The Israeli offensive in the Gaza Strip has intensified – with missile strikes and running battles against Palestinian militants. At least 12 Palestinians have been killed in the clashes and an Israeli soldier was reportedly shot dead. The army’s main aim is to bring back Gilad Shalit safe and well. The corporal was snatched on June 25 and is still being held by Palestinian militants. The Israelis say their forces will stay until their mission “is completed.”
The heaviest fighting is around Beit Lahiya. At least 30 Palestinians are reported wounded in northern Gaza. Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert ordered the army to push deeper into Gaza after rockets fired by Hamas militants hit the city of Ashkelon. This is the largest cross-border offensive since the Israeli settlements in Gaza were evacuated last year.
With concern growing about the plight of ordinary Palestinians, the Human Rights Council has decided to send a mission to Gaza to investigate alleged human rights abuses.