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Palestinian casualties increase as Israel continues bombardment of Gaza

Palestinian casualties have sharply increased as Israel stepped up its bombardment of Gaza early on Friday as tanks and artillery massed at the border and joined aerial attacks.

The Gaza Health Ministry says casualties have risen to 119, Including 31 children and 19 women, with 830 wounded. This announcement preceded an intense barrage before dawn on Friday conducted by Israeli tanks and warplanes on the northern end of the Gaza strip. Israel has massed troops along the border and called up 9,000 reservists. The escalation of violence has also led to Palestinian deaths in the West Bank on Friday. The health ministry says six Palestinians were killed by Israeli army fire, five of which were killed in stone-throwing clashes with the Israeli armed forces.

Egyptian mediators have rushed to Israel for cease-fire talks but have shown no progress. An Egyptian intelligence official with knowledge of the talks said Hamas had accepted a proposal for a yearlong truce which would have started at midnight Thursday but Israel rejected it, wishing to delay the ceasefire in order to inflict more damage on Hamas’ military capabilities.  

Residential buildings and high-rise buildings have been targeted in Gaza, forcing many Palestinian civilians to flee their homes. Save the Children said that 31 schools attended by 24,000 children and a health facility in Gaza have been damaged by Israeli airstrikes. Hospitals in Gaza already stretched by the COVID-19 pandemic are fearful that they will be overwhelmed and are low on medical supplies as more are admitted to hospitals. Israeli authorities have closed the Erez crossing in the North of the Gaza strip since May 10, including for humanitarian workers, as well as the Karem Shalom crossing in the south where goods and fuel pass through. Israel restricts boats from Gaza stretching 16 nautical miles offshore into the Mediterranian sea. 

Seven people have been killed in Israel following Hamas rocket attacks since Monday. This includes one Indian national, one child and a soldier.

Read more at the Associated Press and Al Jazeera  

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