The violence cut short a truce to mark the end of Ramadan which failed to last 24 hours
The violence cut short a truce to mark the end of Ramadan which failed to last 24 hours

10 Palestinians killed as playground destroyed

TWO airstrikes which hit the compound of Gaza City's main hospital and a nearby park killed eight children, two adults, and wounded 46 on Monday - hours after Israel and Hamas had declared a truce.

The park in the Shati refugee camp was hit minutes after an airstrike on the outpatients unit at the Shifa Hospital on the edge of the city.

Ayman Sahabani, the head of the emergency room at Shifa Hospital, claimed that children were playing on a swing in the park when they were killed.

Nine of the 10 killed were children under the age of 12, and 46 were injured. Camera crews were prevented from filming the area of impact at Shifa, according to reporters on the scene.

In Israel, meanwhile, the military said a mortar attack on southern Israel caused "deaths and injuries," but did not disclose further details. Israeli media reported that the attack killed at least four people, which saw military helicopters rushing stretchers away to local hospitals.

The Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) tweeted that Hamas were to blame for the deaths in Gaza, and accused the group of "hit[ting] their own people" with misfired rockets. But officials from Gaza's police operations room, Civil Defence and Sahabani, said the deaths and injuries were caused by Israeli airstrikes.

Following the tweet, Lt Col Peter Lerner, an Israeli army spokesman reiterated that Israel was not involved. "This incident was carried out by Gaza terrorists whose rockets fell short and hit the Shifa Hospital and the Beach (Shati) camp," he said.

Israeli media reported that the attack killed at least four people, which saw military helicopters rushing stretchers away to local hospitals.

Kim Sengupta, The Independent's Defence and Diplomatic Correspondent currently based in Gaza, tweeted:

The airstrikes came after fighters labelled "terrorists" by the Israeli military used a tunnel to slip into an Israeli village from the Gaza Strip, and fought a gun battle with troops on Monday.

The IDF tweeted: "Terrorists infiltrated Israel from Gaza in order to attack an Israeli community near the border. IDF forces have responded."

Israeli television reported that five Hamas gunmen were killed, while Hamas in turn said its fighters had killed 10 Israeli soldiers. The Israeli military said four more soldiers died in a mortar attack.

After the infiltration at Nahal Oz, a kibbutz collective village east of Gaza City, the Israeli army warned thousands of Palestinians to flee their homes in areas around Gaza City - a type of warning which usually precedes strikes. As the sun set in Gaza, army flares lit up the sky and the sound of intense shelling could be heard.

During a televised speech on Monday, Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told Israelis to be "ready for a prolonged campaign" against Hamas in the Gaza Strip. He added he believed a demilitarisation of Gaza must be part of any future solution in the territory.

Fighting between Israel and Hamas had eased slightly from around 9:30pm on Sunday night, after Hamas requested a 24-hour pause in violence to mark Eid al-Fitr - the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

Speaking to Israel Radio earlier on Monday, the Israeli military's chief spokesperson Brigadier General Motti Almoz said: "The situation is an unlimited truce."

He nonetheless added that "the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) are free to attack after any fire if there is any."

While a small number of rockets continued to fly from Gaza on Monday, and the Israeli army responded with tank and artillery shelling, the truce marked one of the calmest nights in the three-week conflict.

Since fighting began almost exactly two weeks ago, over 1,040 Palestinians, 52 Israeli soldiers and three civilians, including a Thai national.

During an emergency meeting held after midnight in New York (4am GMT), the UN Security Council urged Hamas and Israel to "accept and fully implement a humanitarian ceasefire into the Eid period and beyond". But as it was not a resolution, the truce was therefore not legally binding - a point criticized early Monday by the Palestinians, who said they will keep pressing the UN's most powerful body to adopt a strong resolution.

Palestinian UN Ambassador Riyad Manindeour said: "You cannot keep 1.8 million Palestinian civilians in the Gaza Strip in this huge prison," he told reporters. "That is a recipe for disaster. It is inhumane, and it has to be stopped and it has to be lifted."

Meanwhile, Israel's UN Ambassador Ron Prosor said the council statement didn't mention Hamas or the firing of rockets into Israel or Israel's right to defend itself, and stressed that it had agreed to five cease-fires since the conflict began.

On Monday, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon reinforced the Security Council's call for an immediate and unconditional humanitarian cease-fire, and demanded that Israel and Hamas end the violence "in the name of humanity."

The secretary-general said he had had a lengthy conversation with Netanyahu on Monday morning, when he urged the Israeli leader to accept a cease-fire before addressing the root causes of the conflict. He said he had indirectly contacted Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal through Qatar and Turkey, which have good relations with Hamas,.

During his address, the UN chief accused Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Mashaal of being irresponsible and "morally wrong" for letting their people get killed in the conflict. He urged them to demonstrate "political will" and "compassionate leadership" to end the suffering of war-weary citizens.

He added that "Gaza is in critical condition" following attacks by the Israeli military that had killed helpless civilians and raised "serious questions about proportionality," he told reporters, adding that there must be accountability and justice for actions committed by all sides.

As an occupying power, Israel has "an international legal obligation to protect civilians" he said, as he called on its government to do "vastly more" to ensure the safety of UN sites where more than 173,000 Gazans have sought refuge.

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