Eight Palestinians, including a toddler, were killed as Israel pounded the Gaza Strip yesterday spearheading a fresh incursion, one day after President Mahmoud Abbas demanded a ceasefire.
More than 120 Palestinians have been killed in Israeli operations in Gaza -- increasingly sidelined as the world focuses on a deadlier conflict in Lebanon -- waged with the goals of recovering a captured soldier and stopping rocket fire.
On the morning that world diplomats gathered in Rome to discuss forging a ceasefire between Israel and the Shiite militant group Hezbollah, eight Palestinians were killed in Israeli attacks in Gaza City, medics said.
Six of the dead were militants, including four from the armed wing of the governing Hamas movement, one of the three hardline groups to claim responsibility for the June 25 raid in which Corporal Gilad Shalit was seized.
Israeli troops and Palestinian gunmen clashed east of Gaza City after forces mounted a new incursion in the nearly five-week offensive that has seen soldiers back in Gaza less than 10 months after ending a 38-year presence.
A three-year-old girl and a male resident were killed in an air strike targeting a group of armed people, Palestinian sources said.
At least 36 people, including two journalists and six people in a critical condition, were wounded yesterday by Israeli fire, medics said.
Air strikes struck a Gaza City building used by a controversial paramilitary force set up by the Hamas-led government, and a house in the Gaza-Egypt border town of Rafah, which had already been hit on Tuesday.
With Israel ignoring repeated international calls for restraint, a military spokesman confirmed that two air strikes targeted a "cell of anti-tank missile launchers" and "armed gunmen," along with a fresh ground incursion.
"This is part of the general operation with the same goals of dismantling Palestinian terror infrastructure, allowing the return of Corporal Gilad Shalit and stopping the launching of rockets at Israel," a spokesman said.
Hamas' Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades military wing claimed two rocket attacks on Israel and said it had also fired rocket-propelled grenades at Israeli tanks.
The military reported no casualties and said three rockets landed in Israel.