News / Middle East

UN Security Council to Hold Emergency Session on Gaza

Palestinians, one holding a white flag, flee Gaza City's Shijaiyah neighborhood, northern Gaza Strip, July 20, 2014.
Palestinians, one holding a white flag, flee Gaza City's Shijaiyah neighborhood, northern Gaza Strip, July 20, 2014.
VOA News

The United Nations Security Council is set to meet late Sunday for an emergency session on the crisis in the Gaza Strip, as Israel presses its air and ground offensive against Hamas.

Jordan requested the meeting after an estimated 100 Palestinians and 13 Israeli soldiers were reported killed Sunday - most of them in the Shijaiyah area of the battered enclave.

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon - in the Middle East trying to broker a cease-fire - condemned Sunday's bloodshed and called for an immediate end to the fighting.

Israeli soldiers and a relative of Israeli soldier Bnaya Rubel mourn during Rubel's funeral in Holon, near Tel Aviv, July 20, 2014.Israeli soldiers and a relative of Israeli soldier Bnaya Rubel mourn during Rubel's funeral in Holon, near Tel Aviv, July 20, 2014.
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Israeli soldiers and a relative of Israeli soldier Bnaya Rubel mourn during Rubel's funeral in Holon, near Tel Aviv, July 20, 2014.
Israeli soldiers and a relative of Israeli soldier Bnaya Rubel mourn during Rubel's funeral in Holon, near Tel Aviv, July 20, 2014.

Thousands of Palestinians on Sunday fled Shijaiyah, where the streets were strewn with casualties and rubble.

Palestinian health officials say the death toll from nearly two weeks of Israeli bombardments of Gaza has surpassed 400, mostly civilians.

Late Sunday, a Hamas spokesman said militants had captured an Israeli soldier in Gaza. No details were released.

Israel's U.N. Ambassador Ron Prosor said late Sunday there was no kidnapped Israeli soldier, dismissing a televised announcement in the Gaza Strip from Hamas's armed wing that it had captured an Israeli soldier during the fighting in Shejaia.

“There's no kidnapped Israeli soldier and those rumors are untrue,” Prosor told reporters at the United Nations.  

The Israeli army said 13 of its soldiers were killed Sunday, bringing Israel's death toll to 18 soldiers and two civilians. 

Israeli authorities say the offensive is aimed at destroying missile stockpiles and a system of tunnels Hamas has built to infiltrate Israel.

Gaza residents told VOA they experienced the heaviest period of military action overnight since the latest conflict began July 8.

Both sides agreed Sunday to a two-hour humanitarian truce for the hard-hit Shijaiyah neighborhood, at the request of the International Committee of the Red Cross. But the pause lasted only 40 minutes.

Israel began a ground offensive into Gaza late Thursday after airstrikes failed to stop Hamas' cross-border rocket attacks.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told CNN on Sunday that Israel will take whatever action is necessary to halt rocket attacks from Gaza.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, during a series of interviews Sunday, blamed Hamas for the continuation of the conflict and said Israel has a right to defend itself.

Kerry heads to Cairo Monday for a series of emergency talks with senior Egyptians and other officials on the crisis.

In Cairo, Arab League Secretary-General Nabil el-Araby issued a statement describing the Israeli shelling and ground attacks in the Shijaiyah neighborhood as "a war crime against Palestinian civilians and a dangerous escalation."

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