Israeli strikes on Gaza continued early Monday amid calls from the international community for a ceasefire, raising the overall death toll to 170, with 1,154 injured.
The latest casualties were four Palestinians, including a father and son, who were killed in three separate airstrikes on the southern Gaza Strip on Sunday night, medics and witnesses said.
Israeli military offensive and airstrikes on the Gaza Strip began early Tuesday, and more than 80 of the dead to date are civilians, a Gaza Health Ministry spokesman said.
Among the killed were 36 children and 32 women, while 350 children and 460 women were injured, he added.
Israeli forces early Sunday intensified military action against the Hamas militants, asking residents to leave their homes before strikes.
Israeli war jets carried out more than 1,000 air and artillery strikes on the Gaza Strip over the past seven days.
The Israeli cabinet decided on Sunday to continue airstrikes in the area until calm is achieved, though nothing has been decided so far in terms of a large-scale ground operation.
Israel’s strike was in retaliation to Hamas armed wing Al-Qassam Brigades and other militant groups, who had launched rockets into northern, central and southern Israeli towns and cities from the Gaza Strip.
The situation worsened in Gaza after three Israeli teenagers believed kidnapped were later found slain, while another teen from the Gaza Strip was also believed abducted and slain, touching off rounds of armed retaliation between Israel and the Islamist Hamas movement controlling the Gaza Strip.
Call for ceasefire
Concerned over the escalating violence, the international community has stepped up their diplomatic efforts to call for a ceasefire between the two sides.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Sunday urged Israel and Palestine to take “immediate measures” to end the fighting.
Ban said in a statement that it is in the interest of both sides that “steps toward dangerous escalation be replaced with immediate measures” to end the fighting, thus preventing further casualties and greater risks to regional peace and security.
He reiterated his condemnation of Palestinian rockets being fired from Gaza and demanded an immediate cessation of “these indecent attacks.”
Meanwhile, the UN chief expressed deep worry about the impact on Palestinian families of Israeli military action, saying too many Palestinian civilians have been killed, and any Israeli ground offensive would undoubtedly increase the death toll and exacerbate civilian suffering.
French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian joined the call on Sunday for an “immediate ceasefire” to prevent further escalation of violence and to protect civilians.
“The situation in the Middle East is serious … France calls for an immediate ceasefire,” Le Drian told the local broadcaster Europe1.
German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier is to travel to the Middle East on Monday and talk with Israeli and Palestinian representatives, German newspaper Bild am Sonntag reported on Sunday.
In his comments to Bild am Sonntag published on Sunday, Steinmeier urged a “coalition of reason” to stop the conflict escalating in the region.
The United States, while affirming Israel’s right to defend itself, offered help in truce negotiations.
“There are a number of relationships the United States has that we are willing to leverage in the region to try to bring about an end to the rocket fire that’s originating in Gaza,” said White House spokesman Josh Earnest Friday.