GAZA CITY/United Nations - Israeli air strikes on the Gaza Strip killed 30 people Saturday, including two severely handicapped women in a care facility.
The violence brought the toll on the fifth day of the conflict to 135, with nearly 950 people wounded, according to Gaza emergency services spokesman Ashraf al-Qudra.
In the latest strikes, eight people were killed in raids on Gaza City, central El-Bureij and northern Jabaliya.
They included a woman aged 25, and a 16-year-old, Qudra said.
Earlier, six men were killed in the Sheikh Radwan district of western Gaza City, Qudra said.
Aged from 21 to 58, they were sitting outside homes in the area when the strike hit, witnesses said.
Neighbours told AFP two nephews of former Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniya were among them and named them as Nidal and Alaa al-Malash.
Their deaths followed an early morning strike that killed two women at a charitable association housing the disabled in Beit Lahiya in northern Gaza.
The women, Suha Abu Saada and Ola Washahi, both had severe mental and physical handicaps, association director Jamila Alaywa said. Four others were wounded in the attack - three residents and a helper, she said.
Another three people were killed in eastern Gaza City and three in an attack on the western side of town.
Earlier, Qudra announced the deaths of eight other Palestinians in raids that hit targets including a bank, two mosques and the houses of Hamas officials.
Israel’s military said at least one of the mosques was being used to store weapons.
Israel began Operation Protective Edge on Tuesday in an attempt to halt cross-border rocket fire by militant groups.
Gaza militants have fired approximately 525 mortar rounds and rockets that struck Israel, while another 138 rockets were intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defence system, the army said.
In a related development, the UN Security Council called for a ceasefire in hostilities between the two sides and expressed serious concern about the welfare and protection of non-combatants.
“The Security Council members called for de-escalation of the situation, restoration of calm, and reinstitution of the November 2012 ceasefire,” the 15-member body said in a statement, approved by all 15 members.
The statement demanded restoration of calm and a resumption of direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians aimed at achieving a comprehensive peace agreement based on a two-state solution.
It expresses “serious concern regarding the crisis related to Gaza and the protection and welfare of civilians on both sides.” It calls for respect for international humanitarian law, including the protection of civilians.
The press statement, which is not legally binding but reflects international opinion, is the first response by the UN’s most powerful body, which has been deeply divided on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The United States, a permanent member of the council, has been pushing hard to save Israel, its closest ally, from the council’s condemnation.
The statement was read out to reporters by the Security Council’s President for July, Eugene Richard Gasana of Rwanda. Palestine Ambassador Riyad Mansour said Israel should heed call of the council and stop its “brutal” aggression against Palestinian people, including women and children and the elderly.
Following is the tex of the statement:
“The Security Council members expressed serious concern regarding the crisis related to Gaza and the protection and welfare of civilians on both sides.
“The Security Council members called for de-escalation of the situation, restoration of calm, and reinstitution of the November 2012 ceasefire.
“The Security Council members further called for respect for international humanitarian law, including the protection of civilians.
“The Security Council members also expressed their support for the resumption of direct negotiations between the Israelis and Palestinians with the aim of achieving a comprehensive peace agreement based on the two-state solution.”
The offensive showed no signs of slowing down Saturday as Israeli Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon said his country should ready itself for several more days of fighting.
“We have accumulated achievements as far as the price Hamas is paying and we are continuing to destroy significant targets of it and other terror organizations,” Yaalon said after a meeting with top security officials. “We will continue to punish it until quiet and security returns to southern Israel and the rest of the country.”
Hamas said it hoped the mosque attack would galvanise support for it in the Muslim world.
“(It) shows how barbaric this enemy is and how much it is hostile to Islam,” said Husam Badran, a Hamas spokesman in Doha, Qatar. “This terrorism gives us the right to broaden our response to deter this occupier.”
Critics though say Israeli allegations are too sweeping, and that Israel’s heavy bombardment of one of the densely populated territories is itself the main factor putting civilians at risk.
Sarit Michaeli of the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem said that while using human shields violates international humanitarian law, “this does not give Israel the excuse to violate international humanitarian law as well.”