Israel-Gaza conflict: John Kerry flies to Middle East to urge ceasefire as crisis deepens

UN chief Ban Ki-moon called the Shijaiyah shelling 'an atrocious action'

The US Secretary of State John Kerry has flown out to the Middle East after Sunday saw the deaths of two Americans among the 13 Israeli soldiers and more than 100 Palestinians killed in the deadliest day of the conflict so far.

Last night the UN Security Council held an emergency closed-door meeting to discuss the worsening crisis, where members expressed alarm at the rapid escalation of violence and rising death toll in Gaza.

This morning Palestinian health officials said its recorded number of dead had passed 500 for the first time, after 20 more bodies were pulled from the rubble of a single flattened home in the city of Khan Younis.

In total there have been 20 Israeli deaths, including two civilians killed by cross-border shelling.

On Sunday night, the US State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki confirmed the identities of two Americans killed while fighting for the Israeli Defence Forces.

Max Steinberg, 24, was described by his family in California as a sharpshooter for the Golani Brigade of the Israeli infantry. Nissim Carmeli, 21, was a sergeant from Texas who moved to Israel four years ago.

Ms Psaki said that both President Barack Obama and Mr Kerry joined the UN in calling for an immediate ceasefire.

Video: 'If you stay at home, you'll die...'

She said the US and its international partners were “deeply concerned about the risk of further escalation and the loss of more innocent life”.

Mr Obama spoke to the Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, in a phone call on Sunday to discuss plans for Mr Kerry’s arrival in Cairo, the White House said. It added that the US condemned Hamas’s continued firing of rockets into Israel.

Palestinian mourners pray over five bodies, all from the Halaq family, during their funeral in the Jabalia refugee camp, in the Gaza Strip, on 21 July 2014 Palestinian mourners pray over five bodies, all from the Halaq family, during their funeral in the Jabalia refugee camp, in the Gaza Strip, on 21 July 2014 (Getty) But while discussions for a ceasefire in Egypt have been firmly backed by the US and Israel, Palestinians have turned to Qatar and Turkey to put forward an alternative proposal. There is distrust in Gaza of the leadership in Cairo after it ousted the pro-Palestinian Muslim Brotherhood-led government last year.

The UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon had already been due to travel the region this week to try to revive ceasefire efforts, and described yesterday’s shelling of the Shijaiyah district in Gaza City as “an atrocious action”.

An Israeli rocket is fired into northern Gaza strip (REUTERS) An Israeli rocket is fired into northern Gaza strip (REUTERS) The UN relief agency in Gaza estimates that 70,000 Palestinians have fled their homes in the fighting and are seeking shelter in schools and other shelters set up by the UN.

The Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas called it a “massacre” and said the Israeli offensive involving tanks, infantry units, missiles from the air and sea and the reported use of flechette shells as a “crime against humanity”.

Banjamin Netanyahu has said Hamas doesn't Banjamin Netanyahu has said Hamas doesn't "give a whit about the Palestinians" (AP) The Israeli military said it targeted Shijaiyah to combat what it described as a Hamas stronghold, and to destroy a network of tunnels leading to Israel that have become “like the Underground”.

Speaking in a broadcast on Israeli national TV on Sunday, Mr Netanyahu said the goal was to “restore a sustainable quiet” and ultimately “demilitarise Gaza”.

He said the offensive would continue “as long as necessary” to end rocket attacks from Gaza.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer

£27500 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Telemarketers / Sales - Home Based - OTE £23,500

£19500 - £23500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Experienced B2B Telemarketer wa...

Recruitment Genius: Showroom Assistant

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This global company are looking for two Showro...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Executive - OTE £25,000

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This publishing company based i...

Day In a Page

Fifa corruption: The 161-page dossier that exposes the organisation's dark heart

The 161-page dossier that exposes Fifa's dark heart

How did a group of corrupt officials turn football’s governing body into what was, in essence, a criminal enterprise? Chris Green and David Connett reveal all
Mediterranean migrant crisis: 'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves,' says Tripoli PM

Exclusive interview with Tripoli PM Khalifa al-Ghweil

'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves'
Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles: How the author foretold the Californian water crisis

Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles

How the author foretold the Californian water crisis
Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison as authorities crackdown on dissent in the arts

Art attack

Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison
Marc Jacobs is putting Cher in the limelight as the face of his latest campaign

Cher is the new face of Marc Jacobs

Alexander Fury explains why designers are turning to august stars to front their lines
Parents of six-year-old who beat leukaemia plan to climb Ben Nevis for cancer charity

'I'm climbing Ben Nevis for my daughter'

Karen Attwood's young daughter Yasmin beat cancer. Now her family is about to take on a new challenge - scaling Ben Nevis to help other children
10 best wedding gift ideas

It's that time of year again... 10 best wedding gift ideas

Forget that fancy toaster, we've gone off-list to find memorable gifts that will last a lifetime
Paul Scholes column: With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards

Paul Scholes column

With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards
Heysel disaster 30th anniversary: Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget fateful day in Belgium

Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget Heysel

Thirty years ago, 39 fans waiting to watch a European Cup final died as a result of a fatal cocktail of circumstances. Ian Herbert looks at how a club dealt with this tragedy
Amir Khan vs Chris Algieri: Khan’s audition for Floyd Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation, says Frank Warren

Khan’s audition for Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation

The Bolton fighter could be damned if he dazzles and damned if he doesn’t against Algieri, the man last seen being decked six times by Pacquiao, says Frank Warren
Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

Fifa corruption arrests

All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

How Stephen Mangan got his range

Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor