A US envoy has arrived in Tel Aviv for de-escalation talks as Israel continued to bombard the Gaza Strip with air raids and artillery shells on Saturday, killing several children and women at a refugee camp.
As of early Saturday, at least 137 Palestinians, including 36 children, have been killed and 920 have been wounded since hostilities flared up on Monday.
US envoy Hady Amr will take part in talks with Israeli, Palestinian and UN officials in the hope of agreeing on a ceasefire.
Amr’s arrival comes ahead of a UN Security Council meeting on Sunday. The US embassy in Israel said the aim of his trip was to “reinforce the need to work toward a sustainable calm”.
But appeals to Israeli and Palestinian leaders have so far failed to produce a ceasefire agreement.
Israel’s air strikes on Hamas in Gaza has forced the Middle East onto President Joe Biden’s agenda. The Biden administration has had to rapidly step up its game on the diplomatic front without a full team in place: there is not even a nominee yet for ambassador to Israel.
Amr is a mid-level diplomat without the kind of rank held by special envoys in previous US administrations.
The death toll is expected to rise, as another series of Israeli air assaults hit the Shati refugee camp in Gaza killing at least two women and seven children, while burying several others in the rubble. At least 15 others were injured, including an infant named Omar.
Another air raid also reportedly hit a house in Khan Yunis.
Thousands of Palestinian families have taken shelter in United Nations-run schools in northern Gaza to escape Israeli artillery fire. The UN has said it estimates approximately 10,000 Palestinians have left their homes in Gaza amid the Israeli offensive.
Despite international calls for an immediate halt of all hostilities, including from United Nations chief Antonio Guterres, Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pledged the offensive will continue “as needed to restore calm in the state of Israel”.
Hamas fired another barrage of rockets towards Israel, hitting the city of Ashdod early on Saturday.
At least nine people in Israel have also been killed. The Israeli army said hundreds of rockets have been fired from Gaza towards various locations in Israel and they have added reinforcements near the enclave’s eastern lands.
Meanwhile, violence is brewing between Israeli settlers and Palestinian citizens in the occupied West Bank, as well as in Israel.
At least 11 Palestinians have also been killed by Israeli security forces in the occupied West Bank.