At least 67 Palestinians have been killed and 110 injured in Israeli attacks since midnight Wednesday on the 23rd day of the Gaza offensive, according to the Ministry of Health.
In the most devastating attack, at least 16 people were killed when an Israeli artillery shell hit a UN school in the northern Gaza Strip.
The shell struck Abu Hussein school in Jabaliya refugee camp, which was sheltering hundreds of newly-displaced Palestinians.
In another attack later Wednesday morning, four Palestinian children and three others, all from the Khalili family, were killed in an Israeli shelling on the al-Tuffah neighborhood of Gaza City.
The Israeli army said in a statement around 8:00 a.m. that it had targeted “75 terror sites in the Gaza Strip” overnight.
The latest killings brought the number of dead since the start of Israel’s assault on Gaza to more than 1,296, according to health ministry spokesman Ashraf al-Qidra.
UN figures indicate at least three quarters of the dead were civilians.
The more than 240 Palestinian children who have died represent at least 29 percent of civilian casualties, the United Nations Children’s Fund, UNICEF, said in a statement, adding that another six children in Israel had been wounded from Gaza rocket fire.
So far, UN figures show more than 215,000 people have fled their homes in a territory which is home to 1.7 million Palestinians, leaving one in eight people homeless.
Many have taken shelter at schools run by UNRWA, a number of which have been hit by shells in the past week.
Palestinian factions were reportedly heading to Cairo on Wednesday to discuss a temporary humanitarian ceasefire.
However there was no immediate comment from Hamas as to whether that trip would go ahead.
The PLO said it had garnered the Islamist movement’s support for a 24-hour truce, but did not say when it was expected to start.
President Mahmoud Abbas had been in touch with exiled Hamas chief Khaled Meshaal on Monday and Tuesday and had “proposed the 24 hour truce,” senior Palestinian official Nabil Shaath told AFP on Tuesday.
“Meshaal and Hamas agreed.”
But Hamas said it had not so far agreed to any new truce and was waiting for Israel to show its hand first.
“When we have an Israeli commitment … on a humanitarian truce, we will look into it but we will never declare a truce from our side while the occupation keeps killing our children,” spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said.
Palestinian factions in Gaza have repeatedly insisted they would not except any long-term ceasefire that did not stipulate the lifting of the siege on Gaza.
Meanwhile, US Secretary of State John Kerry said that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had asked for fresh help from Washington in trying to broker a ceasefire.
“Last night we talked, and the prime minister talked to me about an idea and a possibility of a ceasefire,” Kerry said on Tuesday.
Netanyahu had said he “would embrace a ceasefire that permits Israel to protect itself against the tunnels and obviously not be disadvantaged for the great sacrifice they have made thus far.”
Al-Qidra provided a continuous account of the deaths and injuries across the Gaza Strip Wednesday.
He identified some of those killed in the shelling on the UN school as Issam Jaber al-Khatib, Said Abu Jalala, Taysir Hammad, Luay al-Feiri, Bassem Khalid al-Najjar, Thair Khalid al-Najjar, Usama Muhammad Suhweil, Bilal Midhat al-Amudi, Muhammad Moussa Ghabn, Adel Muhammad Abu Qamar, Abdullah Midhat al-Amudi, Ramadan Khader Salman, Alaa Khader Salman, Ali Ahmad Shahin, and Rami Barakat.
The bodies were taken to Kamal Adwan hospital in Jabaliya and al-Shifa hospital in Gaza City.
Four more Palestinians were killed and 40 were injured in a later Israeli attack on Jabaliya.
In the latest attacks on the Strip, six people were killed as Israeli shelling targeted the Maan area in Khan Younis.
The dead were identified as Maryam Ahmad Hijazi, Ibrahim Mustafa al-Ghalban, Ismail Mahmoud al-Ghalban, Salah Hijazi, and Subhiyeh Ibrahim Hijazi.
Additionally, Ramadan Abu Jazar was killed in an Israeli attack in eastern Rafah
Earlier, a man in al-Zwaida in central Gaza was killed in an Israeli attack, while at around the same time a woman was killed in Deir al-Balah.
Another seven Palestinians were killed when Israeli shelling targeted the Abu Amer family home in Khan Younis.
They were identified as Ahmad Suleiman Abu Amer, his wife Muna Hajjad Abu Amer, and their children, Marwa, Marah, Suleiman, and Yasser.
Mona Hajaj Abu Amer was also killed in the shelling.
Additionally, 10 members of a single family were killed as Israeli forces shelled a building housing several members of the al-Astal family in Khan Younis.
They were identified as Ali Mahmoud al-Astal, 23, Khalid Salim al-Astal, 26, Muhammad Salim al-Astal, 26, Ramzi Ibrahim al-Astal, 21, Odeh Ali al-Astal, 25, Ahmad Muhammad Suleiman al-Astal, 26, Ahmad Ibrahim Ali al-Astal, Khalil Ibrahim Ali al-Astal, Izz al-Din Jaber Muhammad al-Astal, and Muhammad Mahmoud Muhammad al-Astal.
Some 25 other Palestinians were injured in the attack.
A Palestinian was killed in Israeli shelling targeting al-Nasser neighborhood in eastern Rafah.
Another unidentified Palestinian was also killed in Rafah.
Walid Shihda Marzouq Muammar, 51, was killed in an Israeli shelling targeting eastern Rafah.
Additionally, Sujud Abdulhakim Elayyan, 11, was killed in an Israeli shelling targeting Jaffa Street. Elayyan was physically disabled and used a wheelchair.
Another 19 Palestinians were killed in various Israeli airstrikes across the Gaza Strip.
(Ma’an and agencies – www.maannews.net)