Israel has announced a seven-hour humanitarian ceasefire in parts of Gaza.
A senior Israeli military official said the truce would not apply to the town of Rafah and that Israeli troops would respond if they were attacked.
Earlier, UN chief Ban Ki-moon described an Israeli strike near a UN-run school in Gaza as “a moral outrage and a criminal act”.
Palestinian officials said at least 10 people died in the attack on Sunday.
The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) confirmed on Sunday that they had begun withdrawing some troops from Gaza, saying it was “extremely close” to completing its mission to destroy a network of tunnels.
Health officials in Gaza say 1,800 Palestinians, most of them civilians, have been killed and more than 9,000 injured since the conflict began nearly four weeks ago.
Sixty-six Israelis have died, all but two of them soldiers. A Thai national working in Israel was also killed.
Israel has announced a seven-hour humanitarian ceasefire in parts of Gaza
In the outrage that followed Sunday’s attack on the UN school, Israel announced it would hold a “humanitarian window” in its Gaza offensive to allow hundreds of thousands of displaced Palestinians to return to their homes.
The ceasefire would not include Rafah because there was an “Israeli military presence” there and “clashes were still ongoing”, an IDF statement said.
It said the truce would last from 10:00 local time until 17:00.
The Israeli army warned that it would “respond to any attempt to exploit this window” by Islamist militants in Gaza.
Hamas responded to the truce with suspicion and its spokesman, Sami Abu Zuhri, accused the IDF of attempting to “divert the attention from Israeli massacres”.
Israeli air strikes on Gaza and Palestinian militant rocket fire launched at Israel continued on Monday morning ahead of the planned ceasefire.
The Islamic Jihad group said its commander in northern Gaza, Daniel Mansour, died when Israeli forces struck his home just before dawn.
More than a quarter of the 1.8 million residents in the Palestinian territory have been displaced.
Many of those who have fled their homes have taken refuge in UN shelters across Gaza, including the UN-run school in Rafah which was hit on Sunday.
The IDF said it had targeted three Islamist militants near the school.
Ban Ki-moon described the attack as “yet another gross violation of international humanitarian law”, adding that Israel had regularly been informed of the precise location of the school.
State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said the US was appalled by the “disgraceful shelling”.
Israel said it was investigating the incident.
PM Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel was “sorry for any attack that unintentionally hits civilians”, but accused Hamas of turning UN facilities into “terrorist hotspots”.
“Hamas has an interest in Gaza residents suffering, thinking that the world will blame Israel for their suffering,” Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement on Monday.
The IDF says 2,560 rockets and mortars fired from Gaza have landed in Israel since 8 July, with its Iron Dome defense system having intercepted another 556 rockets.
Hadar Goldin, the Israeli soldier reported missing in Gaza on Friday, is dead, Israel’s military says.
Hadar Goldin was believed to have been captured by militants during fighting, leading to the collapse of a ceasefire shortly after it had been declared.
The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said it had determined that Lt. Hadar Goldin had died.
Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu has said the operation in Gaza will continue until it restores security to Israeli citizens.
AFP news agency quoted Palestinian emergency services as saying 12 Palestinians had been killed early on Sunday but this has not been independently confirmed.
Israeli media also reported fresh militant rocket attacks.
Hamas had denied it was holding the 23-year-old Hadar Goldin captive, saying it did not know the soldier’s whereabouts.
Lt. Hadar Goldin was believed to have been captured by Hamas militants during fighting
The military wing of the Islamist group said it had lost contact with some fighters in the area where Israel said the soldier had been seized.
It said it believed the fighters and possibly Hadar Goldin had been killed in an Israeli airstrike.
Israel’s defense minister and the chief military rabbi met the soldier’s family at their home in the town of Kfar Saba on Saturday night.
Hundreds of well-wishers had gathered outside their home and there was an outpouring of grief when the military’s announcement was made public.
Confirmation of Lt. Hadar Goldin’s death means 66 Israelis have now died in the fighting, all but two of them soldiers. A Thai worker in Israel also died.
Some 1,700 Palestinians, mostly civilians, have been killed since the conflict began more than three weeks ago.
Earlier, PM Benjamin Netanyahu vowed to continue the Israeli offensive in Gaza until “we achieve our objective of restoring security to you, Israeli’s citizens”.
