Gaza toll tops 800 as truce efforts intensify

By John Davison, AFP

GAZA CITY, Palestinian Territories — Israeli fire pushed the Palestinian death toll in Gaza to above 800 Friday, as the U.S. and U.N. pressed Israel and Hamas to agree a humanitarian ceasefire and thrash out a durable truce. In the West Bank, demonstrations began as Palestinian factions declared a “Day of Rage” after a night of clashes over Israel’s Gaza offensive that left one Palestinian dead. Among the dead in Gaza on Friday were two women killed in an air strike, one of them pregnant, adding to a spiraling toll of Palestinian civilian casualties from Israel’s military operation to halt militant rocket fire. As the fighting continued on day 18 of the conflict, the Israeli army announced the death of a 36-year-old reserve soldier, bringing the toll of soldiers and officers killed in Gaza since July 8 to 33. Hamas meanwhile announced it had fired three rockets at Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion airport, with an army spokeswoman confirming that “two rockets were shot down over metropolitan Tel Aviv.” The claim raised new fears after many U.S. and European carriers resumed flights to the airport after a two-day suspension following rocket fire near the facility. The army said militants fired 25 rockets which hit southern Israel early Friday with another 10 intercepted, bringing the number of rockets and mortar rounds from Gaza that hit Israel since July 8 to 1,870, with another 473 intercepted by the Iron Dome defense system. The rockets have killed two Israeli civilians and a Thai worker. Ceasefire Efforts Ramped Up

International pressure on both sides to cease fire ramped up Friday after the alleged Israeli shelling of a U.N. facility sheltering displaced Gazans killed at least 15 civilians, drawing widespread international condemnation. Israel’s security cabinet was to meet Friday to discuss a truce proposal passed to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, Israeli media reported.