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Diplomatic efforts so far fail to prevent Israel-Gaza conflict from escalating

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Diplomatic efforts so far fail to prevent Israel-Gaza conflict from escalating
Copyright  Hatem Moussa/Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.
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Funerals were held in Gaza City on Saturday for eight children and two adults from the Abu Hatab family who'd been living in a refugee camp, just hours earlier Israel had flattened their three-storey house in an airstrike.

Since Monday night, Hamas has fired hundreds of rockets and Israel has pounded the Gaza Strip killing at least 139 people, 39 of them children.

Later on Saturday, in the Israeli city of Ramat Gan, a rocket attack by Hamas killed a 50-year-old man in his apartment block. Ten Israelis have been killed so far, two of them children.

After six days of violence, this year's Nakfa or "Catastrophe Day" was an especially grim anniversary for the Palestinians in the West Bank which is still occupied by Israel.

Thousands gathered in its main city Ramallah on Saturday to commemorate the day the state of Israel was created in 1948. It forced around 700,000 Palestinians who'd been living there to flee in fear.

Today, they and their descendants make up the 5.4 million Palestinian refugees who still live outside Israel, according to the United Nations.

US President Joe Biden has urged a de-escalation in the violence, but he's not yet called for a ceasefire. Instead, he's publicly backed Israel's right to defend itself from Hamas rockets.

Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia and Egypt have called for a ceasefire.

An Egyptian intelligence official told the Associated Press that efforts to reach a ceasefire are ongoing and have gained a push with the arrival of a US envoy to Tel Aviv.

The official said that Egypt and other mediators hope that the US will pressure Israel to end the fighting.

He said it's up the US ``to order Israel to stop such disastrous "actions" and added that ``the situation has started to get out of control in the occupied Palestinian territories," referring to protests in the West Bank, Jerusalem and other areas.

But he said the mediators don't expect a ceasefire before a UN Security Council meeting on the conflict on Sunday.