23 more killed in Israeli offensive, Gaza toll 650
Israel's large-scale offensive continues to wreak havoc on the Gaza Strip, killing 23 Palestinians and wounding around 230 others Wednesday and pushing the toll in the coastal enclave to over 650.
Ashraf al-Qedra, spokesman of the health ministry in Gaza, told reporters that 23 Palestinians were killed, 17 of whom were from the town of Khuza'a in the southeastern city of Khan Younis, Xinhua reported.
Residents and security officials said that Israeli army tanks, stationed east of the small town that is close to the border separating Gaza from Israel, carried out massive attacks on the houses there.
The residents said they appealed to international and local rescue teams to aid them, adding that ambulances were still unable to reach the area to carry out the dead or help the wounded due to the intense tank shelling.
Israeli war jets and tanks rammed missiles and fired shells on various areas throughout the Gaza Strip, while gun battles erupted between Israeli ground forces and Gaza militants in eastern and northern areas.
Meanwhile, the health ministry in Gaza said in a press statement that the death toll since the beginning of the Israeli operation on the Gaza Strip topped 650 Palestinians while 4,300 others were wounded, adding that most are civilians.
Israeli officials said their air strikes were "surgical" and targetted only militants from Hamas, the Islamic movement ruling the Gaza Strip, but earlier reports by the UN estimated that around 80 percent of Gaza's casualties were civilians.
The toll includes children, women, the elderly and the disabled.
A total of 28 Israeli soldiers and two civilians were killed since the Jewish state started its ground invasion in Gaza July 8, according to the Israel Defence Forces.
Both the US Secretary of State John Kerry and UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon are in the region to promote a ceasefire agreement.
(Posted on 23-07-2014)