Israel-Gaza conflict: 'Deadliest day' leaves 65 Palestinians and 13 Israeli soldiers dead as Gaza offensive widens

Deaths include highest toll for Israeli army since 2006 war against Hezbollah in Lebanon

At least 65 Palestinians and 13 Israeli soldiers have been killed in the fiercest day of fighting in Gaza since the latest offensive began 13 days ago.

As tanks shelled a neighbourhood that is home to 100,000 people, Hamas claimed it had carried out a major attack causing multiple casualties to the Israeli army.

Military sources later confirmed that 13 soldiers were killed, including seven in a single armoured personnel carrier that was hit by anti-tank fire. The others were killed while setting up positions inside houses that had been taken over.

And while the overground incursion intensified, the sustained shelling of the Shijaiyah district saw Gaza's hospitals flooded with wounded civilians, with some at the Shifa hospital being treated in corridors and courtyards.

Gazan health officials said that 425 Palestinians have now been killed in the conflict and about 3,000 wounded.

Nearly half of those deaths have been reported since the beginning of Thursday's ground offensive, and as the death toll coming from the Shijaiyah continued to rise, the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas accused Israel of carrying out a massacre and declared three days of mourning.

The Israeli military said it was pleased with efforts so far to crack down on the system of tunnels used by Hamas militants to avoid air strikes, and in a statement said it had committed more ground troops to “the effort to combat terror”.

The shelling of Shijaiyah appears to have resulted in the heaviest mass casualties among Palestinians since the start of the latest conflict, and included the deaths of the son, daughter-in-law and two small grandchildren of a senior Hamas official, Khalil al-Hayya.

A single video captured from within the neighbourhood, and passed on to reporters by a local, appeared to show at least a dozen corpses – including three children – lying in streets filled with rubble.

The assault continued almost unabated for more than 18 hours, while a brief truce for humanitarian work called by the Red Cross - and agreed to by both sides - broke down within minutes.

Thousands fled the district on foot, and as tank shells began to rip through buildings residents rang in to radio stations pleading for evacuation.

Asked about the civilian impact of the attack, an Israeli military spokesperson said: “Two days ago, residents of Shijaiyah received recorded messages to evacuate the area in order to protect their lives.”

Hamas has kept up its rocket fire into Israeli territories in spite of the increasing ground offensive. And while almost half of its reported arsenal has either been fired or destroyed in missile strikes on stockpiles, the militant group has said it continues to replenish supplies and is prepared for a prolonged conflict.

Though there are further plans to secure a ceasefire with meetings in the coming week, efforts so far involving Egypt, Qatar, France, the UN and others have failed to make any headway.

A senior Qatari source told reporters that the country was due to host a meeting between Mr Abbas, who is based in the occupied West Bank, and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today, as well as a meeting between Mr Abbas and Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal.

A UN statement said Ban would travel this week across Kuwait, Egypt, Jordan, Israel and the Palestinian territories to discuss the ongoing conflict.

In Israel, the number of people displaced from their homes continues to grow. The Israeli military has urged Palestinians to flee from a growing area of Gaza ahead of more expected attacks – but with borders sealed and around half of the territory’s 1.8 million population having already received evacuation orders, Gazans say they have few safe places left to escape to.

The largest UN agency in Gaza, UNRWA, said about 61,500 people had sought refuge in its buildings, mainly schools - more than in any previous conflict there between Israel and Islamist militants.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment
Billie Piper as Brona in Penny Dreadful
tvReview: It’s business as usual in Victorian London. Let’s hope that changes as we get further into the new series spoiler alert
Life and Style
A nurse tends to a recovering patient on a general ward at The Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham
Arts and Entertainment
No Offence
tvReview: No Offence has characters who are larger than life and yet somehow completely true to life at the same time spoiler alert
Chuck Norris pictured in 1996
Arts and Entertainment
Sarah Lucas, I SCREAM DADDIO, Installation View, British Pavilion 2015
artWhy Sarah Lucas is the perfect choice to represent British art at the Venice Biennale
A voter placing a ballot paper in the box at a polling station
Arts and Entertainment
The Queen (Kristin Scott Thomas) in The Audience
theatreReview: Stephen Daldry's direction is crisp in perfectly-timed revival
  • Get to the point
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Dublin

£13676.46 - £16411.61 per annum + OTE: SThree: SThree Trainee Recruitment Cons...

Ashdown Group: Marketing or Business Graduate Opportunity - Norwich - £22,000

£18000 - £22000 per annum + training: Ashdown Group: Business and Marketing Gr...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Are you great at building rela...

Ashdown Group: Database Analyst - Birmingham - £22,000 plus benefits

£20000 - £22000 per annum + excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Application Sup...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

Flesh in Venice

Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
11 best anti-ageing day creams

11 best anti-ageing day creams

Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

Juventus vs Real Madrid

Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants
Ashes 2015: Test series looks a lost cause for England... whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket

Ashes series looks a lost cause for England...

Whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket, says Stephen Brenkley
Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power