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A wounded Palestinian girl receives medical care at a hospital in Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip on July 23, following an Israeli military strike near her family home.
KUWAIT CALLS ON WORLD TO BACK GAZA TRUCE Israeli ‘fire’ kills dozens

GAZA CITY, Palestinian Territories, July 23, (Agencies): An Israeli air strike on the northern Gaza Strip killed five people on Wednesday evening, medics said, as Israel’s army announced two more soldiers had died in fighting. Earlier, Israeli tank fire killed five people, including two children, in southern Gaza, emergency services spokesman Ashraf al-Qudra said, as Wednesday’s body count reached at least 47 Palestinians. A series of other strikes and shellings throughout Gaza brought the total number killed from 16 days of conflict between Israel and Hamas to 687 Palestinians, according to figures from Qudra.
Another air strike on Wednesday killed a two-year-old girl, Qudra said.
 
Some 32 people in Israel — two civilians, a foreign worker and 29 soldiers — have been killed during the Jewish state’s operation to stamp out rocket fire from Gaza militants and destroy Hamas tunnels. Early on Wednesday, the military announced two soldiers had been killed in fighting the night before. And a foreign worker, whose nationality was not immediately disclosed, died later Wednesday after being hit by a mortar round fired from Gaza, police said. 
 
Rights groups have said that more than 80 percent of Palestinians killed have been civilians, with Gaza-based NGO the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights saying more than 90 were women and more than 160 children. Kuwait, on behalf of the Arab group, Wednesday condemned vehemently the Israeli military aggression against unarmed Palestinian civilians in the Gaza Strip, calling on the international community to shoulder its responsibility by taking “positive steps” to compel Israel to stop immediately its aggression on the Gaza Strip.
 
In his speech at the United Nations about the situation in the Middle East and the Palestinian issue, Kuwaiti charge d’affaires in the UN Abdulaziz Al-Ajmi said that the Arab group condemned strongly blatant and brutal Israeli aggression against unarmed civilians in the Gaza Strip. He added that Israel violates all international and humanitarian laws as it escalates its brutal military operations there.
He said the meeting recalled the tragic events committed by Israeli aggression in the Gaza Strip in 2008, which are still engraved in memory. He added the death toll of Israeli attacks on Palestinians in the strip rose to 687, most of whom are women, children. At least 3,600 others were injured. He said the massacre of Shagaia is considered a war crime, adding the situation there is on the brink of a humanitarian disaster, while Israel has been continuing its escalation in the strip and ignoring all peace initiatives.
 
He said that the Arab group calls on the international community, represented in the UN Security Council, to condemn the exercises of Israeli occupation authorities against unarmed Palestinians and their properties which are a breach of all international treaties and conventions. The Kuwaiti diplomat also called on the international community to support the Egyptian initiative for an urgent and immediate ceasefire, asking all concerned parties to accept and back it. He called for releasing all Palestinians detained in Israeli jails. Meanwhile, Gaza fighting raged on Wednesday, displacing thousands more Palestinians in the battered territory as US Secretary of State John Kerry said efforts to secure a truce between Israel and Hamas had made some progress.
 
In a blow to Israel’s economy and image, American aviation authorities extended a ban on US flights to Tel Aviv for a second day, spooked by rocket salvoes out of the Gaza Strip, with many other global airlines also avoiding the Jewish state.
Adding to the pressure on Israel, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said there was “a strong possibility” that it was committing war crimes in Gaza, where 687 Palestinians, mostly civilians, have died in the fighting.
She also condemned indiscriminate Islamist rocket fire out of Gaza and the United Nations Human Rights Council said it would launch an international inquiry into alleged violations.
Israel denied any wrongdoing. “Get lost,” Justice Minister Tzipi Livni said on her Facebook page in response to the probe.
Kerry met Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and a grim-faced Netanyahu on Wednesday. He was due to return later in the day to Egypt, which shares a border with Gaza and has mediated with Islamist Hamas.
“We have certainly made some steps forward. There is still work to be done,” said Kerry, on one of his most intensive regional visits since the peace negotiations he had brokered between Netanyahu and Abbas broke down in April.
Kerry has been working through Abbas, Egypt and other regional proxies because the United States, like Israel, shuns Hamas as a terrorist group. Hamas brushed off the US diplomat’s appeal, saying it would not hold fire without making gains.
 
“Our interest and that of our people is that no agreement should be made before the conditions of factions of resistance are met,” Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said. Israel launched its offensive on July 8 to halt rocket salvoes by Hamas and its allies, which have struggled under an Israeli-Egyptian economic blockade on Gaza and angered by a crackdown on their supporters in the nearby occupied West Bank. After aerial and naval bombardment failed to quell the outgunned guerrillas, Israel poured ground forces into the Gaza Strp last Thursday, looking to knock out Hamas’s rocket stores and destroy a vast, underground network of tunnels.
 
“We are meeting resistance around the tunnels ... they are constantly trying to attack us around and in the tunnels. That is the trend,” Israeli military spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Peter Lerner said on Wednesday. Already hurt by mass tourist cancellations, Israel faced increased economic pressure after the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) took the rare step on Tuesday of banning flights to Tel Aviv, renewing the order on Wednesday. Many other foreign carriers, on heightened alert after a Malaysian airliner was shot down over a combat zone in Ukraine last week, followed suit. Israeli carriers continued to operate. “Hamas’s success in closing the Israeli air space is a great victory for the resistance, a terrible failure for Israel that wrecks the image of Israeli deterrence,” said Hamas’s Abu Zuhri.
 
