Death toll hits 43 as Israel pounds Gaza

Death toll hits 43 as Israel pounds Gaza

GAZA CITY, Palestinian Territories - Fifteen women and children were among 22 Palestinians killed in Israeli strikes on Gaza Wednesday, hiking the overall death toll to 43 in two days, the emergency services said.

More than 370 people have been wounded.

Among the dead was at least one militant, as well as nine children and six women, emergency services spokesman Ashraf al-Qudra told AFP.

It was not immediately clear whether the other fatalities were civilians or militants.

In at least four of the strikes, the victims were all woman and children.

During the afternoon, a missile struck a house in Al-Maghazi, a beachside refugee camp near Deir al-Balah in central Gaza, killing a mother and her four children, Qudra said.

Earlier, another two women and four children died in a series of raids to the north and east of Gaza City.

Mohammed Aarif, 13, and his brother, Amir, 12 were killed in an air strike on Shejaiya, east of Gaza City, while an attack in nearby Zeitun district killed Amina Malaka, 27, and her 18-month-old son Mohammed, he said.

Further north, another missile hit Beit Hanun, killing 40-year-old Sahar al-Masri and her 14-year-old son Ibrahim, he added.

An attack shortly after midnight levelled a house in the northern town of Beit Hanun, killing Hafez Hammad, a senior Islamic Jihad commander, and five relatives, including two women and a 16-year-old girl.

In Mughraqa in central Gaza, medics retrieved the body of 80-year-old Naifeh Farajallah from the rubble of her house damaged in an earlier air strike.

In the same area, an Israel missile killed two men in a field near Nusseirat refugee camp. Medics named them as Abdel Nasser Abu Kweik, 60, and his son Khaled, 31.

Elsewhere, a 30-year-old man was killed in a pre-dawn strike on the southern city of Rafah.

And in the northern town of Beit Lahiya, a missile struck a motorcycle leaving a 30-year-old man clinically dead and severely wounding a second person.

Since the start of Operation Protective Edge early Tuesday, Israeli warplanes have struck 550 targets in Gaza.

Since midnight (2100 GMT), at least 48 rockets have struck Israel, one of which landed in the metropolitan Tel Aviv area. Another 16 were shot down by Iron Dome, two of them over the Tel Aviv area, an army spokeswoman said.

On Tuesday, 21 Palestinians were killed, including 17 in strikes on Gaza, as well as four Hamas militants shot dead after infiltrating southern Israel by sea.

Also Tuesday, 117 rockets struck Israel, with 45 of them targeting major cities in the centre, among them Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, as well as Hadera, 116 kilometres (72 miles) to the north.

Another 45 missiles were shot down by the Iron Dome anti-missile system.

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