Death toll over 100 in Israel’s Gaza offensive

International

Israeli bombardment on the narrow Gaza Strip continued for a sixth day Monday despite calls for a truce, flattening Gaza's police headquarters and taking the Palestinian death toll to over 100.

At least 21 people were killed Monday, including three Palestinians in new Israeli strikes here.

A media centre was also targeted for a second time Monday when Israeli fighter jets hit the Shuruq tower in Gaza City. The building houses Palestinian and international media outlets, including Britain's Sky News, Saudi-owned Al Arabiya and the official Hamas broadcaster, Al Aqsa TV. One person was killed in the building, Al Jazeera reported.

As civilian casualties mounted, Egypt intensified efforts to mediate a truce between the two sides, and UN chief Ban Ki-moon called for an immediate ceasefire as he prepared to join truce talks in Cairo.

The death toll in the coastal territory since the Operation Pillar of Defence began had reached 102, one-third of the killed were not involved in the conflict, according to Israel's Haretz newspaper.

It said the Israel Defence Forces admitted that nine Palestinians were killed "accidentally" in a missile strike in which a top operative in Hamas rocket programme was hit.

The army's chief military spokesman, Yoav Mordechai, told Israel's Channel 2 TV that the intended target of the strike had been Yehiya Rabiah, the head of Hamas's rocket-launching unit, but that there had been "civilian casualties".

While Israeli military continued to pound the narrow Gaza Strip — 41 km long, 6-12 km wide — incessantly from both land and sea, it also prepared for a ground offensive in case truce talks failed.

Even as casualties mounted, including women and children, Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu said he had assured world leaders that Israel was doing its utmost to avoid causing civilian casualties.

Khaled Meshaal, the Hamas leader, said his movement was committed to efforts to secure a truce, but insisted the Israel must lift its six-year blockade of the Gaza Strip. "We are not against a calming, but we want our demands... to end the thuggery, end the aggression and lift the blockade," he said, adding that Hamas would reject any Israeli preconditions for a ceasefire because "they started the aggression".

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