Gaza death toll tops 500 as US steps up ceasefire efforts

2014-07-21 21:04

Gaza - The Palestinian death toll in an Israeli offensive in the Gaza Strip has jumped to more than 500 as the United States took a direct role in efforts to secure a ceasefire.

Despite growing calls for a halt to two weeks of fighting, violence raged on, with Israel pounding the densely-populated coastal strip, killing 28 members of a single family in one strike and four people in an attack on a hospital, medics said.

Israel's losses also mounted. Following the death of 13 soldiers yesterday, Israel said seven more troops had died today, including four killed when a group of militants tunneled across the border from Gaza and fired at their vehicle.

Israeli aircraft hit back swiftly, killing 10 of the infiltrators from the Islamist group Hamas, the army said.

A day after he was caught by an open microphone saying sarcastically that the Israeli assault was “a hell of a pinpoint operation”, US Secretary of State John Kerry flew to Cairo to try to secure an end to hostilities.

Speaking in Washington, President Barack Obama said he was increasingly worried by the conflict.

“We have serious concerns about the rising number of Palestinian civilian deaths and the loss of Israeli lives, and that is why it now has to be our focus and the focus of the international community to bring about a ceasefire,” he told reporters at the White House.

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