clear the strategic imperative of instituting an immediate, unconditional humanitarian ceasefire that ends hostilities now and leads to a permanent cessation of hostilities based on the November 2012 ceasefire agreement."

8:23 am: Israel confirms it fired at UN refuge

The Israeli army confirmed firing a mortar round into a Gaza UN shelter where 15 people died on Thursday, but denied killing anyone at the site.

Briefing journalists on the findings of an internal military enquiry into the incident at a UN school in Beit Hanun, spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Peter Lerner said militants "in the vicinity" of the school fired mortar rounds and anti-tank rockets at Israeli forces.

The army responded with mortar fire, sending a stray round into the compound.

Palestinian baby girl Shayma Shiekh al-Eid lies in an incubator after doctors delivered her from the womb of her mother, who was killed in an Israeli air strike in Gaza. Reuters image

Palestinian baby girl Shayma Shiekh al-Eid lies in an incubator after doctors delivered her from the womb of her mother, who was killed in an Israeli air strike in Gaza. Reuters image

"A single errant mortar (round) landed in the courtyard of the school," he said. "The courtyard was completely empty" at the time of the incident, he added.

"We reject the claims that were made by various officials immediately following the incident, that people were killed in the school premises as a result of (Israeli army) operational activity," he added.

An AFP photographer who went to the scene saw blood spattered on the ground and Gaza emergency services spokesman Ashraf al-Qudra said 15 people died in the blast and at least another 200 people were injured.

"Many have been killed -- including women and children," UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said in a statement, adding that he was "appalled".

Lerner suggested the victims may have been hit in fighting raging elsewhere and "brought to the compound after injury" for first aid or shelter.

7:54 am: Kerry continues to push for ceasefire

US Secretary of State John Kerry is working for Israel and Hamas to agree to further halts in the Gaza bloodshed ahead of Egyptian-led peace talks, an official said.

A senior US official said that Kerry was seeking a series of temporary ceasefires, which would lead the way for Israeli-Palestinian talks in Egypt on a more permanent plan.

"You have a way now to staunch the bleeding," the official who accompanied Kerry said on condition of anonymity.

Kerry, who spent much of the past week in Egypt, on Saturday held talks in Paris with the foreign ministers of Qatar and Turkey -- key supporters of Hamas, which the United States classifies as a terrorist group.

The US official defended the meetings, which have come under fire in Israel, saying it was significant that Turkey and Qatar had joined other international players in calling for a ceasefire.

Asked whether the approach was at odds with past US criticism of Qatar's support for Hamas, the official said: "The fact is, they are (funding Hamas) and as a result of that they have some influence."

At the talks in Paris, Qatari Foreign Minister Khalid al-Attiyah called for an end to the eight-year Israeli blockade of Gaza and for the Palestinians in the impoverished territory to have their own seaport.

Kerry supported calls for Palestinians to live "in dignity," including through trade with the outside world, but backed Israel's calls for action on tunnels.

7:41 am: We cannot co-exist with occupiers: Hamas

Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal demanded Israel lift its blockade of Gaza and warned that Palestinians cannot coexist with their neighbors while their land is occupied, in an interview broadcast.

On Saturday, Meshaal was interviewed by US broadcaster PBS in the Qatari capital Doha while in Gaza his Islamist militia was under assault from Israeli forces in renewed fighting that has left hundreds dead.

A full version of the interview will be broadcast late on Monday, but excerpts were revealed on Sunday on CBS News' "Face the Nation."

Asked by veteran interviewer Charlie Rose whether he could foresee living beside Israelis in peace, Meshaal said only a future Palestinian state could decide whether to recognize the Jewish state.

"We are not fanatics, we are not fundamentalists. We are not actually fighting the Jews because they are Jews per se. We do not fight any other races. We fight the occupiers," he said.

"I'm ready to coexist with the Jews, with the Christians and the Arabs and non-Arabs," he said. "However, I do not coexist with the occupiers."

Pressed on whether Palestinians could recognize the state of Israel as a Jewish state, Meshaal reiterated Hamas' position -- the group does not recognize Israel.

"When we have a Palestinian state then the Palestinian state will decide on its policies. You cannot actually ask me about the future. I answered you," he said.

"But Palestinian people can have their say when they have their own state without occupation."

