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Palestinian Death Toll More than 870

  • VOA News

Israeli troops pushed further into populated areas of the Gaza Strip and bombed targets near the Egyptian border on Sunday.

Medical officials in Gaza say at least 870 Palestinians have been killed in the 16-day Israeli offensive, which Israel says is to stop Hamas militants from firing missiles into southern Israel. The Palestinian rocket attacks continued on Sunday. Shrapnel apparently from an Israeli air strike wounded two Egyptian police officers and two young children near the Rafah border crossing with Egypt Sunday.

Medical officials estimate that about half of the Palestinian casualties are civilians. Israel has kept foreign reporters from entering Gaza, and casualty figures are hard to confirm.

Ten Israeli soldiers have been killed in the fighting. Three Israeli civilians have died in rocket fire. Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said in his weekly Cabinet meeting Sunday that the military will continue the offensive against Hamas until rocket attacks on southern Israel stop.

Both Israel and Hamas have refused calls from the United Nations Security Council and others for a cease-fire. Some Israeli strikes have targeted smuggling tunnels near the Rafah border crossing with Egypt. Hamas militants, as well as residents of Gaza, use those networks of tunnels to smuggle supplies.

On Saturday, Israel's military issued a warning to residents of the Gaza Strip that it intends to intensify its offensive against Palestinian militants. Aircraft dropped leaflets warning that the Israeli army will continue attacking tunnels, weapons caches and terrorists with increasing force throughout the Gaza Strip. An Israeli military spokesman said army reservists, held back until now, are being deployed to Gaza. Exiled Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal, speaking in Damascus Saturday, said the Israeli offensive in Gaza has eliminated the possibility of lasting peace between Israel and the Arab world.

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