“Hamas again mistakenly believes that the people of Israel do not have the will and determination to fight them and Hamas again will learn the hard way that Israel will do whatever it must do to protect its people,” he said.
The Islamist group would pay an “intolerable price” for attacks on Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu added.
Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum dismissed Benjamin Netanyahu’s comments as “confused” and said the group would “continue to resist until we achieve our goals”.
Meanwhile, a UN spokesman in Gaza has warned that a “health disaster of widespread proportions is rapidly unfolding” there after three weeks of intense conflict.
Chris Gunness from the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) says Gaza’s medical services are “on the verge of collapse”.
“At least half of all public health primary care clinics in Gaza are closed,” he said, adding that the medical facilities still functioning are overwhelmed.
Chris Gunness also warned that there was a serious risk of an outbreak of waterborne and communicable diseases because of a lack of adequate water and poor sanitation.
Israeli forces say one of its soldiers is believed captured, as a 72-hour truce with Hamas in Gaza collapsed just hours after it had begun.
The soldier, named as Hadar Goldin, 23, disappeared when Israeli forces trying to destroy a suspected militant tunnel were attacked, Israel’s military said.
Two soldiers died in firefight in southern Gaza Strip at 9:30 local time.
The Gaza health ministry said dozens were killed by Israeli shelling in the area shortly after the incident.
In 2006 Palestinian militants captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit and held him for five years.
Israeli forces say one of its soldiers is believed captured, as a 72-hour truce with Hamas in Gaza collapsed just hours after it had begun
Gilad Shalit was released in November 2011 in exchange for 1,000 Palestinian prisoners.
Hamas has not confirmed or denied capturing a soldier.
Some 1,460 Palestinians, mostly civilians, have died in the latest conflict and 63 Israelis, mostly soldiers.
The ceasefire had been brokered by the US and UN to give civilians a reprieve from the violence, and had been seen as an unforeseen breakthrough after days of diplomatic deadlock.
Also on Friday, Palestinian and Israeli delegations arrived in Cairo, Egypt, with the hope of negotiating a longer-term cessation of hostilities, but Egyptian officials said the talks had now been postponed.
A senior Israeli official said Hamas had breached the ceasefire and Israel’s response would be “crushing”.
Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoun said: “The Israelis are the ones who breached the ceasefire, and the Palestinian resistance acted in a way that ensures its right of self-defense.”
Another Hamas official said the announcement of the soldier’s capture was “a justification for Israel retreating from the truth and a cover-up for massacres”.
Palestinian media reported that Hamas had called for a “day of anger” across the West Bank.
The US – Israel’s closest ally – has said the shelling of a UN shelter in Gaza is “totally unacceptable and totally indefensible”.
In its strongest criticism yet of Israel’s offensive in the Palestinian territory, the US urged Israel to do more to protect civilian life.
A quarter of Gaza’s population has been displaced by the fighting, the UN says.
Israel says its operation in Gaza is designed to defend its population from attacks by Palestinian militants.
It blames the Hamas militant group for most of the civilian deaths in Gaza, saying its fighters deliberately operate from civilian areas.
The Israeli army has now “neutralized” 70-80% of Hamas’ offensive tunnel network into Israel.
In its strongest criticism yet of Israel’s offensive in the Palestinian territory, the US urged Israel to do more to protect civilian life
Israel says it will not stop its operation in Gaza until all the tunnels – which militants use to infiltrate Israeli territory – have been destroyed.
Since Israel began its offensive in Gaza on July 8, 1,422 Palestinians have been killed and 8,265 injured, most of them civilians, according to Gaza’s health ministry.
This means more Palestinians have now been killed than during Operation Cast Lead – the last time Israel launched a ground invasion in Gaza – in 2008-2009.
Fifty-eight Israelis have been killed in total – 56 soldiers and two civilians. A Thai worker in Israel has also died.
“There is a difference in approach between what Hamas is perpetrating on the Israeli people and what Israel is doing to defend their country,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters.
“But the shelling of a UN facility that is housing innocent civilians who are fleeing violence is totally unacceptable and totally indefensible, and it is clear that we need our allies in Israel to do more to live up to high standards that they have set for themselves.”
He was referring to an incident on Wednesday, when at least 16 people were killed when shellfire hit a UN-run school designated as a civilian shelter in the Jabaliya district of Gaza City.
