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Gaza death toll hits 342
| Thousands march for Gazans in London, clashes in Paris
 
 
 
Gaza death toll hits 342

GAZA CITY - The Gaza death toll hit 342 on Saturday as Israeli warplanes intensified their bombardment and troops pressed a ground assault on the 12th day of a major confrontation with Hamas.
And the overall Israeli death toll rose to five following violence in which two soldiers and a civilian were killed, the army and police said.
The latest incident in Gaza saw one man killed in an airstrike on the northern town of Jabaliya shortly after two were killed in a strike near Deir al-Balah in central Gaza, emergency services spokesman Ashraf al-Qudra said.
And another two people were killed in Zeitun, east of Gaza City, raising the number of Palestinians killed on Saturday to 46.
In southern Israel, two soldiers were killed when a group of Gaza fighters got under the border fence and fired machineguns and an anti-tank missile at an army patrol.
Troops returned fire killing one of the fighters in an attack claimed by Hamas.
Also in the south, an Israeli Bedouin man was killed and four family members wounded, two of them children, when a rocket hit their desert encampment not far from Israel’s nuclear reactor in Dimona, police said.
Their deaths raised to five the number of Israelis killed since the conflict began on July 8, including a soldier who was reportedly killed by friendly fire.
Among those killed in Gaza were five members of the same family, including a 6-year-old and a 2-year-old, who died in a strike on a house in the northern town of Beit Hanun, Qudra said.
Earlier, Qudra also reported five bodies had been pulled from a home hit by an Israeli airstrike in Khan Yunis.
So far, more than 2,385 Palestinians have been wounded in the biggest confrontation in and around Gaza since Operation Cast Lead, a bloody 22-day offensive which ended in January 2009.
Israeli troops began a ground offensive in parts of Gaza late on Thursday, starting a new phase in the operation which it said was aimed at destroying tunnels used by the territory’s dominant power, Islamist movement Hamas.
Meanwhile, parts of central London were brought to a standstill on Saturday as thousands of pro-Palestinians marched in protest against Israel’s offensive in Gaza, while in Paris a banned demonstration descended into violence.
Organisers of the London rally claimed that “tens of thousands” of people joined the march from Prime Minister David Cameron’s office to the Israeli embassy, many of them chanting “Israel is a terror state”.
Police refused to give an estimate for the number present but several roads through the centre of the capital were closed during the three-mile march, which passed off peacefully.
In Paris, by contrast, clashes broke out after hundreds gathered in defiance of a ban on their demonstration, with crowds throwing stones and bottles at riot police, who responded with tear gas.
Some 33 people were arrested by early evening, a police source said, while three police officers were injured in the disorder near Montmartre in the north of the French capital.
Protests were permitted in other French cities, where thousands turned out including in Lyon, Marseille and Strasbourg, while several thousand also rallied in solidarity with the Palestinians in Brussels.
Twelve days of violence has seen more than 340 Palestinians killed in Gaza, the majority of them civilians, as well as five Israelis.
In London, demonstrators held up placards pleading for Israel to end its attacks on Gaza, and reading “Stop the bombing, free Palestine” and “End Israeli apartheid”.
In Paris, police had banned Saturday’s demonstration following violence after similar marches — a move that was widely criticised by those taking part in London.
Hundreds of people, including many women and children, took to the streets regardless, and there were cheers as two Israeli flags were burned in front of the crowd.
“We are all Palestinians,” chanted the protesters. Some threw stones at the cordons of riot police before running off, starting a game of cat and mouse with police.
In the resulting running clashes, two small vans were set on fire, as well as numerous bins, while the streets were littered with broken glass and debris.
A protest against Israel’s offensive in Gaza last Sunday in Paris also descended into unrest and a small group of people tried to break into two synagogues.
Speaking on Friday about the ban on this weekend’s march, President Francois Hollande said: “We cannot allow the conflict to be imported into France.
“We cannot have demonstrators facing each other down, with a risk to public order.”
The US embassy had issued a statement “strongly encouraging” its citizens to steer clear of the Paris protests, warning of the risk of clashes.
Authorities said organisers who defied the ban will face a six-month prison term and 7,500-euro fine.
Meanwhile, Israel ordered some of its diplomatic staff in Turkey to leave the country for security reasons, after protesters angered by its assault on Gaza sought to storm Israeli embassy buildings.
Turkish protesters overnight tried to break into the ambassador’s residence in Ankara as well as the consulate in Istanbul, with the diplomatic controversy over the Gaza assault risking a new crisis in relations between Turkey and the Jewish state.
“Foreign Minister (Avigdor) Lieberman issued a statement ... following the demonstrations and instructed the Israeli consulate and embassy to reduce their diplomatic staff in Turkey,” an Israeli embassy spokesman told AFP, without stating the numbers concerned.
The spokesman emphasised that the Israeli representation in Turkey would not be completely shut down but would be reduced to minimum staffing. The measure also includes the diplomats’ families, he added.

 
 
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