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70 bodies found in Rafah as death toll hits 1,810

Aug. 3, 2014 6:36 P.M. (Updated: Aug. 5, 2014 8:11 P.M.)
GAZA CITY -- The death toll on the 27th day of Israel's offensive on Gaza hit at least 120 on Sunday as health officials reported that over 70 bodies had been recovered in Rafah, a day after the city came under fierce, prolonged bombardment by Israeli forces.

Health ministry spokesman Ashraf al-Qidra told Ma'an that the bodies of 70 Palestinians had been recovered from the city in southern Gaza, while 55 other Palestinians were killed by Israeli attacks across the Strip Sunday.

The continuing attacks brought the total death toll in the assault to 1,810 with nearly 10,000 injured.

Al-Qidra had earlier put the number of dead at 1,830, but later issued a correction on his official Facebook page.

Israel began targeting Rafah with airstrikes and shelling Friday, killing dozens in the city hours before a 72-hour ceasefire was to come into place. When the ceasefire collapsed, Israel continued its bombardment on Rafah throughout Friday and into Saturday, killing more than hundred Palestinians.

Meanwhile, Israeli shelling and airstrikes did not let up on Sunday even as ground forces withdrew from major cities in Gaza.

An afternoon strike on the al-Majdalawi family home in Beir al-Naaja in northern Gaza left four dead, two of whom were identified as Mahmoud and Rawan al-Majdalawi.

Additionally, Mohammad Shaldan was killed and two others injured in an airstrike on the al-Zaytoun neighborhood of Gaza City. In another attack, a Palestinian was killed in a strike on a car in the Janeina neighborhood of Rafah, which has been hit heavily in the Israeli assault.

The attacks come after Israeli forces shelled a UNRWA school where thousands were taking refuge earlier in the day, killing at least ten. UN chief Ban Ki-Moon condemned the attack as "a moral outrage and a criminal attack."

Al-Qidra identified the victims as Muhammad Abu Rajal, Sami Abdullah Qashta, Sami Ismail Abu Shalouf, Ahmad Khaled Abu Harba, Muhammad Musaid Qashta, Hazem Abd al-Basit Halal, Omar Tariq Abu al-Roos, Ahmad Kamal al-Nahal, Yousef Akram Sakafi, and Tariq Said Abu al-Roos.

Ongoing arrest campaign

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Prisoner's Affairs said on Sunday that the number of Palestinians held in Israeli jails had risen dramatically throughout the assault on Gaza and the month leading up to it.

Abd al-Nasser Farwana, director of the ministry's statistics bureau, said in a statement Sunday that more than 1,500 Palestinians had been arrested by Israeli forces since June across the Palestinian territories.

Many more than 200 have been arrested in Gaza, although not all of them were still being held. Not all of the arrests have yet been accounted for, Farwana added.

An Israeli army spokeswomen did not have information about the number of Palestinians arrested in Gaza throughout the offensive. She said Palestinians had been "taken to facilities for questioning," but refused to say whether they had been imprisoned or released.

The arrests bring the number of Palestinians in Israeli jails up to around 6,500, among whom are 250 children, 37 members of parliament, and 75 prisoners who were freed in the 2011 Shalit deal but rearrested, many of them in June.

Israeli forces arrested hundreds of Palestinians in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, throughout its search for three youths who were kidnapped and killed in June.

The stated goal of the campaign was to "crush Hamas," and militant factions in Gaza heavily increased rocket fire on Israel as Hamas members were arrested and airstrikes on the Strip became a regular occurrence. Then, on July 7, Israel began its military offensive on Gaza.

Situation 'intolerable'

British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond on Sunday demanded an unconditional ceasefire to resolve the "intolerable" situation in Gaza, adding that the British public was "deeply disturbed" by what it was seeing.

Hammond, who took over from William Hague last month, told the Sunday Telegraph that the killing had to stop, having already said he was "gravely concerned" by the number of civilian casualties from Israel's military operation in Gaza.

"The British public has a strong sense that the situation of the civilian population in Gaza is intolerable and must be addressed -- and we agree with them," he told the newspaper.

"It's a broad swathe of British public opinion that feels deeply disturbed by what it is seeing on its television screens," he added.

The former defense minister acknowledged the concerns of both Hamas and Israel, but insisted that they could not be allowed to stand in the way of a humanitarian ceasefire.

"We have to get the killing to stop," he told the paper.

AFP contributed to this report
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