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Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Israel pounds Gaza as Kerry pushes truce (UN says ‘war crimes’ possible)

Israeli forces pounded Gaza on Wednesday, meeting stiff resistance from Hamas Islamists and sending thousands of residents fleeing, as US Secretary of State John Kerry said on a visit to Israel cease-fire talks had made some progress.

In a blow to Israel's economy and a public relations coup for Hamas, US and European air carriers halted flights to the Jewish state citing concern over a militant rocket from Gaza that hit a house near Ben Gurion airport. Israel urged a rethink, saying its air space was safe.


Adding to pressure on Israel, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said on Wednesday there was "a strong possibility" that it was committing war crimes in Gaza, where 668 Palestinians have died in the fighting, mostly civilians.

Israel denied the suggestion, stepping up the war of words and accusing Hamas of using fellow Gazans as human shields.

Making an unannounced, one-day visit, Kerry was due to see Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, signaling an intensification of efforts to end the bloodshed.

"We have certainly made some steps forward. There is still work to be done," Kerry said shortly after arriving.


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Israel launched its offensive on July 8 to halt missile salvoes by Hamas and its allies, struggling under the weight of an Israeli-Egyptian economic blockade and angered by a crackdown on their supporters in the nearby occupied West Bank.

After failing to halt the militant barrage through days of aerial bombardment, Israel sent ground troops into the Gaza Strip on Thursday last week, looking to knock out Hamas's missile 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 Wednesday.

Some 29 Israeli soldiers have been killed so far in the conflagration, including a tank officer shot by a Palestinian sniper overnight. Three civilians have died in rocket attacks out of Gaza, including a foreign laborer hit on Wednesday.

 Source:Reuters - globaltimes.cn
23-24/7/14
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