TODAY HAS BEEN the bloodiest day of the assault on Gaza so far, with at least 87 Palestinians and 13 Israeli soldiers killed as attacks intensified.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has described the large number of deaths in the Shejaiya area of Gaza City as a “massacre”, while the Arab League called them a “war crime”.
Reports from the scene in Shejaiya described bodies, blackened and charred almost beyond recognition, strewn on the streets, some with whole limbs missing.
Thousands of people have fled northern Gaza on the worst day of the attacks since they began just over a week ago.
The number of Palestinians victims has soared to 435, with a spokesperson for the emergency services saying more than one third of the victims were women and children.
The Israeli army said 13 soldiers had been killed in a series of attacks inside Gaza on the third day of a major ground operation. It brings to 18 the number of soldiers killed since Thursday – the largest number of soldiers killed in combat since 2006.
In a video message, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu urged Palestinians to heed the warnings from the Israeli army and leave their homes.
“Don’t stay there, because Hamas wants you to die, and you shouldn’t die for Hamas. They don’t care about you. But we [Israel] want you to be safe,” he said.
The Israeli Defence Forces tweeted that they have a moral obligation to defend the Israeli population, and said it was already taking precautions to minimise deaths:
A short-lived ceasefire which was supposed to last for two hours collapsed when Hamas fired rockets towards Israel.
US Secretary of State John Kerry has blamed Islamic militant group Hamas for the continuation of the conflict, saying they are refusing all ceasefire efforts.
“It’s ugly, obviously. War is ugly, and bad things are going to happen. But they [Hamas] need to recognise their own responsibility,” Kerry told ABC television in the US.
He urged Hamas to “be responsible and accept… a multilateral ceasefire without conditions”.
Additional reporting by AFP