December 22, 2014
Gaza fighting enters 13th day; no solution in sight
Israel fired shells into the Gaza Strip and militants kept up rocket fire into the Jewish state on Sunday with no sign of a diplomatic breakthrough to end the worst fighting between Israel and Hamas in two years.
Israeli tank shells killed one Palestinian and hit houses in the northern Gaza district of Shejaia, where residents called local radio stations pleading for evacuation. Shelling killed four Palestinians near the southern town of Rafah, health officials said.
Explosions rocked through Gaza overnight and shells fired by Israeli naval forces lit up the sky. In Israel, sirens sounded in towns near Gaza, warning of approaching rockets.
Israel sent ground forces into Hamas-dominated Gaza on Thursday after 10 days of heavy air and naval barrages failed to stop rocket fire from the Palestinian territory.
Gaza officials said at least 341 Palestinians, many of them civilians, have been killed in the 13-day conflict. On Israel's side, three soldiers and two civilians have died.
The land incursion has so far failed to subdue Hamas and its allies. They fired more than 90 rockets into Israel on Saturday, the Israeli army said. Israel has vowed to destroy a network of tunnels out of Gaza and hunt down the militants' stockpiles of missiles.
Diplomatic efforts to secure a ceasefire involving, among others, Egypt, Qatar, France and the United Nations, have failed to make headway.
Qatar was due to host a meeting between Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Sunday, a senior Qatari source told Reuters. Ban was due during the week to travel to Kuwait, Egypt, Israel, the Palestinian Territories and Jordan, a UN statement said.
The Qatari source said Abbas was also due to meet with Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal.
Western-backed Abbas in April struck a deal with Islamist Hamas that led to the formation of a Palestinian unity government, seven years after the group seized control of Gaza from Abbas's Fatah party. Israel responded by suspending US-sponsored peace talks.