Josh Earnest said there was little doubt that the shells were fired by the Israeli military.
The UN has also condemned the continuing violence.
“The reality of Gaza today is that no place is safe,” UN humanitarian chief Baroness Valerie Amos told the Security Council.
At least 17 Palestinians have been killed and 160 wounded in an Israeli strike that hit a fruit and vegetable market in Shujayea, near Gaza City, during a “humanitarian pause” unilaterally announced by Israel.
Hundreds of people were shopping in the market, a spokesman for the Gaza health ministry said.
Hamas, which controls Gaza, had rejected the truce as meaningless.
Meanwhile, Israel said three more of its soldiers had been killed in Gaza.
Palestinian doctors also said that another Israeli air strike after the partial humanitarian ceasefire was announced had killed seven people in Khan Younis.
More than 1,300 Palestinians and 58 Israelis have now died in Gaza Strip conflict
Earlier, the UN said Israel had attacked a UN-run school housing refugees in Gaza, despite warnings that civilians were there. Fifteen people were killed and dozens hurt.
The White House condemned the attack and said it was “extremely concerned” that Palestinians were not safe at shelters despite being told to evacuate their homes by Israel’s army.
More than 1,300 Palestinians and 58 Israelis have now died in the conflict. Most of the Palestinian deaths have been of civilians.
Fifty-six Israeli soldiers have been killed along with two civilians. A Thai worker in Israel has also died.
The Israeli military said that the three soldiers killed on Wednesday died in a booby-trapped building.
Correspondents say many people in Gaza were unaware the partial ceasefire had been called.
Witnesses at the scene of the market strike in Shejaiya spoke of smoke billowing over the site, with ambulances racing victims to hospital.
A journalist who worked for a local news agency was reported to have been killed.
One witness, Salim Qadoum, told Associated Press: “The area now is like a bloodbath, everyone is wounded or killed. People lost their limbs and were screaming for help. It’s a massacre.”
The Palestinian al-Aqsa satellite TV channel quoted Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhum as saying that the market attack required “an earth-shattering response”.
The Israeli military had said the ceasefire would last between 15:00 and 19:00.
However, it had warned that the truce would only apply to areas where Israeli soldiers were not currently operating, and it told residents not to return to areas they had previously been asked to evacuate.
Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri had rejected the truce as meaningless.
“The lull which Israel announced is media exploitation and has no value because it excludes the volatile areas along the border, and we won’t be able to get the wounded out from those areas,” he said in a statement.
Sirens continued to sound in southern Israel after the ceasefire, to warn of militant rocket attacks.
Israel said more than 50 rockets were fired from Gaza on Wednesday.
Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu has warned of a “prolonged” military campaign in Gaza, as it saw one of its heaviest nights of shelling since the conflict began.
Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel would continue to act until it had achieved its aim of destroying militant group Hamas’s network of underground tunnels.
Israel made 60 air strikes on targets in Gaza overnight including TV stations and the house of a key Hamas leader.
It said militants had launched three rockets at Israel.
At least 13 Palestinians are reported to have been killed in the overnight attacks, including six victims in one house in the Bureji refugee camp, while Israel’s army lost 10 soldiers in the past 24 hours.
Officials say more than 1,100 Palestinians, most of them civilians, have been killed in the fighting since July 8. Israel says 53 of its soldiers and three civilians – two Israelis and a Thai worker, have been killed.
Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu has warned of a prolonged military campaign in Gaza
Early on Tuesday, Israeli aircraft fired at the unoccupied house of former Hamas PM Ismail Haniyeh, while Hamas TV and radio stations were also hit.
Three rockets were fired from Gaza, with one rocket successfully intercepted and two hitting open spaces in central Israel, Israel’s military said.
At least 10 people – eight of them children – were killed in blasts in Gaza City on Monday afternoon, Palestinian health officials said. It is unclear if they were killed by an Israeli attack or a misfiring militant rocket.
Five Israeli soldiers were killed on Monday when militants infiltrated the border, while a mortar bomb killed four earlier and a tenth died in a clash in southern Gaza, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said.
Benjamin Netanyahu described Monday as a “painful day”.
“We will continue to act aggressively and responsibly until the mission is completed to protect our citizens, soldiers and children,” he said.
On Monday, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon criticized both sides for firing into civilian areas, and called for an immediate, unconditional humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza during the Muslim Eid al-Fitr holiday.
