300 children killed in Gaza so far: UN

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GAZA: Israel carried out fresh attacks on southern Gaza Strip amidst a hunt for one of its missing soldiers believed to be captured by Hamas, as the new wave of violence raised the Palestinians toll to 1669.

Israel also threw cold water over efforts to reach a solution to the crisis when it announced that it would not attend Egyptian-hosted negotiations for a new truce. A Palestinian delegation was to fly to Cairo for negotiations, which would include Hamas’s demand that Egypt ease movement across its border with blockaded Gaza. But Israel said it would not send its envoys as scheduled.

The United Nations, meanwhile, came out with a stunning statistics that at least 296 Palestinian children and adolescents have been killed since Israel launched its current offensive on July 8.

“Children make up for 30 per cent of the civilian casualties,” said the UN children’s agency Unicef, adding that the toll was based on deaths which it was able to verify and was likely to rise.

“The number of child casualties during the last 48 hours may rise as a number of incidents are pending verification,” it said in a statement.

Unicef stressed that its figures are “cross-checked to the best extent possible in the current situation… subject to change based on further verifications.”

“Between 8 July and 2 August 2014, at least 296 Palestinian children were reported killed as a result of airstrikes and shelling by Israel aerial, naval and ground forces,” it said.

The toll breaks down to 187 boys and 109 girls, with at least 203 of them under the age of 12.

Several ceasefires between Israel and Hamas had failed to take hold or quickly collapsed, most recently on Friday after two Israeli soldiers were killed and a third went missing in an ambush.

In a statement yesterday, the military wing of Hamas said it had no knowledge of Goldin’s whereabouts and suggested that he may have been killed by the Israeli airstrikes that followed the apparent abduction.

“We have lost contact with the group of fighters that took part in the ambush and we believe they were all killed in the [Israeli] bombardment,” the statement said. “Assuming that they managed to seize the soldier during combat, we assess that he was also killed in the incident.”

A senior Israeli official acknowledged it was possible that Goldin had been killed but said Israel had seen “nothing conclusive.”

Israel accused Hamas of seizing Hadar Goldin. But Hamas said it believed its gunmen had struck before Friday’s ceasefire began and that if they captured Goldin, he probably died with his captors in heavy Israeli barrages that followed.

Israel also gave Palestinians who had fled fighting in the northern town of Beit Lahiya the all-clear to return. But fear-gripped Palestinians did not budge as Israeli armoured columns could still be seen on the town’s periphery.

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