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Gaza toll rises over 1,270 on day 23 of Israeli assault

Gaza City, Palestinian Territories (AFP) – Forty people died in Israeli strikes across Gaza Wednesday, including 16 killed when shells hit a UN school, sending the Palestinian toll from 23 days of fighting over 1,270.

The latest violence saw six members of the same family, three of them children, killed when an Israeli shell hit the Tuffah neighbourhood in northeastern Gaza City, emergency services spokesman Ashraf al-Qudra said.

The deadliest strike was at a UN-run school in Jabaliya refugee camp in northern Gaza, with two shells hitting classrooms where dozens of Palestinians were sheltering, UN officials and an AFP correspondent said.

An official from the UN agency for Palestinian refugees put the toll at 16 dead, although there was no immediate breakdown of the victims’ identities.

At least six children were killed during the morning, among them an 11-year-old disabled girl who died in a shelling in Gaza City, and a 16-year-old girl killed in a strike on central Gaza.

In the southern city of Khan Yunis, a single strike killed nine members of the same family, including one child, Qudra said.

Seven other people died in various attacks across the Gaza Strip as Israeli ground troops made a ”significant advance” into the tiny coastal territory which is home to 1.7 million people.

So far, more than 1,270 people have been killed and more than 7,100 wounded since the start of the Israeli offensive, which began with an intensive air campaign on July 8 and expanded when Israel sent ground troops into the Gaza periphery on July 17.

Figures released at 1200 GMT on Tuesday by the UN humanitarian agency OCHA give a figure of 1,118 dead, including at least 827 civilians, among them 243 children.

Of the 6,233 injured, 1,949 were children, it said.

OCHA also said up to 240,000 Palestinians had been internally displaced by the ongoing fighting, with the UN agency for refugees saying over 200,000 of them had taken refuge in 85 of its shelters. The rest were staying with relatives or friends.

On the Israeli side, the conflict has also cost the lives of 53 soldiers, all of whom were killed since the ground operation began, as well as two civilians and a Thai agricultural worker who were killed by rocket fire.

The army says that during its offensive it has attacked some 4,100 targets in Gaza, and militants have fired over 2,670 rockets, of which 2,102 struck Israel and another 513 of which were shot down by its missile defence system, Iron Dome.

Since midnight (2100 GMT Tuesday), two rockets have struck Israel, a military spokeswoman said.