His spokesman later added that Ban Ki-moon was concerned at reports that leaflets had been dropped by the IDF warning residents in the northern Gaza Strip to evacuate to Gaza City.
“If true, this would have a further devastating humanitarian impact on the beleaguered civilians of those areas of the Gaza strip, who have already undergone immense suffering in recent days,” his spokesman said.
Rocket fire and air strikes between the two sides increased after the abduction and killing of three Israeli teenagers in June, which Israel blamed on Hamas and which led to a crackdown on the group in the West Bank. Hamas denied being behind the killings.
Israel has accepted a UN request for a 24-hour ceasefire in Gaza.
However, Israel has warned the army will act if the pause is breached by Palestinian militants.
A crisis cabinet meeting extended Saturday’s truce until midnight on Sunday.
The move comes despite Hamas militants firing rockets after they rejected an earlier attempt to prolong the truce.
Hamas said it would not accept a truce unless Israeli troops left Gaza and the displaced were allowed to return home.
Israel said that it would continue operations against tunnels used by Hamas during the truce period.
Israel has accepted a UN request for a 24-hour ceasefire in Gaza
Hamas has accused Israel of using previous ceasefires to prepare more attacks, and claimed that there had been truce violations during Saturday.
The Israeli military said a soldier was killed by a mortar shell fired from Gaza early on Sunday morning, bringing the death toll among its armed forces to 43. Two Israeli civilians and a Thai farm laborer working in Israel have also been killed in recent hostilities.
The health ministry in Gaza says 1,033 Palestinians, mostly civilians, have been killed and about 5,900 wounded since Israel launched its Gaza offensive 19 days ago.
Rocket sirens continued to sound across Israeli cities into Sunday. The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said some 20 rockets had been launched toward Israel since Saturday night.
The military said three mortars had been fired from Gaza and hit Israel in the Eshkol region shortly after 20:00 local time on Saturday.
Hamas’ armed wing, the Qassam Brigades, said they had fired a number of short- and longer-range missiles into Israel.
The original truce expired at 20:00 local time on Saturday. Gazans had been using the pause to recover bodies and gather supplies.
Gaza health ministry spokesman Ashraf al-Qidra said that almost 150 bodies had been found in the rubble on Saturday.
After talks in Paris on Saturday, foreign ministers from the US, Turkey, Qatar and several European countries urged both sides to extend the truce.
Israeli cabinet minister Gilad Erdan told Reuters on Saturday that a definitive deal looked remote, with no representatives from Israel, Egypt or the Palestinian Authority attending the Paris talks.
Also on Saturday, pro-Palestinian demonstrations took place in several global capitals.
Around 5,000 people rallied in Paris in defiance of a ban by the French authorities – about 50 people were arrested during clashes with police. Thousands also took part in a protest in London against Israel’s military campaign.
Israel launched its military offensive with the declared objective of stopping Hamas firing rockets from Gaza into Israel.
It also began a ground offensive on July 18, saying it was necessary to destroy tunnels dug by militants to infiltrate Israel.
Calls for a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas movement are intensifying as more than 800 people have been killed in Gaza in the 18-day conflict.
Secretary of State John Kerry has been in Cairo meeting Egypt’s foreign minister and the UN secretary general.
Five Palestinians were killed in the West Bank, while one Israeli soldier was killed in northern Gaza.
Activists called for a “day of rage” over the deaths of 800 Palestinians in Gaza. Israel has lost 36 people.
Calls for a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas movement are intensifying as more than 800 people have been killed in Gaza
Most of the Palestinian deaths have been civilians, while 34 of Israel’s dead have been soldiers. One Thai worker was also killed by rocket fire in Israel.
Israel launched new air strikes on targets in Gaza on Friday, and said it had killed a senior member of militant group Islamic Jihad.
The Israeli military reported new rocket launches by militants inside the Gaza Strip, with several intercepted.
Israel launched its military offensive on 8 July with the declared objective of stopping Hamas firing rockets into Israel, extending its operation since then to destroy tunnels dug by militants to infiltrate its territory.
Hopes rose for at least a limited deal on Friday as it emerged that John Kerry, Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry and UN chief Ban Ki-moon were planning a news conference for later in the day.
