Sunday, 20 July 2014

Gaza: thousands flee homes amid fiercest fighting of 13-day war


The fiercest fighting of the 13-day war in Gaza has erupted as Israel dramatically widened its ground offensive, sending tanks and troops into urban areas and causing thousands of civilians to flee.

Images of the corpses of women and children were posted on Facebook as hospitals were overwhelmed with the dead, injured and those seeking sanctuary from the onslaught.

People ran from their homes, some barefoot and nearly all empty handed. Others crowded on the backs of trucks or rode on the bonnets of cars in a desperate attempt to flee. Some described the bombardment of the Shujai'iya neighbourhood as a massacre.

The Israeli military also suffered casualties, with at least 26 wounded soldiers evacuated to hospitals. There were unconfirmed reports that a number of Israeli soldiers were killed in a cross-border attack by Hamas militants on Sunday morning.

Witnesses reported hearing small arms fire inside Gaza, indicating gun battles on the streets. Heavy shelling continued from the air and sea.

Israel sent more troops into Gaza overnight after demolishing more than a dozen Hamas tunnels and intensifying tank fire on border areas.

Late on Saturday evening, Israeli forces hit eastern areas of Gaza City with the heaviest bombardment yet of the 13-day war. The assault was most intense in the direction of the Shujai'iya neighbourhood, where a constant orange glow of flames lit up the sky.

As the assault continued into Sunday morning, Israel disclosed that four of its soldiers had been killed in the ground offensive.

At one stage, artillery and mortar rounds were hitting the outskirts of the city every five seconds. Later in the night, jets flew low passes over the coast. more

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