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Strike on crowded Gaza area kills 16, wounds 150


BY KARIN LAUB AND PETER ENAV

JEBALIYA REFUGEE CAMP, Gaza Strip (AP) -- An Israeli airstrike hit a crowded Gaza shopping area on Wednesday, killing at least 16 people and wounding more than 150, hours after Israeli tank shells slammed into a U.N. school sheltering displaced Palestinians, killing 15 people, Gaza health officials said.

The latest deadly strikes came on the heels of an escalation in the embattled coastal territory, with Israel and Gaza's Hamas rulers stepping up attacks after more than three weeks of fighting that has killed more than 1,300 Palestinians and more than 50 Israelis.

Gaza health ministry official Ashraf al-Kidra and witnesses said the shopping area was busy because residents, and many who had taken shelter in the area from fighting elsewhere, thought a cease-fire was in place. The Palestinian Red Crescent confirmed the death toll.

The Israeli military had no immediate comment on the strike on the shopping area and said it was investigating the report.

Raw: 16 Killed in Gaza Market Strike

Israel had earlier announced a "humanitarian window" in certain parts of the territory. But it said it would not halt fire in other areas, including in Shijaiyah, where the strike took place. Hamas dismissed the cease-fire, and Gaza militants fired 27 rockets at Israel after it began.

Eyewitnesses said an airstrike hit a warehouse on the edge of Shijaiyah, causing a fire and sending a large cloud of black smoke billowing into the sky. Firefighters and medical vehicles arrived at the scene, according to an Associated Press photographer.

The second airstrike struck an area about 500 meters away, according to witnesses, immediately killing at least 16 people, among them local Palestinian photographer Rami Rayan, who was wearing a press vest at the time.

"People were in the street and in the market, mostly women and kids. Suddenly more than 10 shells landed in the area, the market, in the Turkman area, and next to the gas station," said Salim Qadoum, 26, who witnessed the strike.

"The area now is like a blood bath, everyone is wounded or killed. People lost their limbs and were screaming for help. It's a massacre. I vomited when I saw what happened."

Israeli airstrikes and shelling killed more than 108 Palestinians across the coastal territory throughout the day Wednesday.

The military had declared a four-hour humanitarian cease-fire in parts of Gaza beginning at 3:00 p.m., but Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said it lacked any "value" because it excluded border areas from where Hamas wanted to evacuate the wounded.

Gaza militants fired 84 rockets at Israel Wednesday, including more than 26 after the cease-fire was announced, the military said. Al-Kidra, the Gaza health official, said seven Palestinians were killed by an Israeli airstrike in the same period.

The Israeli military said three of its soldiers were killed Wednesday when a house Palestinian militants had rigged with explosives collapsed after they identified an entrance to a tunnel inside. More than a dozen soldiers were wounded in heavy fighting Wednesday, it said.

The latest violence further dimmed hopes of a sustainable truce in the fighting, now in its fourth week.

Israel escalated its campaign on Tuesday, with airstrikes destroying key symbols of Hamas power, including the home of the top Hamas leader. Gaza's only power plant was shut down after shells set its fuel tank on fire.

On Wednesday tank shells hit the U.N. school in the Jebaliya refugee camp before dawn, said Adnan Abu Hasna, a spokesman for the U.N. Relief and Works Agency, which is sheltering more than 200,000 people displaced by the fighting at dozens of U.N. schools across the strip.

Assad Sabah said he and his five children were huddling under desks in one of the classrooms because of the constant sound of tank fire throughout the night.

"We were scared to death," he said. "After 4:30 a.m., tanks started firing more. Three explosions shook the school."

"One classroom collapsed over the head of the people who were inside," he said.

In one classroom, the front wall was blown out, leaving debris and bloodied clothing. Another strike tore a large round hole in the ceiling of a second-floor classroom.

The Israeli military said it fired back after its soldiers were targeted by mortar rounds launched from the vicinity of the school.