John Kerry is expected to leave the region on Friday, whether or not a deal is agreed.
The plan is thought to include provision for a temporary pause in hostilities that could begin as soon as this weekend.
Israel wants to keep its military in Gaza and continue disabling Hamas tunnels.
Any plan must be approved both by Israel’s security cabinet and senior Hamas leaders, including Qatar-based Khaled Meshaal.
At least two Palestinians have been killed and 200 wounded in the West Bank during protests against Israel’s campaign in Gaza, officials say.
About 10,000 protesters marched from Ramallah towards East Jerusalem, where they were met by Israeli forces.
At least 15 people died and scores were injured when an UN-run shelter came under fire in Gaza on Thursday.
More than 800 Palestinians and 35 Israelis have died since the Israel-Hamas conflict began on July 8.
Palestinian leaders in the West Bank have called for a “day of anger” on Friday, one of the last days of Ramadan.
The protest at Qalandia, outside Ramallah, saw Israeli border police use “riot control measures” and live fire. Protesters also used live ammunition, Israel said.
At least two Palestinians have been killed and 200 wounded in the West Bank during protests against Israel’s campaign in Gaza
Large protests were also reported in Jerusalem on Thursday evening, after Israeli police prevented men under 50 from visiting the al-Aqsa mosque.
At least 20 protesters were arrested after they threw rocks at police, Israeli police said.
Israel launched its military offensive with the declared objective of stopping Hamas firing rockets into Israel.
It has since discovered a network of tunnels used by militants to infiltrate Israeli territory, and has vowed to destroy them to restore security.
Efforts to broker a ceasefire have been continuing despite the continued violence.
Reports suggest a deal under discussion could allow Israeli forces to remain in Gaza to destroy tunnels.
Palestinian leaders say this is the start of the “uprising of freedom and independence”. Thousands marched from the outskirts of Ramallah towards the Qalandia checkpoint calling for an end to the Israeli occupation.
Youths threw stones and petrol bombs towards the checkpoint and tried to destroy the barrier. Israeli police say they used percussion bombs and tear gas.
The demonstration was called for by a group of youths on Facebook, among them the son of the popular imprisoned Fatah leader Marwan Barghouti.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has urged Palestinians to expand the protests, and leaders in the West Bank have called for a “day of anger” on Friday.
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay has condemned Israel’s military actions in the Gaza Strip, saying that war crimes may have been committed.
Navi Pillay told an emergency debate at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva that Israel’s military offensive had not done enough to protect civilians.
She also condemned Hamas for “indiscriminate attacks” on Israel.
Israel launched its offensive on July 8 with the declared objective of stopping rocket fire from Gaza.
“There seems to be a strong possibility that international law has been violated, in a manner that could amount to war crimes,” Navi Pillay said.
Israel’s Justice Minister Tzipi Livni described the UN Human Rights Council as an “anti-Israel” body, Reuters news agency reported.
At least 649 Palestinians and 31 Israelis have been killed in the past 15 days of fighting, officials say.
A foreign worker in southern Israel was also killed by a rocket fired from Gaza on Wednesday, police said.
The UN says about 74% of those killed in Gaza are civilians, with medical clinics among the facilities hit by air strikes.
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay has condemned Israel’s military actions in the Gaza Strip (photo AP)
“Civilians in Gaza have no safe place to go as 44% of the land has been declared a ‘no-go zone’ by the Israeli army,” the assistant secretary-general at the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said.
“Families are taking the heart-wrenching decision to split to different locations – mother and son to one; father and daughter to another – hoping to maximize the chance one part of the family survives.”
There was heavy fighting in the town of Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip on Wednesday.
Eyewitnesses say around 5,000 Palestinians, some waving white flags, are fleeing in a state of panic following a ground incursion by Israeli troops.
Meanwhile US Secretary of State John Kerry arrived in Israel on Wednesday to try to help negotiate a truce.
“We have certainly made some steps forward. There is still work to be done,” John Kerry said shortly after arriving.
John Kerry flew by military plane to Ben Gurion airport near Tel Aviv, as several US and European airlines continue to suspend civilian flights into Israel after a rocket from Gaza landed near the airport.
German airline Lufthansa announced on Wednesday it would extend the ban for another 24 hours.
At least five people died in an air strike in Khan Younis overnight. An Israeli soldier was also killed.
