Palestinians Struggle to Find Safety as Israel and Hamas Continue Attacks

Gaza City - CNN -- One bomb fell on a center for the disabled. Another wiped out 18 members of the same family.

By Monday, the death toll from nearly a week of Israeli airstrikes on Gaza had reached 176 -- all of them Palestinians -- with more than 1,280 wounded, according to Palestinian health authorities.

'We have nothing'

Over the weekend, Israel dropped leaflets instructing residents to leave northern areas of Gaza, where it planned to carry out strikes. But Hamas, which controls Gaza, told people to stay put.

Ahmed, a resident of northern Gaza, loaded his family into a taxi Sunday to take them to somewhat safer ground in Gaza City.

"I don't answer to them," Ahmed said of Hamas' request. "I do what's best for us."

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As they were getting into the car, explosions erupted nearby, prompting cries of fear from the terrified children.

It's the third time in the last five years that the family has had to flee their home.

Others stayed, because they felt they had no other choice.

"They will not vacate. ... Where do we go?" asked Ramez Al-Madhoun, who lives in a building with 20 people in the northern Gaza neighborhood of Beit Lahya. He said his building is home to seven adults, the rest children.

In Gaza City, where some streets are strewn with rubble, people are taking refuge in U.N. buildings. More than 1,000 gathered in one school alone.

Um Juma'a says she and her family of 15 fled their home at 2 a.m.

"We told the kids, 'Get up! Get up!' " she says. "We walked all the way here."

A baby in the family needs milk, but they don't have any.

"We have nothing," she says. "Not even safety."

No signs of letting up

On Monday morning, the rhythmic thuds of shells fired from Israeli warships pierced the morning silence in Gaza. The streets were relatively quiet with few cars moving around. The buzz of drones filled the skies, a constant reminder of the Israeli aerial presence

Israel has so far shrugged off international calls for a cease-fire, saying it will continue the offensive as long as the militant group Hamas keeps firing rockets into its territory.

And Hamas shows no sign of letting up after launching almost 1,000 rockets at Israel.

Caught in the middle are the residents of Gaza. While the Israeli attacks have killed some militants, around 70% of the fatalities were civilians, according to the United Nations. Of the dead, more than 30 are children, the U.N. reported.

"I urgently call on the Israeli Security Forces to put an end to attacks against, or endangering, civilians and civilian infrastructure which are contrary to international humanitarian law," said Pierre Krahenbuhl, commissioner general of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees, or UNWRA.

There are now 17,000 refugees taking shelter in 20 schools in Gaza, UNWRA said, and the airstrikes have damaged 47 of its buildings, including clinics, schools and warehouses.

UNWRA called on Israel to exercise maximum restraint and precaution to avoid more casualties.

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"Clearly at this stage not enough is being done in that regard," Krahenbuhl said.

'We cannot live in peace'

Israel said its forces have struck 1,470 "terror targets" across Gaza, including 770 concealed rocket launchers.

On Monday, an Israeli airstrike in Khan Younis, a city in the southern Gaza Strip, struck a motorcycle, killing one member of Islamic Jihad, Palestinian medical and security forces said.

One airstrike hit the house of the head of the Gaza police, Tayseer al-Batsh, killing at least 18 people, all of them members of the same extended family, and wounding 50, Palestinian security and medical sources told CNN on Sunday. The attack, whose youngest victim was 10, happened late Saturday.

Earlier that day, an Israeli airstrike hit a center for the disabled, killing two women.

"Every people in Gaza are suspected as targets to Israel. We cannot live in peace in this situation," said Dr. Ahmed Jarour at Gaza's Shifa hospital, where two patients with severe burns from the disabled center attack were brought in.

On Friday, Israeli rounds struck the El Waffa Hospital.

The Israeli military said it was investigating the strikes but said that Hamas often hides missiles and other weapons in hospitals and private homes.

Iron Dome intercepting attacks

Israel has used its Iron Dome defense system against some of the more than 980 rockets fired from Gaza into Israel, the military said.

On Monday, the system intercepted a rocket fired from Gaza toward the Israeli border town of Sderot, close to CNN's Wolf Blitzer.

"We heard a loud boom," he said. "If you don't seek shelter, you're gonna be in danger because even though the rocket was destroyed in the air, the shrapnel starts coming down very, very quickly."

When sirens go off, people along the border have about 15 second to seek shelter. Farther north in Tel Aviv, where the Iron Dome system also intercepted a rocket Monday, people have about a minute.

