THE WORLDPOST
07/22/2014 07:24 am ET Updated Sep 21, 2014

In Gaza, No Safe Place For Civilians: UN

* More than 500 killed in densely-populated enclave

* 121 children killed, 900 wounded, UNICEF says

* More than 1.2 mln in Gaza have no or little water

* Ready-to-eat food stocks running low, WFP warns

* Three hospitals among 18 damaged health facilities (adds statements by UNRWA and WHO)

By Stephanie Nebehay

GENEVA, July 22 (Reuters) - Palestinian civilians in densely-populated Gaza have no place to hide from Israel's military offensive and children are paying the heaviest price, the United Nations said on Tuesday.

Israel pounded targets across the Gaza Strip, saying no ceasefire was near as U.S. and U.N. diplomats pursued talks on halting fighting that has claimed more than 600 lives as the conflict entered its third week.

"There is literally no safe place for civilians," Jens Laerke, spokesman of the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), told a news briefing in Geneva.

The death toll is rising in the coastal enclave which has an estimated 4,500 people per square kilometer, he said. The priority for aid agencies was protecting civilians and evacuating and treating the wounded.

Nearly 500 homes have been destroyed by Israeli air strikes and 100,000 people have sought shelter in schools of the U.N. Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), where they need food, water and mattresses, he said.

"This number continues to increase by the hour," UNRWA said in a statement on Tuesday, raising its emergency funding appeal to $115 million from $60 million.

Israel began air strikes on the coastal strip on July 8, saying it wanted to halt missile fire out of Gaza by Hamas militants, and launched a ground offensive last Thursday.

"The ongoing ground incursion, begun 18 July, has greatly accelerated the casualty rate over the past two days, as well as the numbers of displaced families," the World Health Organization (WHO) said in a statement.

Twenty-nine Israelis, 27 of them soldiers, have died.

But the overwhelming majority of people killed so far in the conflict are Palestinians, including 121 Gaza children under age 18, Juliette Touma of the U.N. Children's Fund (UNICEF) said.

More than 900 Palestinian children are also reported to have been injured, according to UNICEF.

"According to an assessment by aid workers on ground at least 107,000 children need psycho-social support for the trauma they are experiencing such as death, injury or loss of their homes," Laerke said.

LIMITED WATER, HOSPITALS HIT

More than 1.2 million of the 1.8 million people in the enclave have no water or only limited access to water as power networks have been damaged or lack fuel for generators, he said.

"In addition, we do have reports of sewage flooding which is a threat to public health," Laerke said.

The U.N.'s World Food Program (WFP) has distributed emergency food rations and food vouchers to more than 90,000 people so far, spokeswoman Elisabeth Byrs said.

"Ready to eat food stocks are running low in Gaza given the conflict has lasted two weeks and the needs are increasing," she said.

Food will be bought locally and also airlifted from Dubai.

The World Health Organization (WHO) said that 18 health facilities in Gaza have been damaged, including three hospitals.

An Israeli tank shell hit the third floor of Al-Aqsa hospital in the central Gaza Strip on Monday, killing four people and wounding 16, the Health Ministry said. [ID:nL6N0PW35M}

"All patients were evacuated and the 100-bed hospital is no longer functioning," a WHO statement said on Tuesday after a WHO team visited the site.

Hospitals in northern Gaza have been overwhelmed by high numbers of trauma cases and their inadequate supplies, it said.

The International Committee of the Red Cross, guardian of the rules of war, condemned the attack on the Al-Aqsa hospital which it said had come under "direct fire at least four times".

Warring parties are obliged under international humanitarian law to protect medical personnel, ambulances and facilities, the ICRC said in a statement issued late on Monday.

(Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay; Editing by Angus MacSwan)

08/08/2014 2:47 PM EDT

White House Concerned By Renewed Fighting

From Reuters:

The White House on Friday urged Israel and the Palestinians to resume talks and do what they can to protect civilians after Egyptian-mediated negotiations failed to extend a ceasefire and rocket fire resumed.

"The United States is very concerned about today's developments in Gaza," White House spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters.

"We condemn the renewed rocket fire and we are concerned about the safety and security of civilians on both sides of that conflict," he said.

08/08/2014 1:42 PM EDT

Official: 5 Palestinians Killed In Gaza

Five Palestinians, including a 10-year-old boy, have been killed in Israeli airstrikes on Gaza since a ceasefire fell apart on Friday, a Palestinian medical official reported to Agence France Presse.