Earlier, Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu said Hamas should be held accountable for rejecting an Egyptian ceasefire proposal.
Referring to a July 16 Israeli air strike that killed children playing on a beach in Gaza, Navi Pillay said “the disregard for international humanitarian law and for the right to life was shockingly evident”.
She also condemned rocket attacks from Gaza into Israel.
“The principles of distinction and precaution are clearly not being observed during such indiscriminate attacks on civilian areas by Hamas and other armed Palestinian groups,” she told the UN Human Rights Council.
Despite her condemnation of Hamas attacks on Israel, Navi Pillay clearly views Israel’s actions in Gaza as disproportionate.
“Israel is acting according to international law,” Tzipi Livni said.
“It is regrettable civilians are killed, but when we call on them to vacate and Hamas calls on them to stay, then that is what happens.”
A 2009 UN human rights report said that Israel’s military and Hamas had each committed potential war crimes during Israel’s 2008-2009 offensive in Gaza.
The Goldstone report was rejected by Israel and the US as biased and flawed.
John Kerry appeared to criticize Israel in candid remarks caught on an open microphone between television interviews Sunday.
The secretary of state was heard talking about Israeli soldiers killed in Gaza to a State Department official identified as Jonathan Finer just before appearing on the Fox News Sunday political talk show.
“I hope they don’t think that’s an invitation to go do more,” John Kerry says.
“That better be the warning to them.”
A frustrated John Kerry then says: “It’s a hell of a pinpoint operation, it’s a hell of a pinpoint operation,” in apparent frustration over the civilian toll in the Israeli operation.
John Kerry appeared to criticize Israel in candid remarks caught on an open microphone between television interviews
The Palestinian death toll topped 500 on Sunday as Israel pressed a ground offensive into the densely packed Gaza Strip after two weeks of aerial attacks.
“We’ve got to get over there,” John Kerry is heard saying on the Sunday recording.
“I think, Jon, we ought to go tonight. I think it’s crazy to be sitting around. Let’s go.”
When confronted over the remarks by Fox host Chris Wallace, John Kerry reiterated Israel’s right to self-defense.
“I think it’s very, very difficult in these situations, obviously very difficult,” he said.
“You have people who’ve come out of tunnels. You have a right to go in and take out those tunnels. We completely support that. And we support Israel’s right to defend itself against rockets that are continuing to come in. Hamas has started this process of rocketing, after Israel was trying to find the people who killed three young – you know, one American kid, three young Israeli citizens. It’s disgraceful,” John Kerry said.
“It’s tough to have this kind of operation. I reacted obviously in a way that … anybody does with respect to young children and civilians.
“But war is tough, and I’ve said that publicly and I’ve said it again. We defend Israel’s right to do what it is doing in order to get at those tunnels,” John Kerry said.
He then urged Hamas to “step up and be reasonable and understand that you accept the cease-fire, you save lives.”
John Kerry traveled to Cairo early Monday for crisis talks on Gaza, following President Barack Obama’s call for an “immediate ceasefire” between Israelis and Palestinians in the conflict.
Gaza and Israel have both suffered their deadliest day since the beginning of the current offensive.
Israel says that 13 of its soldiers died since Saturday night, the biggest one-day loss for its army in years.
At least 87 Gazans were reported killed on Sunday – 60 of them in the district of Shejaiya alone. The total death toll in Gaza now stands at more than 425.
Hamas said on Sunday evening that it had captured an Israeli soldier, but this has not been confirmed by Israel.
Celebratory gunfire and shouts could be heard in Gaza City after the claim was made.
Sunday’s death toll for the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) is higher than that sustained by the IDF during the entire three-week duration of Operation Cast Lead in 2008-2009, the last time that Israel sent ground troops into Gaza.
It brings the number of Israeli soldiers killed in the current offensive to 18.
Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu vowed to continue operations in Gaza “as much as we need to” despite the casualties.
He said the Israeli government felt “deep pain” over deaths of its soldiers, and that Hamas, not Israel was responsible for the escalation in Gaza.
The UN says 83,695 people have now been displaced in Gaza and have taken refuge in 61 shelters
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said the deaths in the Shejaiya district east of Gaza City were a “massacre”.
The UN says 83,695 people have now been displaced in Gaza and have taken refuge in 61 shelters and that the figure is “rising all the time”.
