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    Jul 21, 2014

    Israel's 'fiercest' attack kills at least 60


    MORE than 60 Palestinians were killed yesterday by Israeli shelling in a Gaza neighbourhood, where bodies were strewn in the street and thousands fled to a hospital packed with wounded people, witnesses and health officials said.

    As the number of dead mounted, Israel and Gaza's dominant Hamas movement agreed to a two-hour "humanitarian truce" in that area, at the request of the Red Cross.

    But it lasted less than an hour, with Israel accusing Hamas militants of firing in violation of the agreement.

    The mass casualties in Shejaia, in north-eastern Gaza, were the heaviest since Israel launched its offensive on the Palestinian territory on July 8, after cross-border rocket strikes by militants intensified.

    Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who is based in the occupied West Bank, accused Israel of carrying out a massacre and declared three days of mourning.

    The Israeli military said Hamas had deployed rockets and built tunnels and command centres in Shejaia.

    "Two days ago, residents of Shejaia received recorded messages to evacuate the area in order to protect their lives," an Israeli military spokesman said.

    Anguished cries of "Did you see Ahmed?" and "Did you see my wife?" echoed through the courtyard of Gaza's Shifa hospital, where panicked Shejaia residents gathered in family groups, seeking a safe haven. Inside, bodies and the wounded lay on bloodstained floors.

    Elderly men there said the Israeli attack was the fiercest they had seen since the 1967 Middle East war, when Israel captured Gaza.

    So far, medics say more than 400 have been wounded in the blistering Israeli offensive in the area.

    Thousands fled Shejaia, some by foot and others piling into the backs of trucks and sitting on the bonnets of cars filled with families trying to get away. Several people rode out of the neighbourhood of 100,000 in the shovel of a bulldozer.