On Sunday, militants launched more than 130 rockets at Israel. The defense system intercepted 22 of them.

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Warning leaflet dropped in Gaza.Warning leaflet dropped in Gaza.

Seventy percent of Israel's population lies within range of Hamas rocket attacks, according to the Israel Defense Forces, and the Iron Dome can't stop all of them.

One rocket that hit the city of Ashkelon on Sunday severely wounded an Israeli teen, the IDF said.

So far, no Israelis have been killed by the rocket attacks.

The IDF said Monday that it shot down a drone spotted along the Israeli coastline, near the city of Ashdod.

Hamas' military wing said in a brief statement that it has sent a number of drones on missions inside Israel and would provide more details in due course.

Al Aqsa TV in Gaza showed video of a drone it called Ababill 1, a name inspired by the Quran meaning "consecutive waves."

Cease-fire hopes dim

International efforts to press Israel and Hamas into negotiating a cease-fire have failed to gain traction.

Michael Oren, the former Israeli ambassador to the United States, said the escalation should be an opportunity to arrange a broader peace negotiation. In addition, it could present a chance to get American inspectors to remove long-range missiles from Gaza, he told CNN's "New Day."

He also addressed the disparity in Palestinians and Israeli deaths.

"It's going to cause a public diplomacy challenge for Israel, but better to have public diplomacy challenge than to have hundreds of casualties, including fatalities," he said.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry spoke by phone with Netanyahu, a senior State Department official said. Kerry "condemned the rocket attacks from Gaza into Israel, and stressed Israel's right to defend itself," the official said.

Kerry also discussed U.S. concerns about escalating tensions and reiterated that the U.S. is prepared to help facilitate a cease-fire, the official said.

"Offering facilitation is not enough," Yousef Munayyer of the Washington-based Palestine Center told CNN's "New Day."

"It's important that the United States demand a cease-fire," he said. "There is no military solution to this."

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The last cease-fire with Gaza was negotiated in 2012 and included Egypt and the country's now ousted President, Mohamed Morsy.

His Muslim Brotherhood was closer to Hamas than Egypt's current government, which has been reluctant to open border crossings for Palestinians.

"We are working on trying to open the Rafah crossing point in order to respond to the need of the Palestinian people, particularly the wounded and those who have extreme humanitarian needs," Hannan Ashrawi, a member of the Palestine Liberation Organization's Executive Committee, said Monday.

The PLO is also urging Arab foreign ministers meeting in Cairo on Monday to push the U.N. Security Council to toughen its stance.

"We are not satisfied with the very bland statement from the U.N. Security Council," Ashrawi said. "We want a resolution, and we want a clear, unequivocal resolution denouncing this aggression," she said.

And Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas will ask the United Nations "to officially put the State of Palestine under the UN international protection system," the PLO said.

Israel: Hamas using mosques

Mosques have also been hit in the strikes. The Israeli military says Hamas, which regularly uses sites and facilities populated with civilians, hides rockets and other weapons in mosques and schools.

"The leadership of Hamas and the other organizations has chosen -- at a time when they are using the population of Gaza as human shields -- to hide underground, to flee abroad and to deliberately put civilians in the line of fire," Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told a Cabinet meeting Sunday.

Tensions in the West Bank

The Gaza conflict flared after the kidnapping and killing of three Israeli teenagers in the West Bank set off a new cycle of violence in the region. The Jewish teens' bodies were found in a field two weeks ago.

Two days later, a Palestinian teenager was abducted and killed in Jerusalem, raising tensions further.

Since the Israeli youths went missing last month, Israeli security forces have been hunting for their abductors in the West Bank. Israel blames Hamas for the Jewish teenagers' deaths, an accusation the group denies.

The weeks-long Israeli search in the West Bank has stirred anger among residents, resulted in hundreds of arrests and provoked deadly unrest.

Early Monday, a 21-year-old Palestinian named Munir Ahmad Badareen was shot and killed during clashes with the Israeli military south of Hebron, said Rateb Jabour, a member of a local committee.

Badareen was left bleeding on the ground for 40 minutes before the Israeli military allowed a Palestinian ambulance to transfer him to a hospital, Jabour said.

A spokeswoman for the Israeli military said the matter would be investigated by the military police, whose findings would be reviewed by the military advocate general.

The death came as Israeli security forces detained 57 people in the West Bank late Sunday into early Monday, the Palestinian Prisoner's Society said. The detentions bring the total number of people arrested since the Israeli operation began last month to 1,071, including 34 Palestinian members of parliament, the organization said.


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