At least 24 Palestinians killed as Israeli airstrikes pound Gaza for second day
At least 24 Palestinians have been killed and more than 200 injured after Israeli airstrikes in Gaza for the second day in a row.
Six people, including four children, were killed on Saturday after an explosion in the narrow Gaza Strip.
Palestinian militant group Hamas said the children were killed in an Israeli bombing near the Jabaliya refugee camp.
However, the Israeli military has denied responsibility, claiming that a failed Islamic Jihad rocket launch caused the explosion.
The latest bloodshed began on Friday as Israel targeted a senior commander of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad.
Its airstrikes continued overnight and killed several civilians, including a five-year-old girl who died with her cousin.
At least 24 Palestinians were killed and 203 injured, including six children, in two days of shooting, according to the Gaza Health Ministry.
Palestinian militants reportedly fired back with more than 400 rockets, but Israel said most of them were intercepted.
While some rockets were fired into Tel Aviv, the Israeli ambulance service confirmed there were no reports of serious injuries.
Israel insists it is attacking weapons depots hidden in residential areas, destroying houses as a result. Its military said it arrested 19 more members of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad on Saturday.
Egypt said intensive talks were underway to calm the situation. Further escalation depends largely on whether Hamas will choose to join the fight with the smaller Islamic Jihad group.
An Egyptian intelligence delegation, led by Major General Ahmed Abdul-Khalik, arrived in Israel on Saturday and will travel to Gaza for mediation talks, two Egyptian security sources said. They want to secure a one-day ceasefire to negotiate, the sources added.
An Islamic Jihad official said: “Intensive efforts have been made tonight and the movement has listened to the mediator, but these efforts have not yet reached an agreement.”
Israel halted plans to deliver fuel to Gaza shortly before Friday’s attack, crippling the region’s only power plant, cutting electricity use by about eight hours a day and prompting warnings from health officials that hospitals would be severely affected within days.
The border has been quiet since last May, when 11 days of heavy fighting between Israel and militants killed at least 250 people in the Gaza Strip and 13 in Israel.
The UN and EU Middle East envoys have expressed concern over the violence, and the West-backed Palestinian Authority has condemned the Israeli attack.
The United States, meanwhile, expressed support for Israel’s right to self-defense, but urged all parties to avoid further escalation.
About 2.3 million Palestinians are crammed into the narrow coastal Gaza Strip, and Israel and Egypt have imposed strict restrictions on the movement of people and goods into and out of the enclave and imposed a maritime blockade, citing security concerns.