Gaza death toll rises to more than 800

More than 160,000 displaced people being housed in shelters run by UN

An Israeli soldier during a media tour organized by the army of a tunnel said to be used by Palestinians for cross-border attacks, on the Israel-Gaza border yesterday. Photograph: Jack Guez/Pool via The New York Times

An Israeli soldier during a media tour organized by the army of a tunnel said to be used by Palestinians for cross-border attacks, on the Israel-Gaza border yesterday. Photograph: Jack Guez/Pool via The New York Times

Sat, Jul 26, 2014, 01:00

The number of fatalities in Gaza climbed to more than 820 yesterday as the Israeli bombardment of the strip continued by air, sea and land.

Large swathes of the north and east of the enclave, where Israeli forces have established a wide buffer zone, have almost entirely emptied, with more than 160,000 displaced people being housed in shelters run by the United Nations.

Sixteen people, including women and children, were killed when Israeli forces shelled one of these shelters, in the northern district of Beit Hanoun, on Thursday. Funerals have been held for the victims, including that of a six-month-old baby.

Gaza officials said Israeli strikes killed 33 people in the day, including the head of media operations for Islamic Jihad and his son. They put the number of Palestinian deaths in 18 days of conflict at 822, most of them civilians.

Militant response

Militants fired a barrage of rockets out of Gaza, triggering sirens across much of southern and central Israel, including at the country’s main airport. No injuries were reported, with the Iron Dome interceptor system knocking out many of the missiles.

The UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said a 3km wide strip, encompassing 44 per cent of Gaza, had been designated as a no-go zone by the Israeli military during the conflict.

This has put huge pressure on the network of 83 UN-run schools that have been converted into emergency shelters and raised concerns about a humanitarian crisis. Refugees are provided with mattresses, food and water but centres are overcrowded and sanitation is poor.

The two weeks of violence have left more than 115,000 people in urgent need of food assistance, according to the World Food Programme,

As hostilities continued throughout the day, Israel said an army reservist was killed in Gaza, bringing to 34 the number of soldiers lost in a ground offensive it says is aimed at destroying dozens of cross-border tunnels used by Hamas to threaten its southern farming villages and army bases.

It also announced that a soldier unaccounted for after an ambush in Gaza six days ago was dead, although his body had not been recovered. Hamas said on Sunday it had captured the man, but did not release a photograph of him.

A Hamas rocket intercepted near Ben Gurion Airport on Tuesday prompted the US Federal Aviation Administration to halt American commercial flights to Israel’s main international gateway. Some European carriers followed suit.

Flight ban

Jolted by the blow at the height of an already stagnant summer tourism season, Israel persuaded US authorities to lift the flight ban on Thursday, after which the European aviation regulator removed its own advisory against flying to Ben Gurion. Also during the day Air France became the latest airline to resume flights.

In the second such salvo in as many days, Hamas said it fired three rockets at the airport in an apparent attempt to cripple operations at that location again.