Witnesses spoke of bodies lying in the street.
A humanitarian truce was agreed in the area, but lasted less than an hour with both sides blaming each other for violating the truce.
Paramedics said that rescue workers had not been able to get to the eastern part of Shejaiya, an area very close to the Israeli border and about 1.2 miles away from Gaza City, which has seen heavy shelling.
Benjamin Netanyahu said Israeli troops had no choice but to enter densely populated areas and that they had asked civilians to leave.
The death toll in Gaza rose sharply over the weekend, with the number of Palestinians killed now standing at more than 425 since the operation began, according to Palestinian health officials.
They say the number of wounded from the operation now stands at more than 3,000.
The majority of those killed are civilians, the UN says.
The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) sent ground troops into Gaza on Thursday after days of heavy air and naval barrages failed to stop rocket fire from Gaza.
Two Israeli civilians have died since the offensive began on 8 July.
Israel says the operation is necessary to target Hamas tunnel networks, which it says it could not do from the air alone.
Lt. Col. Peter Lerner, an IDF spokesman, said the offensive was being expanded “to restore security and stability to Israel’s residents and citizens”.
Meanwhile, the UN warned it was running out of supplies to help more than 50,000 Palestinians who have sought shelter at its schools in Gaza.
Qatar is expected to host a meeting between President Mahmoud Abbas and Ban Ki-moon on Sunday before the UN chief continues on to Kuwait, Egypt, Israel, the Palestinian Territories and Jordan.
Mahmoud Abbas is also due to meet Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal.
Hamas rejected an Egypt-brokered ceasefire last week, saying any deal with Israel must include an end to a blockade of Gaza.
Tens of thousands of people have gathered to attend a rally in the Gaza Strip to mark the 25th anniversary of the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas.
Hamas exiled political leader Khaled Meshaal has arrived to address the crowd during his first ever visit to the territory.
Khaled Meshaal’s visit follows a ceasefire that ended days of violence between Israel and Hamas last month.
He is expected to unveil a future strategy for Hamas and talk of reconciliation with its rival, Fatah.
Hamas removed Fatah from Gaza by force in 2007 after winning elections there. Fatah governs parts of the West Bank.
The event is intended to send a message that, after 25 years, Hamas is a force to be reckoned with.
It enjoys support in Gaza and feels it is gaining regional political influence after the Arab uprisings brought new Islamist governments to power, she adds.
Tens of thousands of Gazans have made their way to the rally at the al-Qatiba complex west of Gaza City to hear the speech by Khaled Meshaal.
It is expected to focus on key issues such as the strategy with Israel, the future leadership of Hamas and reconciliation with Fatah.
Tens of thousands of people have gathered to attend a rally in the Gaza Strip to mark the 25th anniversary of the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas
In 2011, Khaled Meshaal and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas – the Fatah leader – endorsed an Egyptian plan to reconcile the rival factions.
But it is unlikely such a rally will hear any signs of moderation in the strategy towards Israel.
The centrepiece of Saturday’s rally in Gaza City is a huge replica of a type of rocket Hamas militants fired at Jerusalem and Tel Aviv in the conflict with Israel last month. It has Made in Gaza written on it.
Some 170 Palestinians and six Israelis were killed in the eight-day engagement and Hamas has presented Saturday’s event as a victory rally.
Ahmed Shaheen, attending the rally with his children, told Reuters: “This is a day of victory. The presence of Khaled Meshaal is a sign of this victory.”
Israel says its operation killed Hamas’s military commander and significantly reduced the militants’ stockpile of rockets.
Israel, the US and the EU consider Hamas a terrorist organization.
In terms of the Hamas leadership, Khaled Meshaal said in January he did not wish to stand again as political chief and the future make-up at the top remains unclear.
Khaled Meshaal entered Gaza from Egypt at the Rafah border crossing on Friday, touching his head to the ground in celebration. The streets of Gaza City were decorated with Palestinian and Hamas flags.
Correspondents say he was clearly aware of the desire among Palestinians for an end to the divisions that have weakened their cause.
Standing in the ruins of a house destroyed in an Israeli air strike, he said: “With God’s will… reconciliation will be achieved. National unity is at hand.”
Apart from a brief visit to the West Bank in 1975, Khaled Meshaal had not visited the Palestinian territories since his family left in 1967.
