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Death toll soars to over 1,200 amid talk of truce

July 29, 2014 9:59 P.M. (Updated: July 30, 2014 8:55 P.M.)
GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- Over 120 Palestinians were killed by Israeli strikes on Tuesday as leaders on both sides debated a proposed humanitarian ceasefire.

In the latest attack, at least 13 Palestinians were killed in an Israeli shelling on Jabaliya in the northern Gaza Strip.

Additionally, the bodies of four Palestinians were recovered from rubble from earlier attacks on Rafah, health ministry spokesman Ashraf al-Qidra said.

A top PLO official, meanwhile, said that Palestinian factions in Gaza had agreed to a day-long humanitarian truce.

Yasser Abed Rabbo announced that after consultations with Hamas and Islamic Jihad there was "willingness for a ceasefire and humanitarian truce for 24 hours."

A joint delegation headed by Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas would travel to Cairo to take the next step, he added.

"This is more proof that we have a unified Palestinian stand," Abed Rabbo told reporters. "The delegation will head to Cairo under the PLO umbrella represented by President Mahmoud Abbas."

A Hamas spokesman quickly denied Hamas had agreed to the proposal.

"When we have an Israeli commitment ... on a humanitarian truce, we will look into it but we will never declare a truce from our side while the occupation keeps killing our children," Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zukhri said on his Facebook page.

Abed Rabbo later insisted that Hamas was open to the idea, saying that the announcement had been made with Hamas chief Khaled Meshaal's approval.

Israeli media quoted officials as saying there was agreement among officials, but later the Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported that two officials had denied a ceasefire had been agreed upon.

The Israeli government remained silent on the subject while continuing its bombardment.

US Secretary of State John Kerry said that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had asked for fresh help from America in trying to broker a ceasefire.

"Last night we talked, and the prime minister talked to me about an idea and a possibility of a ceasefire. He raised it with me, as he has consistently," said Kerry.

The top US diplomat added that Netanyahu had said he "would embrace a ceasefire that permits Israel to protect itself against (Palestinian militants') tunnels and obviously not be disadvantaged for the great sacrifice they have made thus far."

There was no Israeli government comment.

A series of ceasefires in recent days have failed to take hold, as both sides appeared more determined than ever to keep up the fighting.

The Israeli offensive, which began on July 8, has killed more than 1,210 Palestinians, mostly civilians according to the United Nations, and injured over 7,000.

Fifty-six lives have been lost on the Israeli side, all but three of them soldiers.

Demands for end to hostilities

The World Health Organization now estimates that more than 215,000 people, or one out of eight Gazans, have fled their homes in the overcrowded territory.

Many have headed for already-cramped UN schools in the north, where children ran barefoot around a dirty school yard alongside stinking piles of rubbish.

The surge in violence drew increasingly urgent international demands for an end to hostilities.

"In the name of humanity, the violence must stop," UN chief Ban Ki-moon said on Monday.

But the calls went unheeded, with Netanyahu warning it would be "a lengthy campaign" that would go on until troops destroyed cross-border tunnels used for staging attacks on Israel.

"Israeli citizens cannot live with the threat from rockets and from death tunnels -- death from above and from below," he said.

Two Israeli civilians have been killed by Gaza rocket fire, one of whom was hit while volunteering at an Israeli military base.

But the vast majority of Israeli deaths have been among soldiers, with Gaza militants killing at least 53 since the beginning of Israel's ground offensive on July 17.

AFP contributed to this report
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