Israel-Palestinian crisis: Gaza death toll rises as Israeli forces continue air and sea assault

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas believes ground invasion is imminent

The death toll in Gaza has risen to at least 79 as Israel continues its offensive in the strip and rocket fire from Palestinian militants shows no sign of slowing.

Rockets were exploded above Tel Aviv by the Iron Dome defence system and missiles also reached Jerusalem and other cities in Israel. The government claims its response is needed to protect civilians.

So far, strikes have come from the air, sea and across the Israeli border but the Palestinian President, Mahmoud Abbas, said he believes Israel is only hours away from launching a ground invasion on Gaza on Friday.

Speaking at a meeting in Ramallah, the official Palestinian news agency quoted him saying the Israeli Government had already approved a land operation and its start was imminent.

Israeli leaders have hinted at a possible invasion by ground forces and some 20,000 army reservists have been mobilised, although no action has been confirmed.

The last time ground troops crossed into the Strip, one of the world’s most densely populated territories, was in 2009, and the last major exchange of rockets and missiles was in October 2012.

Smoke billows from buildings following an Israeli air strike in Gaza City Smoke billows from buildings following an Israeli air strike in Gaza City The armed wing of Hamas has warned airlines it intends to target Israel's Ben Gurion International Airport, in Tel Aviv, and has told them not to fly there on Friday.

A statement from the Islamist group said the attack would be in response to "Israeli aggression" in the Gaza Strip and said the airport was targeted because it hosts a military air base.

Medical officials in Gaza said four people were killed in pre-dawn attacks on Friday, including a man described as a doctor and pharmacist in a house hit by an air strike in Gaza City.

Medics and residents said an Israeli aircraft bombed a three-storey house in the southern town of Rafah.

Reports of casualties varied, with some saying three people were killed, while others claimed there were five fatalities, including a woman and seven-year-old child, and 15 other people were wounded.

While Israeli tanks reportedly fired shells east of Rafah, naval forces sent bombs into a security compound in Gaza City and aircraft bombed positions near the borders with Egypt and Israel.

The Israeli military confirmed fresh naval and air strikes were launched early but gave no further details.

According to medical officials, at least 60 civilians, including a four-year-old girl and a boy of five killed on Thursday, are among the 79 Palestinians who have died since Operation Protective Edge began on Tuesday.

Other victims include a Palestinian family of eight and football fans watching the World Cup at a beach café.

No fatalities have been reported in Israel, where the Iron Dome missile defence system intercepts incoming rockets and destroys them before they reach the ground.

Some have got through, including a rocket that hit a petrol station in the city of Ashdod on Friday, seriously wounding at least three people.

Rockets were also fired into northern Israel on Friday from Lebanon, but the country’s security officials said they did not know who was behind the attack, which Israel responded to with artillery fire.

Friday is the fourth day of Israel’s offensive in Gaza, which officials said was in response to escalating rocket attacks by Hamas. It came after three kidnapped Israeli teenagers were found murdered.

A 16-year-old Palestinian teenager, Mohammed Abu Khdeir, was burned alive in a suspected revenge attack by Jewish youths and protests and riots spread across East Jerusalem and Arab villages.

Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli Prime Minister, vowed there would be no ceasefire, despite the mounting death toll.

“I am not speaking with anyone about a ceasefire. That is not under consideration,” he said.

On Thursday, he called the escalating conflict a “battle progressing as planned” and said air strikes had “hit Hamas and the terror organisations hard”.

Barack Obama had called Mr Netanyahu with an offer to help broker a ceasefire and the French President, Francois Hollande, also called for a truce while voicing concern at civilian deaths.

Ban Ki-moon, Secretary-General of the United Nations, told an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council that Gaza “cannot afford another full-blown war” and the conflict could have a “combustible” effect in the West Bank.

Condemning Hamas and Islamic Jihad for firing more than 550 rockets and mortars into Israel, he also seemed to criticise Israel, saying that “the excessive use of force and endangering of civilian lives are also intolerable”.

A truce was brokered by Egypt in the 2012 conflict but the current military government is hostile towards Hamas, making mediation difficult.

A spokesman for the militant organisation, Sami Abu Zuhri, said: “Our backs are to the wall and we have nothing to lose. We are ready to battle until the end.”

Israeli authorities say more than 860 targets have been struck in Gaza, including militant commanders' homes, but residents said some of the destroyed houses did not belong to fighters.

Some people in targeted buildings received warning phone calls to get out and “knock-on-the-door” missiles, which do not carry explosive warheads, were fired in places as a signal to evacuate.

Read more: Netanyahu unrepentant despite growing death toll
'We just want it to end...we don't deserve to live like this'
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
  • Get to the point
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

Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistant - Accounts Payable - St. Albans

£26000 - £28000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistan...

Ashdown Group: Treasury Assistant - Accounts Assistant - London, Old Street

£24000 - £26000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Recruitment Genius: Installation and Service / Security Engineer

£22000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is part of a Group...

Recruitment Genius: Service Charge Accounts Assistant

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a a young, dynamic pers...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

Confessions of a former PR man

The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

The mother of all goodbyes

Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions