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4 killed in airstrikes across Gaza as death toll surpasses 2,100

Aug. 23, 2014 2:15 A.M. (Updated: Aug. 24, 2014 3:49 A.M.)
GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- Four Palestinians were killed on Saturday afternoon and dozens injured as Israel's bombardment of the Gaza Strip continued into its 47th day, as fears grew that Israel was planning to intensify its assault a day after a child was killed in mortar fire in southern Israel.

The deaths in Israeli airstrikes brought the total number of deaths in Gaza on Saturday to 12, including five members of one family, and the total death toll since the beginning of Israel's Operation Protective Edge to 2,105.

Spokesman for the Palestinian Ministry of Health Ashraf al-Qidra said that a 10-year-old Palestinian named Hussein Ahmad and his mother Nisreen Ahmad were killed and two others injured in an airstrike that hit a house in Deir al-Balah in central Gaza Strip.

The body of Suheir Abu Mdein was also recovered from under rubble in Deir al-Balah.

Witnesses told Ma'an that an airstrike hit the house of Abu Anwar Saliha near Yaffa mosque.

Earlier, 64-year-old Muhammad Sabir al-Ijlah was killed in an Israeli airstrike on Juhr al-Dik in the northeastern Gaza Strip that also injured seven others.

Additionally, medical sources said a man was killed and several others were injured by Israeli airstrikes in al-Jneina neighborhood in Rafah in the south. Another unidentified man was killed in the central Gaza Strip in an air strike, while Salah Isleim succumbed to wounds he sustained three weeks ago in Khan Younis.

The deaths on Saturday began with the killing of five Palestinians including three children in an airstrike on the home of the Abu Dahrouj family in the al-Zawayda neighborhood of the central Gaza Strip.

Al-Qidra named the victims as 4-year-old Abdullah Hayil Abu Dahdouh, 49-year-old Hayat Abed Rabbo Abu Dahdouh, 27-year-old Huda Muhammad Abu Dahdouh, 26-year-old Hayil Shihdeh Abu Dahdouh and 3-year-old Hadi Hayil Abu Dahdouh.

Israel has killed more than 80 Palestinians since it resumed its assault on Gaza on Tuesday as a temporary ceasefire fell apart amid an impasse in indirect negotiations in Cairo.

Palestinians have offered multiple long-term truce offers that include lifting the eight-year long siege of Gaza that has crippled the tiny coastal enclave's economy, but they accuse Israel of stalling and refusing to offer any concessions.

Israel, meanwhile, has insisted that Palestinians in Gaza disarm, a demand Palestinian militant groups that last month repelled a massive Israeli ground assault have say are unwilling to consider.

Fears of renewed ground invasion

On Saturday, hundreds of Gaza residents received voice and text messages from the Israeli military demanding that they stay away from areas where "terrorist activities" are taking place, raising fears of an even more intense Israeli assault.

"Hamas leadership has decided to drag you to another battle. Prevent terrorists from utilizing your property for terror agendas, and stay away from every site in which terrorist organizations are operating," a recorded message received by Gaza mobile users said.

Others received text messages with similar messages threatening to target any house in which "militant activity" was carried out, while leaflets were dropped from Israeli planes with similar messages.

The Israeli military sent similar messages during the ground invasion in mid-July into northern and eastern Gaza Strip, where at its height Israeli forces killed more than a hundred Palestinians every day through shelling from land, air, and sea.

Israeli security and political sources lent credence to fears on Saturday, and Hebrew language news site Walla News said that the Israeli military echelon had decided to hit far-reaching areas after Palestinians intensified their shelling and rocket fire into Israel on Friday, killing one and injuring five.

A Walla report on Saturday quoted Israeli security officials as saying that more buildings and facilities surrounding launching pads will be hit from now on, expanding the range of destruction from merely the site of the launch itself.

The source added that the Israeli army could soon approve a decision to launch a major ground incursion into the Gaza Strip. "The Israeli public showed a high level of steadfastness which surprised Hamas," the security source added, according to Walla report.

Egypt to invite both sides to return

Amid the growing fears, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas announced on Saturday that Egypt is planning to invite Israeli and Palestinian delegations to return to Cairo to resume talks on a long-term truce for Gaza.

"Egypt is going to invite delegates to return to the negotiating table to consider a long-term truce," Abbas said after talks with his Egyptian counterpart Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.

"What interests us now is putting a stop to the bloodshed," Abbas said.

"As soon as a ceasefire goes into effect, the two sides can sit down and discuss their demands."

Abbas's meeting with Sisi came after he held two rounds of talks in Qatar on Thursday and Friday with exiled Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal, whose movement is the de facto ruler of Gaza.

AFP contributed to this report.
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