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43 Palestinians killed on Wednesday as Israel assault on Gaza continues

Reuters , Wednesday 30 Jul 2014
 Palestinian firefighter
A Palestinian firefighter reacts as he tries to put out a fire at Gaza's main power plant, which witnesses said was hit in Israeli shelling, in the central Gaza Strip on July 29, 2014 (Photo: Reuters)
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Israeli fire killed at least 43 Palestinians in the Gaza Strip early on Wednesday as it said it targeted Hamas militants at dozens of sites across the coastal enclave, while Egyptian mediators prepared a revised ceasefire proposal.

Israeli tank shells and air strikes on houses and a school in Jebalya in northern Gaza killed at least 43 people and wounded many others, including 20 in a UN school, health ministry spokesman Ashraf Al-Qidra said. Among the dead were a medic and an infant.

Israel's Channel Two TV said progress was being made to achieve a deal in Cairo, where a Palestinian delegation was expected to arrive for discussions.

An Israeli army spokeswoman said she was checking for details.

Eight people, including five members of the same family in Jebalya, were killed in other strikes, Gaza officials said.

Hospital officials put the total number of Palestinians killed in the aggression at 1,224, most of them civilians. On the Israeli side, 53 soldiers and three civilians have been killed since the start of the offensive on July 8.

UNRWA, the main UN relief agency in Gaza, said it was at "breaking point" with more than 200,000 Palestinians having taken shelter in its schools and buildings following calls by Israel for civilians to evacuate entire neighbourhoods before military operations.

The security cabinet convenes again on Wednesday to assess the situation and consider future steps. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned of a long conflict ahead.

The army said it needed about a week to complete its main mission of destroying cross-border tunnels and there has been strong Israeli public support for holding course.

Diplomatic pressure also mounted, with Chile and Peru saying they were recalling their ambassadors to Israel.

Chile, a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, is home to one of the world's largest Palestinian communities outside the Middle East, as well as a sizeable Jewish community.

 "Chile observes with great concern and discouragement that the military operations - which at this point appear to be a collective punishment to the Palestinian civil population in Gaza - don't respect fundamental norms of international humanitarian law," its foreign ministry said.

Mohammed Deif, the shadowy leader of Hamas's armed wing, said in a recorded message on television that Palestinians would continue confronting Israel until its blockade on Gaza - which is supported by neighbouring Egypt - was lifted.

"The occupying entity will not enjoy security unless our people live in freedom and dignity," Deif said. "There will be no ceasefire before the (Israeli) aggression is stopped and the blockade is lifted. We will not accept interim solutions."

ISRAEL DEMANDS DISARMAMENT

Israel has baulked at freeing up Gaza's borders under a de-escalation deal unless Hamas's disarmament is also guaranteed.

Egypt said on Tuesday it was revising an unconditional truce proposal that Israel had originally accepted but Hamas rejected, and that the new offer would be presented to a Palestinian delegation. An Israeli official said Israel might send its own envoy to Cairo.

The US-backed administration of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in the Israeli-occupied West Bank voiced support on Tuesday for a 24-72 hour ceasefire.

Hamas denied on Tuesday an earlier statement by the Secretary General of the Palestinian Liberation Organisation- Yasser Abed Rabbo- that it was accepting a 24-hour ceasefire.

Sami spokesperson of Hamas, described Abed Rabbo’s announcement as “incorrect and not associated with the stance of the Palestinian resistance Abu Zuhri, the.”

 Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri disputed that statement but confirmed there were "intensive, ongoing contacts" on a truce.

Both US President Barack Obama and the UN Security Council have called for an immediate ceasefire to allow relief to reach Gaza's 1.8 million Palestinians, followed by negotiations on a more durable end to hostilities.

Efforts led by US Secretary of State John Kerry last week failed to achieve a breakthrough, and the explosion of violence appeared to dash international hopes of turning a brief lull for the Muslim Eid al-Fitr into a longer-term ceasefire.

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