The mortars were fired from a distance of some 200 meters (yards) from the school, said an Israeli military official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the media.

About two hours after the strike, hundreds of people still crowded the school courtyard, some dazed, others wailing.

"Where will we go?" asked Aishe Abu Darabeh, 56. "Where will we go next? We fled and they (the Israelis) are following us."

Al-Kidra, the Gaza health official, said at least 15 people were killed and about 90 wounded in the school strike. Four of the dead were killed just outside the school compound, two in their home nearby and two in the street, after returning from pre-dawn prayers, their relatives said.

In all, 108 Palestinians were killed by airstrikes and tank shelling in different areas of Gaza on Wednesday, al-Kidra said. The total number of Palestinians killed since the July 8 start of fighting rose to 1,347, he said. More than 7,100 Palestinians have been wounded.

Israel has lost 56 soldiers since launching a ground operation earlier this month aimed at destroying rocket launchers and tunnels used for attacks inside Israel. Three civilians have been killed on the Israeli side since the fighting began on July 8.

In the southern town of Khan Younis, 10 members of one Palestinian family died when an airstrike hit a relative's home where they had sought refuge, al-Kidra said. After the strike, relatives climbed over piles of debris, surveying shattered windows and demolished walls.

In the Gaza City neighborhood of Tufah, shelling killed at last seven members of another family, including four children, said Ayman Sahabani, the head of the emergency room at Gaza's Shifa Hospital.

Gazans said they have not been able to properly mourn the mounting number of fatalities, with many foregoing funerals because of the security situation.

In Gaza City, three bodies wrapped in green tarp lay on the bed of a pickup truck, with a charred hand sticking up from one. Ordinarily, crowds of people would accompany bodies to cemeteries, but on Wednesday, only a small number of relatives rode among the bodies.

Israel says its Gaza operation is meant to stop Hamas rocket and mortar fire that has reached increasingly deeper into its territory and to destroy a sophisticated network of tunnels used for attacks inside Israel.

Gaza militants have fired more than 2,600 rockets toward Israel over the past three weeks, according to the Israeli army. Over the past 23 days, Israeli forces have hit 4,100 targets in Gaza, about one-third connected to rocket launching, a statement said.

The military has not provided details on strikes in which multiple members of one family were killed. There have been several dozen such strikes, according to the Palestinian human rights group Al-Mezan.

The military says Hamas militants often launch rockets from crowded residential areas, thus endangering civilians. The army says it has also warned civilians by phone and leaflet to leave dangerous areas.

On Wednesday, aircraft dropped leaflets over Gaza City's Rimal neighborhood, urging residents to stay away from Hamas militants and to report possible rocket launches. The leaflet gave a contact phone number and email and warned of a new operation.

Israeli leaders have said that troops will not leave until all the Hamas tunnels have been demolished. The army said 32 tunnels have so far been located but did not say how many remain.

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barbgre1 July 30 2014 at 3:04 PM

All Gaza has to do is destroy their attack tunnels and destroy their rockets.....war would be over. As long as they continue to attack Israel, they will risk retaliation. That's not such a hard concept.

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38 replies
wtrfrd July 30 2014 at 3:25 PM

Radical Hamas was put in power by the Palestinian people in an open election. Hamas has sworn to the destuction of Israel. So elected Hamas starts a program of rocketing Israel. Israel returns fire... with better weapons. 1st Moral of the story: don't awaken a sleeping tiger. 2nd Moral of the story: If you don't want war don't elect War mongering radicals. 3rd Moral of the story: if you don't want civilians bombed don't store your rockets in hospitals , mosques and schools. 4th moral of thev story: If you love your children do not elect radical zealots that are delighted to use them as "martyrs" to influence the press.

You reap what you sew. Next time remember not to start a knife fight with an adversary who has a much bigger and lethal knife. It's called War people... there is nothing more brutal, heinous, and barbaric, AND there NEVER good guys on EITHER side. never

Flag Reply +100 rate up
22 replies
aljoramaggio July 30 2014 at 3:14 PM

Every single temporary truce declared, has been first violated by HAMAS rocket fire.
They respect no truce, not even for humanitarian aid for a few hours, for their own people.