7:29 am: Palestinians beaten up by Israeli mob in East Jerusalem

One of two Palestinians who claimed to have been savagely beaten by a Jewish mob in east Jerusalem was still in intensive care in an Israeli hospital on Sunday, two days after the alleged attack.

Relatives of Amir Shweiki 20, said he was being treated at Jerusalem's Hadassah Ein Kerem hospital after being attacked along with Samer Mahfouz, also 20, as they walked near the Jewish settlement neighbourhood of Neve Yaakov on Friday evening.

A spokeswoman for the hospital told AFP that one of the men was "in intensive care but conscious and doing well" while the other was in a surgical ward.

She did not identify them by name on grounds of medical confidentiality.

Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld told AFP that the men alleged they were attacked by Jewish Israelis.

"They gave official testimony that they were attacked by a number of people," he said."We're taking their claims very seriously.

"The investigation is continuing," he added. "We're still looking for suspects."

Haaretz newspaper quoted Mahfouz as saying that he and Shweiki were assaulted by about 12 men.

"They had sticks and iron bars and they hit us over the head," he said.

7:00 am: Hamas violating it's own ceasefire: Netanyahu

Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accused Hamas of violating a ceasefire that it had itself called and vowed that Israeli operations in Gaza would continue.

"They are violating their own ceasefire. Under these circumstances, Israel will do what it must do to defend its people," Netanyahu told the news network CNN.

Earlier, the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas agreed to halt firing from 1100 GMT in response to a request from the United Nations. AFP reporters in Gaza, however, said explosions could still be heard.

Israel has endorsed a ceasefire plan promoted by Egypt that has not been accepted by Hamas, but Netanyahu was dismissive about Sunday's latest UN truce call.

Netanyahu told CNN that Israeli forces would continue operations to attempt to dismantle Hamas' cross-border tunnel network and to destroy its stocks of rockets.

"I'm not going to talk about specific military operation," he said.

"Israel is doing what any other country would do and the US would do if any percent of your country were under fire and you have 60 or 90 seconds to get to a bomb shelter."

"I would say we want to stop firing rockets for sure. We want to dismantle the tunnel, the terror tunnel network we uncovered. I don't know if we'll have 100 percent success," he said.

"Our soldiers are dealing with it now."

End of updates for 27 June

5:53 pm: Hamas agrees to 24-hour UN-brokered humanitarian truce in Gaza

Hamas today agreed to a 24-hour UN-brokered humanitarian truce after initially rejecting it that led to Israel resuming its military strikes in Gaza as the 20-day conflict killed 1,060 Palestinians and 46 Israelis so far, including an Indian-origin soldier.

"As a preparation for the end of Ramadan and in response to the UN mediation and also regarding our people's living circumstances, we have agreed with all Palestinian factions to give a 24-hour humanitarian ceasefire starting from 14:00 on Sunday," Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said in a statement.

Smoke rises during an Israeli offensive in the east of Gaza City. Reuters image

Smoke rises during an Israeli offensive in the east of Gaza City. Reuters image

Israel late last night had extended by another 24 hours the truce announced yesterday, but Hamas had rejected it saying no ceasefire is valid without Israeli troops and tanks withdrawing from Gaza and that it would only halt rocket attacks on Israel once the displaced were allowed to return home.

Earlier, the Israeli cabinet while announcing the ceasefire had said that the army would act if it is breached by Hamas.

Hamas had said in a statement that "no humanitarian ceasefire is valid without Israeli tanks withdrawing from the Gaza Strip and without residents being able to return to their homes and ambulances carrying bodies being able to freely move around in Gaza".

Hamas fired several rockets at Israel from the Gaza Strip, after the initial 12-hour truce ended.

3:34 pm: Israel resumes offensive as Hamas violates ceasefire

Israel today resumed its military offensive on Gaza after Hamas militants continued to fire rockets rejecting a 24-hour humanitarian truce requested by the UN as the 20-day conflict killed 1,050 Palestinians and 46 Israelis, including an Indian-origin soldier.

"Following Hamas' incessant rocket fire throughout the humanitarian window, which was agreed upon for the welfare of the civilian population in Gaza, the IDF will now resume its aerial, naval and ground activity in the Gaza Strip," the Israeli Defence Forces said in a statement.

Israel late last night extended by another 24 hours the humanitarian truce announced yesterday, but Hamas rejected it saying no ceasefire is valid without Israeli tanks withdrawing from Gaza Strip and continued to fire rockets at Israel.