Meanwhile, the Israeli army said Palestinian militants fired 35 rockets into Israel on Friday, injuring a soldier and a civilian.

gaza

The father of a ten-year old Palestinian boy, who was killed in an Israeli air strike on the Sheikh Radwan neighbourhood in northern Gaza City, mourns at the city's Al-Shifa hospital, on August 8, 2014. (MOHAMMED ABED/AFP/Getty Images)

08/08/2014 9:23 AM EDT

Palestinian Delegation Says Gaza Talks Will Continue

From Reuters:

Palestinian factions will remain in Cairo and press on with Egyptian-mediated talks despite the end of the ceasefire in Gaza, the head of the delegation, Fatah official Azzam Ahmed, said on Friday.

"We are not for escalation. We are ready to continue through our Egyptian brothers in negotiating to reach a final agreement that would return the rights to their owners," Ahmed said. "I mean here lifting the blockade of Gaza."

Ahmed said Palestinian negotiators were due to meet Egyptian intelligence officials, who have been mediating the talks, later in the day. He said Palestinian factions were united in their decision not to extend the 72-hour truce that ended at 0500 GMT and had been clear about their basic demands to end the conflict.

08/08/2014 9:13 AM EDT

Egypt: Agreement Close In Gaza Talks

Reuters reports:

Egypt called on Friday for an immediate resumption of the ceasefire in Gaza and a return to the negotiating table, saying that only a few outstanding issues remained in negotiations it was mediating between Israel and the Palestinians.

"The foreign ministry calls on all sides to rise to their responsibilities ... and to return immediately to the ceasefire commitment and exploit the opportunity available to resume negotiations on the very limited sticking points that remain in the fastest possible time," the foreign ministry said in a statement.

08/08/2014 3:58 AM EDT

Israeli Airstrikes On Gaza Resume

08/08/2014 3:02 AM EDT

Cease-Fire Ends With New Rocket Attacks

A 72-hour cease-fire expired at 8 a.m. today, and not long after, Gaza militants began firing rockets at Israel, The Associated Press reported.

The Israeli military said at least 10 rockets had been fired at Israel since the truce ended. Prior to the attacks, a senior official for Hamas said the militant groups would not extend the cease-fire.

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08/06/2014 2:46 PM EDT

Official: Israel Agrees To Extend Ceasefire

From Reuters:

Israel has conditionally agreed to extend a ceasefire that ended a month of fighting in Gaza beyond a Friday deadline, an Israeli official said on Wednesday, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The official did not say for how much longer Israel had agreed to extend the truce, only that: "Israel has expressed its readiness to extend the truce under its current terms," referring to the deal brokered by Egypt that took effect on Tuesday.

Hamas had no immediate comment.

08/06/2014 2:12 PM EDT

IDF: Rocket Sirens Were False Alarm

08/06/2014 1:18 PM EDT

Report: Rocket Sirens Sound At Gaza Border

ABC Foreign Editor Jon Williams reports that the IDF have confirmed the rocket sirens are sounding, but are checking to see if it is a false alarm.

08/05/2014 4:20 PM EDT

Israel Arrests Kidnapping Suspect

Reuters reports that Israel has arrested one of the suspects in the kidnapping and killing of three Israeli teenagers in the West Bank in June.

Hussam Kawasme, a 40-year-old resident of the West Bank city of Hebron, was arrested on July 11 in connection with the killing of Israelis Gil-Ad Shaer, Naftali Fraenkel and Eyal Yifrah, who went missing on June 12 and were discovered dead a couple of weeks later.

Their kidnapping sparked a cycle of violence that led to the month-long conflict between Israel and Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip.

Kawasme's arrest was made public for the first time on Tuesday in a document from an Israeli court case over whether houses belonging to him and two other suspects - who remain at large - should be destroyed as a punitive measure.

The lawyers listed as representing Kawasme were not reachable for comment.

The court document said Kawasme had admitted to helping to organize the kidnapping - securing funding from the Hamas Islamist group in Gaza and purchasing weapons which he passed on to the two other suspects who carried out the attack.

Kawasme also helped to bury the bodies of the teenagers in a plot of land he had bought a few months earlier, it said.

Israel has named the other two suspects in the case as Marwan Kawasme and Amar Abu Aysha.

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