The Tel Aviv stock exchange and Shekel were flat, with traders showing little concern about the flight stoppages. Clouds of black smoke hung over Gaza, some 65 km (40 miles) south of Ben Gurion, with the regular thud of artillery and tank shells filling the air, sending thousands of civilians fleeing from the town of Beit Hanoun in the northern Gaza Strip. “This is not war, this is annihilation,” said 17-year-old Hamed Ayman. “I once dreamt of becoming a doctor. Today I am homeless. They should watch out for what I could become next.”
 
Palestinian medics said two worshippers were killed and 30 wounded in an attack on a mosque in the heart of the densely populated Zeitoun neighbourhood in eastern Gaza City. In southern Abassan and Khuzaa villages, residents said they were besieged by Israeli snipers who wounded two Palestinians as they tried to emerge from hiding with white flags in hand. The Israeli army also seized Wafa hospital in eastern Gaza, saying it had been used to shelter Hamas fighters - a regular complaint from the military. Patients were removed ahead of time after receiving warnings of the pending assault.
 
Israel named four commanders of Hamas ally the Islamic Jihad, that it said it had killed in recent days.
Egypt has tried to get both sides to hold fire and then negotiate terms for protracted calm in Gaza, which has been rocked by regular bouts of violence since Israel unilaterally pulled out of the territory in 2005.
Hamas, which refuses to recognise Israel’s right to exist, has balked at Cairo’s original proposal, wanting its conditions to be met in full before any end to the conflict.
 
These demands include the release of hundreds of Hamas supporters recently arrested in the nearby West Bank and an end to the Egyptian-Israeli blockade of Gaza, which has stymied the economy and made it near impossible for anyone to travel abroad. The war is extracting a heavy toll on impoverished Gaza, with Palestinian officials saying that at least 475 houses had been totally destroyed by Israeli fire and 2,644 partially damaged. Some 46 schools, 56 mosques and seven hospitals had also suffered varying degrees of destruction. “There seems to be a strong possibility that international humanitarian law has been violated, in a manner that could amount to war crimes,” the UN’s Pillay told an emergency session at the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) in Geneva.
 
Netanyahu reacted furiously to news of the planned UN investigation, aware of the damning report into Israel’s 2008/09 Gaza operation, which killed more than 1,000 Palestinians. “The decision today by the HRC is a travesty,” he said in a statement. “The HRC should be launching an investigation into Hamas’s decision to turn hospitals into military command centers, use schools as weapons depots and place missile batteries next to playgrounds, private homes and mosques.” More than 50 former Israeli soldiers have refused to serve in the nation’s reserve force, citing regret over their part in a military they said plays a central role in oppressing Palestinians, the Washington Post reported on Wednesday.
 
“We found that troops who operate in the occupied territories aren’t the only ones enforcing the mechanisms of control over Palestinian lives. In truth, the entire military is implicated. For that reason, we now refuse to participate in our reserve duties, and we support all those who resist being called to service,” the soldiers wrote in a petition posted online and first reported by the newspaper.
 
While some Israelis have refused to serve in the Palestinian territories of the West Bank, the military’s structure is such that serving in any capacity forces one to play a role in the conflict, said the soldiers, most of whom are women who would have been exempted from combat. “Many of us served in logistical and bureaucratic support roles; there, we found that the entire military helps implement the oppression of the Palestinians,” they said. Their comments come as the conflict in Gaza continues to escalate, displacing thousands more Palestinians in the battered territory even as the United States presses both sides for an immediate ceasefire and longer-term peace plan.
 
Earlier this month, Israel said it was mobilizing more reservists in anticipation of increased fighting.
In the petition, the soldiers pointed to the army’s structure and fundamental role in Israeli society as reasons for being unable to decouple any form of service from the fighting. “The military plays a central role in every action plan and proposal discussed in the national conversation, which explains the absence of any real argument about non-military solutions to the conflicts Israel has been locked in with its neighbors,” the soldiers wrote. “To us, the current military operation and the way militarization affects Israeli society are inseparable.” They said they opposed the Israeli Army and conscription law because of how women are limited to low-ranking secretarial positions and because of a screening system that discriminates against Jews whose families originate from Arab nations.
 
Most 18-year-olds must serve up to three years in the Israeli Defense Forces. The Israeli military said on Wednesday it had detained several soldiers and a civilian on suspicion of leaking Gaza casualty figures over social media before families of the dead or wounded could be formally informed. A week into ground fighting with Hamas that has killed at least 32 soldiers, some Israelis complain of first learning their relatives were dead through WhatsApp, or of being misled by erroneous messages into believing they were among the toll. The phenomenon has led to front-page calls by Israeli commentators to stop the relaying of unauthorised casualty updates. Hoping to control the information, the army has confiscated the cellphones of troops sent into combat.
 
“Notifying a family of a soldier or officer who was killed in action is one of the most sensitive and well-planned procedures that exists in the military, as befits such a serious moment,” the military said in a statement announcing the arrests following an investigation that it described has having employed “both open-source and undercover means”.
 
“The unauthorised WhatsApp messages were irresponsible and spread quickly across social networks,” the statement said, referring to Facebook’s WhatsApps mobile messaging app. The army has revised its own official information regarding a soldier it initially reported as killed in Gaza on Sunday, but later designated as missing in action. Hamas said it had seized the soldier but did not issue photographs of him in captivity.

 

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