Israeli cabinet while announcing the truce had said that army will act if it is breached by Palestinian militants.

Hamas said in a statement that "no humanitarian ceasefire is valid without Israeli tanks withdrawing from the Gaza Strip and without residents being able to return to their homes and ambulances carrying bodies being able to freely move around in Gaza".

1:29 pm: 12-hour truce between Israel and Hamas begins

Israel and Hamas began a 12-hour humanitarian cease-fire in Gaza Saturday after the efforts of US Secretary of State John Kerry failed to produce a longer truce aimed at ending nearly three weeks of fighting.

Associated Press reported that the temporary lull appeared unlikely to change the course of the current hostilities amid ominous signs that the war was spilling over into the West Bank and a warning by Israel's defense minister that it might soon expand its Gaza ground operation "significantly."

The Israeli military said the 12-hour pause began Saturday at 8 am (1 am EST, 5 am GMT). It said troops "shall respond if terrorists choose to exploit" the lull to attack Israeli soldiers or civilians. The military also said "operational activities to locate and neutralize tunnels in the Gaza Strip will continue."

8:48 am: Israel agrees to UN-requested 12-hour ceasefire, death toll at 865

Israel and Palestinian militant groups in the Gaza Strip have agreed to a UN-requested 12-hour humanitarian truce to begin on Saturday morning, and efforts to secure a long-term ceasefire moved ahead.

Israel's military said it would hold fire starting at 8 am but would continue searching for tunnels used by militants, according to Reuters. A spokesman for the Islamist group Hamas, which is dominant in the Gaza Strip, said all Palestinian factions would abide by the brief truce.

Gaza officials said five people were killed in Israeli air strikes, bringing the Palestinian death toll to 865, most of them civilians.

End of updates for 25 July

7:55 pm: Death toll rises to 828 as violence hits West Bank

Israeli air strikes in the Gaza Strip killed a top militant commander, two of his sons and a pregnant woman among others, taking the Palestinian toll to 828, as the 18-day conflict spread to the West Bank.

Demonstrators hold flags and placards during a Muslim protest against the Israeli assault on the Gaza Strip. Reuters

Demonstrators hold flags and placards during a Muslim protest against the Israeli assault on the Gaza Strip. Reuters

PTI reports also said that a spokesman for the Palestinian health ministry in Gaza, Ashraf al-Qidra, confirmed the figures adding that over 5,240 people had also been injured in Israeli attacks since 8 July.

Islamic Jihad senior leader Salah Hasanein and his sons, 12 and 15, were killed in the strike in the southern city of Rafah, Gaza emergency services officials said. Hasnin was the head of Islamic Jihad's spokesman division in Rafah.

Two Israeli civilians and a Thai worker in Israel have also been killed in the conflict so far. Another soldier remains missing, but is presumed dead by the IDF.

Israeli forces were put on high alert for possible clashes in Al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem during Friday prayers marking the final stretch of the month of Ramadan.

Protests were held in Ramallah, Nablus, Bethlehem and Jerusalem neighbourhoods. One protester was killed by Israeli soldiers near the southern city of Hebron, while Israeli settlers fired on a group of Palestinians, killing one person in Nablus.

6:01 pm: EU demands speedy probe into shelling of UN school in Gaza

According to AFP, the European Union called for an "immediate" investigation after 15 Palestinians were killed when an Israeli shell slammed into a UN-run shelter in Gaza.

"We are obviously extremely concerned about the continued escalation of the violence in Gaza ... and the deplorable increase in the number of civilian deaths," European Commission spokeswoman Maja Kocijancic said.

"We call for immediate and thorough investigation," Kocijancic said, noting this was the fourth such incident where UN facilities in Gaza had been hit.

"We call on all parties to respect the inviolability and the integrity of UN premises," said, reiterating the need for an immediate ceasefire.

2:38 pm: Hamas says it fired three rockets at Israel airport

Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas said Friday it fired three rockets at Tel Aviv airport, a day after US and some European airlines had resumed flights after a two-day suspension.

"At 11:45 am (0845 GMT), the Qassam Brigades bombarded Ben Gurion airport with three M75 rockets," a statement from Hamas's armed wing said.

EU and US authorities had ordered all commercial flights suspended after a rocket struck near runways on Tuesday, effectively shutting Israeli air links to the outside world in what Hamas claimed as a "victory" in a deadly conflict now in its 18th day.

