At least 10 people were killed Sunday in a strike on a UN school in southern Gaza which was sheltering Palestinians displaced by a brutal Israeli military offensive, medics said.
Renewed Israeli shelling killed more than 30 people in Gaza on Sunday after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed to keep up pressure on Hamas even after the army destroys Gaza’s tunnel network.
Gaza emergency services spokesman Ashraf al-Qudra said dozens of people were wounded in the attack which took place in the southern city of Rafah, which straddles the border with Egypt.
Chris Gunness, spokesman for the UN agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA), said the school had been housing thousands of internally displaced people (IDPs) who had been forced to flee their homes by the ongoing violence in Gaza.
"Shelling incident in vicinity of UNRWA school in Rafah sheltering almost 3,000 IDP. Initial reports say multiple deaths and injury," he wrote on his Twitter feed.
An AFP correspondent said there were scenes of chaos at the site, with rescuers trying to evacuate the wounded any way they could, while adults were seen sprinting frantically away through pools of blood, young children clutched in their arms.
It was the third time in 10 days that a UN school had been hit and came four days after Israeli tank shells slammed into a school in the northern town of Jabalia, killing 16 in an attack furiously denounced by UN chief Ban Ki-moon as "reprehensible."
Israeli shelling on Sunday pushed the Gaza death toll given by Palestinian officials to more than 1,766, the vast majority of them civilians and at least 398 of them children. At least 9,320 Palestinians have been wounded by Israeli forces.
Israel has confirmed that 64 soldiers have died in combat, while Palestinian shelling has also killed two Israeli civilians and one Thai laborer.
Israel redeploying troops in Gaza
An Israeli army spokesman said the Zionist regime was redeploying troops across the Gaza Strip.
"We are removing some (forces), we are changing from within," Lieutenant Colonel Peter Lerner told AFP on Sunday, describing it as "an ongoing mission."
"But indeed we will continue to operate ... (and) have a rapid reaction force on the ground that can engage Hamas if required," he added.
"It's changing gear but it's still ongoing."
His remarks came a day after the Israeli army gave a first indication it was ending operations in parts of Gaza, informing residents of Beit Lahia and al-Atatra in the north that it was "safe" to return home.
Witnesses in the north confirmed seeing troops leaving the area as others were seen pulling out of villages east of Khan Younis in the south.
In Cairo, a Palestinian delegation arrived for new truce talks. After accusing Hamas of breaching a U.S.- and UN-brokered ceasefire on Friday, Israel said it would not send envoys as scheduled.
Exiled Hamas chief Khaled Meshaal insisted that the Palestinian side had not broken a short-lived ceasefire on Friday, putting the spotlight on Israel.
"A truce is a truce. but the presence of the Israeli forces inside Gaza and destroying the tunnels means it is an aggression," he told CNN in an interview late Saturday.
A spokesman for the Islamist movement mocked Netanyahu's statements as "confused", and as testimony of the "real crisis" he was facing.
"We will continue our resistance till we achieve our goals," Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhum said.
The talks in Cairo, without Israeli participation, were unlikely to produce any breakthrough, as Israel and Hamas' positions remain far apart.
Israeli soldier thought captured in Gaza declared dead
The Israeli military said one of its soldiers previously believed to have been captured by members of Hamas in Gaza has been killed during clashes in the coastal sliver.
The Israeli army announced early on Sunday that 23-year-old Second Lieutenant Hadar Goldin of the Givati infantry brigade was killed in battle on Friday.
The Israeli Minister of Military Affairs Moshe Ya'alon personally delivered the news to Goldin’s family at their home in the town of Kfar Saba. Ya'alon said evidence on the ground shows Goldin was killed during an Israeli operation in Gaza.
Tel Aviv earlier accused Hamas of capturing the officer and intensified its attacks on the besieged strip. The Palestinian resistance movement had, however, denied information on Goldin’s whereabouts or the circumstances surrounding his disappearance.
5,510 homes destroyed in Gaza
Meanwhile, a Palestinian cabinet minister said Saturday that the ongoing Israeli onslaught against Gaza has completely destroyed 5,510 homes in the embattled coastal enclave.
"Some 5,510 housing units have been destroyed and nearly 30,920 others partially damaged by Israel's military operation in Gaza," Minister of Public Works and Housing Mufeed al-Hassayna told Anadolu Agency.
The tally is preliminary as some of the enclave's areas are still inaccessible to the ministry's teams due to the intensity of the Israeli shelling, he added.
The Israeli offensive - codenamed "Operation Protective Edge," is the self-proclaimed Zionist state's third major offensive against the densely-populate Gaza Strip - which is home to some 1.8 million Palestinians - within the last six years.
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