Sunday, Nov 23, 2014

Israel downs Hamas drone as Gaza conflict claims 172 lives

 In this file photo taken July 9, 2014, Israeli missiles hit smuggling tunnels between Egypt and the Gaza Strip, in Rafah, southern Gaza Strip. (Source: AP) In this file photo taken July 9, 2014, Israeli missiles hit smuggling tunnels between Egypt and the Gaza Strip, in Rafah, southern Gaza Strip. (Source: AP)
PTI | Gaza/jerusalem | Posted: July 14, 2014 5:43 pm | Updated: July 14, 2014 5:45 pm

Showing no signs of letting down, Israel on Monday unleashed more airstrikes on Gaza and its military claimed to have downed a drone launched from Hamas-ruled area, the first weapon of its kind it has encountered in the week-long conflict that has claimed nearly 175 lives.

The Israeli military said that it shot down the drone spotted along the Israeli coastline, near the city of Ashdod.

Hamas’ military wing said in a statement that it has sent a number of drones on missions inside Israel and would provide more details in due course.

About 17,000 people from the Beit Lahiya area in the northern Gaza Strip streamed for protection into UN-run facilities after Israel on Sunday warned residents of the area to leave their homes.

Israeli warplanes bombarded the vacated area, hitting alleged launch sites and homes of members of extremist groups such as Hamas and Islamic Jihad. The assault was carried out mostly by air, but the Israeli navy also reportedly fired shells from the sea.

Despite the concentrated attack, militants continued to fire rockets at a broad swath of Israel. A teenager became the second Israeli civilian to be severely wounded in six days of fighting when two rockets landed in the city of Ashkelon. No Israelis have been killed by the rocket strikes.

Israeli air strikes on Monday hit three training facilities of Hamas’s military wing and buildings in Gaza city, causing injuries.

By Monday morning, the death toll from nearly a week of Israeli airstrikes reached 172 — all of them Palestinians – with more than 1,250 wounded, according to Palestinian health authorities.

While the Israeli attacks have killed some militants, around 70 per cent of the fatalities were civilians, according to the United Nations. Of the dead, more than 30 are children, the UN reported.

Israel has massed thousands of troops on the border with Gaza amid warnings it is prepared to launch a ground invasion. Israeli commandos carried out their first reported ground incursion on Sunday, attacking a suspected rocket launch site.

Defending Israel’s actions, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said, “We’re sorry for any accidental civilian deaths but it’s the Hamas that bears complete responsibility for such civilian casualties.”

Israel said its forces have struck 1,470 “terror targets” across Gaza, including 770 concealed rocket launchers. International efforts to press Israel and Hamas into negotiating a ceasefire have failed to gain any momentum.

“Hope for peaceful resolution seems to be even further away,” German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said on Sunday.

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