2:19 pm: Turkish FM flying to Qatar to seek Gaza truce: official

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu cancelled a scheduled trip to France and flew to Qatar on Friday to help efforts for a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas, a Turkish official said.

The decision comes after Davutoglu held a "teleconference with his counterparts from the United States and Qatar yesterday night (Thursday) and also spoke separately with the Palestinian groups," the official told AFP on condition of anonymity.

US Secretary of State John Kerry on Thursday reached out to Hamas allies Turkey and Qatar to push for a ceasefire. Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal is based in Doha.

1:21 pm: Iran rallies for Palestinians, against Israel

Iranians rallied nationwide on Friday in a show of support for Palestinians and to protest against Israel as the Jewish state pursued its deadly campaign against the Gaza Strip enclave.

Demonstrations were staged in Tehran and more than 700 towns and cities across the country on the last Friday of the Muslim holy fasting month of Ramadan, state television reported.

In the capital, footage showed demonstrators carrying placards saying "Death to Israel" and "Death to America" converging from nine different points on Tehran University in the city centre.

"Quds Day" (Jerusalem Day) is staged annually on the last Friday of Ramadan, but this year's protest came on the 18th day of Israel's campaign against rocket-firing militants in the Gaza Strip.

Representational Image. Reuters

Representational Image. Reuters

More than 800 Palestinian civilians have been killed in the assault on Gaza and the Islamist Hamas, a key Iran ally.

Projectiles fired into Israel have killed three civilians -- two Israelis and a Thai migrant worker -- and fighting in and around Gaza has killed 32 Israeli soldiers.

Iran does not recognise Israel's existence, and supports Palestinian Islamist groups that fight it.

On Thursday, the speaker of Iran's parliament, Ali Larijani, told state television's Arabic service that Tehran had provided Hamas with the technology it has used to rain down rockets on Israel.

"Today, the fighters in Gaza have good capabilities and can meet their own needs for weapons," he said.

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

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

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 kilometres (45 miles), for use during that conflict.

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

12:41 pm: 808 killed as world leaders call for ceasefire

Israeli fire in Gaza on Friday killed a pregnant woman and a senior Islamic Jihad propagandist, taking the Palestinian death toll to 808, emergency services spokesman Ashraf al-Qudra said.

He said an air strike on a house in the central Gaza town of Deir al-Balah killed a woman of 26 and another aged 23 who was pregnant, as Israel pressed on with its 18-day campaign to stamp out Gaza rocket fire.

The baby was saved, he said.

Another strike killed a senior propagandist for Islamic Jihad, Salah Hasanein, and his 12- and 15-year-old sons in the southern city of Rafah, Qudra said.

Islamic Jihad confirmed the death, describing Hasanein as a "war media official".

Two other people wounded earlier in shelling of the southern city of Khan Yunis, died of their injuries, Qudra said, bringing the total number of Gazans killed in the Israeli campaign to 808.

He said nearly 100 Palestinians were killed on Thursday, one of the bloodiest days of the conflict.

Projectiles fired into Israel have killed three civilians -- two Israelis and a Thai migrant worker -- and fighting in and around Gaza has killed 32 Israeli soldiers.

It is the bloodiest conflict in the besieged Palestinian territory since Israel's 2009 military operation there.

NGOs put the Palestinian civilian toll at around 80 percent of total casualties, including a large number of women and children.

12:30 pm: Israeli security cabinet to discuss ceasefire

An Israeli defense official says the Security Cabinet is meeting to discuss international ceasefire efforts, but also the option of expanding its eight-day-old ground operation in Gaza.

He spoke on condition of anonymity because Friday's deliberations are taking place behind closed doors. The office of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had no immediate comment.

A Palestinian health official says the Gaza death toll has risen to 808, with 115 Palestinians killed on Thursday, in one of the bloodiest days in more than two weeks of fighting. Thirty-four Israelis, including 32 soldiers, and a Thai worker have also been killed.

Israeli police say thousands of security forces have been deployed around Jerusalem's Old City in preparation for possible Palestinian protests after Friday prayers at a key Muslim holy site.

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.

7:24 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.

Displaced Palestinian women walk in the courtyard of a Greek Orthodox church where they are taking shelter in Gaza City. AFP image

Displaced Palestinian women walk in the courtyard of a Greek Orthodox church where they are taking shelter in Gaza City. AFP image

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.

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.

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Updated Date: Jul 31, 2014 22:38:15 IST