[WARNING: This post includes graphic photos.]
Israel stepped up its air and ground offensive on the Gaza Strip on Sunday, resulting in the deadliest day since the assault began on July 8. A total of 87 Palestinians were reported dead, with the toll expected to rise. Thirteen Israeli soldiers were also killed Sunday while fighting inside Gaza.
A vast majority of the Palestinian deaths were in Shujaiyeh, a neighborhood in the east of Gaza City. Israeli artillery and air strikes pounded the neighborhood throughout the night and into Sunday, turning it into a scene of utter devastation, with entire buildings flattened and bodies strewn in the streets.
Palestinian health officials said that at least 66 Palestinians were killed in Shujaiyeh, bringing the Palestinian death toll in the current round of fighting – billed by Israel “Operation Protective Edge” – to roughly 425, most of them civilians. A total of 18 Israeli soldiers have been killed, along with two Israeli civilians.
Among those killed in Shujaiyeh were at least 17 children, 14 women, and four elderly people. Those numbers could rise, as rescue teams could not safely complete the task of evacuating the dead and wounded.
Thousands of Shujaiyeh residents fled the area throughout Sunday. UNRWA reported Sunday evening that more than 80,000 Gazans had sought refugee in temporary shelters operated by the United Nations agency.
The International Committee of the Red Cross negotiated a two-hour humanitarian ceasefire – applicable only to Shujaiyeh – to allow for the retrieval of the dead and the evacuation of the wounded and those trapped in the neighborhood. Shelling, however, continued during the lull, as Israel claimed its forces were shot at.
Israel initially said that its ground incursion, now on its fourth day, would be limited in nature, intended to destroy Hamas-built tunnels leading into Israel. However, Israeli forces have since penetrated deep into urban areas. A military official told Buzzfeed on Sunday that Israel was broadening the offensive “far beyond its original parameters” and that it could continue for “several weeks.”