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Israel blows up Gaza apartments as death toll surpasses 2,100

No end in sight to the Israeli assault on Gaza as 20 air strikes take place on Saturday, as five people from the same family are killed in an attack
An apartment building collapses just after it was hit by missiles during an Israeli air strike on the heart of Gaza City wounding at least 18 people, four of them children (AFP)

Eighteen people have been wounded as an Israeli airstrike hit an apartment building in Gaza City on Saturday afternoon.

The residential building was home to an estimated 60 Palestinian families who now find themselves homeless. Reports say the building was hit first by an Israeli drone strike giving the families just ten minutes to evacuate the 40 apartments housed in the block.

Within minutes the entire 13 floor building was bombed again and reduced to rubble. Footage of the attack shows a huge plume of dark smoke rise above the building as it collapsed.

Screen shot showing the level of destruction (Palestine TV screenshot/Noor Harazeen)

In a separate series of air strikes earlier in the afternoon four Palestinians were killed as Israel launched further air attacks on Gaza. Dozens were injured in the attacks, according to Gaza’s Health Ministry, as the Israeli military offensive continued into a 47th day.

Ten people have been killed so far on Saturday in Gaza, including five members of the same family when an airstrike hit the Abu Dahrouj family home in al-Zawayda neighbourhood. Two children, four-year-old Abdullah Hayil Abu Dahdouh and three-year-old Hadi Hayil Abu Dahdouh, were among those killed in the attack.

The death now stands at 2,104 according to the Health Ministry, who said over 10,500 have now been injured in Israel’s assault on Gaza. The UN has said around 80 percent of casualties have been civilians, including over 500 children.

Over 80 Palestinians and a four-year-old Israeli boy have been killed since Tuesday, when truce talks collapsed ending nine days of relative calm.

The Palestinian factions insist Israel must end its punishing eight-year blockade of Gaza if a ceasefire is to be agreed, while Israeli officials have said they must have their security needs met in any potential deal.

On Saturday Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said Egypt will invite delegations from both sides to return to Cairo and restart ceasefire negotiations.

"Egypt is going to invite delegates to return to the negotiating table to consider a long-term truce," Abbas said after talks with his Egyptian counterpart Abdel Fattah al-Sisi. "My main goal is for the truce talks to resume in Egypt as soon as possible to avoid more casualties and sacrifices," he added.

There has been no response to the forthcoming invitation from Israeli and Palestinian delegations.

The Israeli military said it has carried out more than 20 air strikes over Gaza and that at least three rockets or mortar rounds have hit southern Israel.

Witnesses and Palestinian officials said two mosques were destroyed in the Khan Younis area of southern Gaza, while a third, in the Shati refugee camp, which has been subject to other attacks, was bombed again.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed Friday that the army would exact harsh retribution for the killing of a four-year-old child by shrapnel in kibbutz Nahal Oz in southern Israel.

No Gaza fire from UN shelter

Israeli officials initially accused Palestinian fighters of firing from near a UN shelter, in the attack that killed an Israeli child, however, on review the military said they were incorrect.

“After further review the school the mortar was launched near from is not being used as a shelter by UNRWA, but rather a shelter maintained by Hamas authorities in Gaza,” Peter Lerner, Israeli army spokesperson, wrote on Twitter.

Netanyahu said "Hamas will pay a heavy price for this attack," according to his spokesman Ofir Gendelman.

The army and the Shin Bet security agency would "intensify ops against Hamas", he added.

At least 2,097 Palestinians have been killed since July 8, 70 percent of them civilians, according to the United Nations.

On the Israeli side, 68 people have died, all but four of them soldiers.

It is the deadliest fighting of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict since the 2005 end of the second intifada, or uprising.

On Friday, Hamas executed 18 people it accused of collaborating with Israel a day after three of its top commanders were assassinated in Israeli air strikes.

Hamas gunmen grabbed seven of them as worshippers left midday prayers at Gaza's biggest mosque, witnesses told AFP.

Another witness saw 11 people shot dead in a square near the remains of Gaza police headquarters, bombed by Israeli warplanes.

An 18th person was shot in front of bystanders in a separate incident.

On Saturday the Palestinian Authority criticised Hamas for the executions and said they were "rejected and condemned" by the Palestinian people.

“The executions were done in cold blood and according to Hamas law, which is: who is not with Hamas is against it,” said al-Tayyib Abd al-Rahim, secretary general of President Mahmoud Abbas’ office, according to Ma’an News.

He described the killings as “random executions of those who Hamas called collaborators” and said: “it is enough for our great people in the Gaza Strip that they suffer from the Israeli siege and offensive.”

Rahim said the executions were a “provocative” act by Hamas and proved the group are “not sincere in reconciliation” and failing to fulfil “commitments towards the unity government”.

Abbas, Meshaal 'appeal to UN'

The Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Hamas’ exiled leader Khaled Meshaal urged the UN on Friday to draw up a "timetable" for the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories to end, Qatar state media reported.

Abbas and Meshaal issued the appeal during talks in Doha, hosted by the Qatari emir, a key backer of Hamas.

The two Palestinian leaders have been holding talks since Thursday, but little news has filtered out as to their content.

Britain, France and Germany have advanced key points of a new UN Security Council resolution calling for an immediate and sustainable ceasefire, and the lifting of Israel's blockade.

Diplomats said the text was aimed at advancing efforts to reach agreement within the 15-member council after a draft resolution from Jordan met with resistance from the US.

Washington has wielded its veto powers at the Security Council repeatedly in the past on behalf of Israel, although the now 46-day war has strained relations between the two allies.

The new resolution proposes a mechanism to monitor the ceasefire and supervise the movement of goods into Gaza to allay Israeli security concerns.

It also calls for Abbas's Western-backed Palestinian Authority to take back control of Gaza, seven years after his loyalists were driven out of the territory by Hamas.