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Gaza death toll climbs as Israel bombardment of besieged enclave continues

ICC chief prosecutor warns crimes may have been committed in the occupied territory, as Israeli air strikes persist.
Black smoke rises over buildings in Gaza after Israeli air strikes overnight Tuesday (MEE/Mohammed Alhajar)

At least 56 people have been killed in Gaza since Israel began its bombing campaign in the besieged territory on Sunday morning.

That number, accurate as of Wednesday afternoon, includes 14 children and three women, with a further 335 people wounded with injuries of varying degrees of severity, according to Gaza's health ministry. 

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In the besieged Palestinian territory overnight, emergency services attempted to put out fires in buildings hit by the Israeli bombardment, as the impact of the missiles and bombs shook the ground nearby.

One unnamed Gaza resident told Middle East Eye that he had lost his niece in an Israeli missile attack.

"We said goodnight to (them) and everyone went up to their apartment. I was smoking at the time and nobody told us to leave," the man said.

"Our house is destroyed from the inside. My niece, who was 18, died and her eight-year-old sister is injured. We’re going to sleep in the street. Where can we sleep?"

By morning black plumes of smoke towered over buildings, as residents surveyed the damage to their homes, vehicles and surrounding infrastructure. 

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A father carries his daughter on a debris-strewn street in Gaza (MEE/Mohammed Alhajar)

Israel says "hundreds" of rockets have been fired into its territory from Gaza, with at least five people killed there.

The targets hit by the rockets included an oil pipeline near the town of Ashkelon close to Israel's border with Gaza.

ICC warning

Officials from the International Criminal Court (ICC) are "monitoring developments" in the occupied Palestinian territories, including Gaza, with a view to investigating possible violations.

In a statement posted on the ICC's Twitter account, the body's chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda, said: "I note with great concern the escalation of violence in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, as well as in and around Gaza, and the possible commission of crimes under the Rome Statute." 

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"My office will continue to monitor developments on the ground and will factor any matter that falls within its jurisdiction."

The high civilian death toll, which so far includes 14 children, has caused outrage globally with many expressing their anger on social media or during protests held in solidarity with residents of Gaza. 

In the US state of New Jersey, Salaedin Maksut of the Council of American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) told a crowd of protesters that "Israel's recent actions had proved to the world that they don't care about justice or peace."

Others speaking out include the grandson of late-South African President Nelson, Zwelivelile "Mandla" Mandela, comparing the situation in Palestine to that experienced by Black South Africans during the apartheid regime.

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The high death toll in Gaza has sparked anger across the world (Mohammed Alhajar/MEE)

"We will not rest until we see a free Palestine in our lifetime," he told African News Agency, adding:

"We will speak against the brutality that is meted out against innocent children and women in Palestine and that is why we are charge forward with what Madiba (Nelson Mandela) once said 'our freedom is incomplete until the Palestinians are free'..."

Tensions over Al-Aqsa

Israeli media outlet Channel 12 reported that Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, had offered the Israelis a ceasefire, which had been refused because the group had not paid a high enough price.

The ongoing violence in Gaza stems from the situation in occupied East Jerusalem, specifically the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood where protests broke out against the imminent appropriation of Palestinian property by Israeli settlers, who are backed by Israeli forces.

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A man inspects the remains of a building destroyed by an Israeli air strike (MEE/Mohammed Alhajar)

Those protests spread to the Al-Aqsa mosque compound and an attack by Israeli forces within the mosque on Islam's holiest night, Laylat al-Qadr, further inflamed anger.

The storming of the compound was the latest in a long line of attacks on Muslim worshippers there, dating back decades.

Previous protests were sparked by far-right Israeli attempts to conduct prayers within the compound or lay the foundation stone for the Third Temple, a religious belief among militant Jewish settler groups, which if fulfilled, would necessitate the destruction of the mosque.

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