Egypt no longer supports them, Saudi Arabia will not support them, nor the UAR. All have taken the side of Israel.

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10 replies
Mark July 30 2014 at 3:18 PM

AOL stop trying to influence people by showing pictures of children..that's called propaganda. A child killed in Gaza means one less grenade thrower in the future.

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23 replies
Papa Bear July 30 2014 at 3:24 PM

This is nothing compared to what hamas was going to do to Israel on Rosh Hashanah. an attack they have been planning for 12 years.These loving innocent people have 160,000
rockets ready to eliminate Israel. I dont feel one bit sorry for these demons.

Flag Reply +86 rate up
9 replies
DAD THE GREAT ON July 30 2014 at 3:17 PM

You would think by now the terrorists would have stopped launching their Iranian missiles into Israel. And when will the world's crazies stop supporting the terrorist practice of throwing their children on a burning woodpile to get the sympathies of the uninformed?

Flag Reply +75 rate up
6 replies
aljoramaggio July 30 2014 at 3:06 PM

Read paragraph 5.
Read it again.
And again.
Especially the third sentence.

Now we know why there can not be peace achieved, so long as HAMAS remains in control of Gaza!

Flag Reply +67 rate up
3 replies
azareus July 30 2014 at 6:02 PM

AOL - why don't you show any of the leaders of Hamas in your articles? Any of their comments on this war? Meshaal is sitting 'in exile' (from his own party?) in Qatar with his billions of dollars while his people die. He wants Israel to disappear and wants no peace until Jerusalem belongs to Palestine. So why don't you put some pictures up that show the real harbingers of war rather than suffering of children? Civilians die in war. Every war. It is always horrible and this is no exception.
Israel has the right to defend itself against rockets fired into its country. And, the Palestinian people have the right to stand up an decide they want another way of life by calling the phone numbers on the leaflets dropped by Israel, pointing out the tunnels, and being allowed to turn their country into a decent and honorable place to live. By the way, why isn't Hamas shooting at Egypt who is also blocking its border? Why only Israel?

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4 replies
dsh1007155 July 30 2014 at 3:05 PM

When will "our" gov't put a stop to Israel's blitzkrieg?

Flag Reply +31 rate up
39 replies
Diane Stearns July 30 2014 at 11:36 PM

STATEMENT BY UNRWA COMMISSIONER-GENERAL PIERRE KRÄHENBÜHL

Last night, children were killed as they slept next to their parents on the floor of a classroom in a UN designated shelter in Gaza. Children killed in their sleep; this is an affront to all of us, a source of universal shame. Today the world stands disgraced.

We have visited the site and gathered evidence. We have analysed fragments, examined craters and other damage. Our initial assessment is that it was Israeli artillery that hit our school, in which 3,300 people had sought refuge. We believe there were at least three impacts. It is too early to give a confirmed official death toll. But we know that there were multiple civilian deaths and injuries including of women and children and the UNRWA guard who was trying to protect the site. These are people who were instructed to leave their homes by the Israeli army.

The precise location of the Jabalia Elementary Girls School and the fact that it was housing thousands of internally displaced people was communicated to the Israeli army seventeen times, to ensure its protection; the last being at ten to nine last night, just hours before the fatal shelling.

I condemn in the strongest possible terms this serious violation of international law by Israeli forces.

This is the sixth time that one of our schools has been struck. Our staff, the very people leading the humanitarian response are being killed. Our shelters are overflowing. Tens of thousands may soon be stranded in the streets of Gaza, without food, water and shelter if attacks on these areas continue.

We have moved beyond the realm of humanitarian action alone. We are in the realm of accountability. I call on the international community to take deliberate international political action to put an immediate end to the continuing carnage.

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7 replies
aol~~ 1209600

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