A Palestinian woman reacts next to the rubble of her relatives' house, which police said was destroyed in an Israeli air strike, in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip yesterday. Israeli tanks shelled militant targets and a woman died in an air strike after the bloodiest day of a nearly two-week military offensive that showed no signs of abating, despite global calls for a truce. Photo: Reuters
The death toll in Gaza rose to 572 yesterday following the bloodiest day in the Palestinian enclave since 2009 where Israel is pressing a punishing military operation.
And the Israeli army said another seven soldiers had been killed in fighting in Gaza, raising the overall Israeli death toll to 27, all but two of them soldiers.
The announcement came a day after 13 soldiers were killed, making Sunday the highest one-day death toll sustained by the Israeli army since the 2006 Lebanon war.
Gaza emergency services spokesman Ashraf al-Qudra said air strikes and shelling killed 55 people across the enclave yesterday, and another 68 bodies were pulled from the rubble in areas hit by heavy fighting a day earlier.
UN chief Ban Ki-moon demanded an immediate end to the raging conflict in Gaza and Israel on Monday, during a visit to Cairo to push for a ceasefire.
The "violence must stop, it must stop now," Ban said at a news conference.
"I urge all parties to stop violence unconditionally and return to dialogue," he added.
Egypt had proposed a truce which Israel accepted and Hamas in Gaza spurned, saying they wanted guarantees that a blockade of the enclave will end.
The UN agency for Palestinian refugees said Monday the number of people seeking refuge at its sites in Gaza to escape a two-week-old Israeli offensive on the enclave has soared to more than 100,000.
"This is a watershed moment for UNRWA, now that the number of people seeking refuge with us is more than double the figure we saw in the 2009 Gaza conflict," climbing to above 100,000, the agency's spokesman Christopher Gunness said in a statement.
The army said its troops had killed "more than 10 militants" who had infiltrated southern Israel through two tunnels, sparking a firefight that reportedly wounded several soldiers.
Militants killed inside Israel are not included in Qudra's Gaza toll.
The latest deaths included six people killed in two artillery strikes, three of whom died in the southern city of Rafah and another three in Deir al-Balah in central Gaza.
Of the 55 people killed yesterday, around a third of them were children, Qudra said.
Seven children were among nine dead in an air raid on a house in Rafah, and another four children were killed in another strike on a house in Gaza City that killed nine people.
A nighttime air strike on a residential tower block in Gaza City killed 11 people, including five children, Qudra said, and a simultaneous strike in the central Strip killed another.
And Israeli tank shells slammed into a hospital in Deir al-Balah, killing four people, among them doctors, Qudra said, indicating at least 70 people were wounded.
Another 32 people were killed in a series of air strikes and tank shelling across the strip.
Of the 68 bodies recovered on Monday, 13 were from Shejaiya, hiking the death toll from a blistering Sunday attack to 74. Qudra said the vast majority were women, children and the elderly.
Another 23 of the bodies were pulled from a three-storey house belonging to the Abu Jamaa family in the southern city of Khan Yunis which was hit on Sunday, raising the overall death toll from a single strike to 28, Qudra said.
So far, Palestinian figures show 572 Gazans have been killed and more than 3,350 wounded since the start of the Israeli campaign to stamp out cross-border rocket fire on July 8.
On the Israeli side, 27 people have died, including two civilians killed by rocket fire and 25 soldiers all of whom were killed since the start of a ground operation late on July 17.
Army figures indicate another 30 soldiers were wounded in Gaza since Sunday, three of whom were in serious condition. Military radio put the overall injury toll at more than 90 soldiers since the ground assault began.
Since the Israeli military started Operation Protective Edge on July 8 in a bid to stamp out rocket fire, Palestinian militants have fired 1,488 mortars and rockets that hit Israel, with air defences intercepting another 392, the army said.
Approximately 84 stuck Israel on Monday, one of them in the greater Tel Aviv area, while another 16 were shot down, the army said.