He survived an Israeli assassination attempt in Jordan in 1997 only after King Hussein demanded an antidote to poison used by Israeli agents.
An Israeli official said that no guarantees for Khaled Meshaal’s safety in Gaza had been requested and none had been given.
Khaled Meshaal, the exiled political leader of Hamas, has called his first visit to the Gaza Strip his “third birth”.
He said his previous two “births” were the day he survived an assassination attempt by Israeli agents in Jordan in 1997, and his actual birth in 1956.
Khaled Meshaal had not set foot in the Palestinian territories since leaving the West Bank in 1967.
His visit follows a ceasefire that ended days of violence between Hamas and Israel last month.
The Islamist militant group has governed Gaza since 2007.
Khaled Meshaal entered Gaza from Egypt at the Rafah border crossing, kissing the ground in celebration. Officials there said his wife had arrived late on Thursday.
In a statement to the media, he said: “I consider this moment my third birth, and I pray to God that my fourth birth will be the moment when all of Palestine is liberated.”
“Gaza has always been in my heart,” he said.
Khaled Meshaal is expected to visit the home of late Hamas founder Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, as well as that of Ahmed Jabari, the military commander killed in an Israeli strike last month.
Ahmed Jabari’s death marked the start of an eight-day Israeli offensive which Israel said was aimed at halting militant rocket attacks. Some 170 Palestinians and six Israelis were killed.
Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said in a statement that Khaled Meshaal’s visit was “a fruit of the victory of the resistance over the occupation”.
A huge rally on Saturday is expected to be the centrepiece of his three-day tour.
Khaled Meshaal, the exiled political leader of Hamas, has called his first visit to the Gaza Strip his third birth
Khaled Meshaal is scheduled to address the rally in Gaza City and will talk about the organization’s future strategy towards Israel.
He is also expected to discuss reconciliation moves with the Fatah movement, which Hamas removed from Gaza by force in 2007 after winning elections there. Fatah now rules parts of the West Bank.
In 2011, Khaled Meshaal and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas – the Fatah leader – endorsed an Egyptian plan to reconcile the rival factions.
Although attempts to forge a Palestinian government of national unity have since stalled, Khaled Meshaal told Reuters ahead of his Gaza visit that “there is a new mood that allows us to achieve reconciliation”.
Khaled Meshaal was quick to praise Mahmoud Abbas’s recent success in upgrading Palestinian status at the United Nations to that of a non-member “observer state”.
In response to that move, Israel announced it would move ahead with building thousands of new homes in Israeli settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
Correspondents say Israel – which along with the US and EU considers Hamas a terrorist organisation – appears to be turning a blind eye to Khaled Meshaal’s visit.
Israeli foreign ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor said that Israel had no say over who entered Gaza from Egypt.
“We have no position on different individuals within Hamas,” he said, according to AP news agency.
“Hamas is Hamas is Hamas.”
On Thursday, Palestinian workers were setting up a stage for Saturday’s rally that included a replica of a type of rocket Hamas has fired into Israel. “Made in Gaza,” was written on it.
Khaled Meshaal was born in the West Bank in 1956. He moved to Kuwait after the 1967 Middle East war and later Jordan, where his involvement with Hamas began.
Khaled Meshaal survived an Israeli assassination attempt in Jordan in 1997 and was briefly jailed there, before being expelled and travelling to Qatar.
He became Hamas’s political leader in exile in 2004 when Sheikh Yassin was assassinated by Israel.
Khaled Meshaal ran operations from Damascus until February this year, when the unrest there prompted another move. He now bases himself in Qatar and Egypt.
Hamas was created in 1987 after the beginning of the first intifada – or Palestinian uprising – against Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and Gaza.
Under its charter, Hamas is committed to the destruction of Israel. But the group has also offered a 10-year truce in return for a complete Israeli withdrawal from territories it occupied in 1967.
1956 - Born in Silwad in West Bank
1967 - Moves with family to Kuwait after Six Day War
1971 - Joins Muslim Brotherhood
1987 - Hamas created
1991 - Moves to Jordan after Iraq invades Kuwait. Runs Hamas fundraising
1997 - Survives Israeli assassination attempt
1999 - Expelled from Jordan. Moves to Qatar
2001 - Moves to Syria
2004 - Named Hamas political leader after assassination of Sheikh Ahmed Yassin