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597 Palestinians, One-Quarter Children, Killed in Israel’s Military Op in Gaza

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Israel's Operation Protective Edge and ground invasion into the Gaza Strip has killed at least 597 Palestinians, including 152 children and 82 women, Al Mezan Centre for Human Rights, a nongovernmental organization based in the Gaza Strip, said in its most recent reports.

MOSCOW, July 23 (RIA Novosti) - Israel's Operation Protective Edge and ground invasion into the Gaza Strip has killed at least 597 Palestinians, including 152 children and 82 women, Al Mezan Centre for Human Rights, a nongovernmental organization based in the Gaza Strip, said in its most recent reports.

“According to the field investigations by Al Mezan Centre for Human Rights, as of 1 p.m. [10:00 GMT] today, on Tuesday 22 July 2014, at least 597 Palestinians have been verified as killed by the IOF [Israeli occupation forces]; including 152 children and 82 women,” the report said.

Al Mezan's initial investigation suggests 468 of the victims were civilians, and at least 311 were killed inside their homes, in which there were only 15 combatants.

The organization also says that it has verified the use of highly combustible white phosphorus bombs by Israelis in Gaza.

“Al Mezan Centre for Human Rights has verified the use of white phosphorus shells in the east of Gaza City and at least three attacks with flechette bombs in Rafah town in the south of the Gaza City,” the report said.

Moreover, according to the human rights organization, at least 2,938 people were injured since the start of the operations, including at least 822 children and 614 women. Israel’s ground assault displaced more than 150,000 people and destroyed at least, 3,143 houses.

Israel launched operation on July 8, 2014 in response to continued air attacks carried out by Palestinian militants.

Tensions between both sides have been strained since the murder of 16-year-old Mohammed Abu Khdeir on July 2. The boy was abducted in Israel-occupied East Jerusalem. His burned body was later found in another part of the city. Palestinians accuse Israeli extremists of killing the teenager to avenge the deaths of three Israeli teens that were abducted and killed in the West Bank.

Operation Protective Edge is Israel’s first military campaign since November 2012 and involves numerous airstrikes against the Hamas movement and its allied groups of Palestinian rebels. Israel maintains it is waging a targeted military campaign, while human rights groups record an increasing number of civilian deaths.

“The situation for the general civilian population is increasingly difficult, with blackouts lasting 20 hours at best and problems with access to water and healthcare,” Al Mezan Centre said in the report.

On July 17, following days of fighting, the Israeli military switched to a ground invasion aimed at destroying underground tunnels dug by rebels used to secretly enter Israeli territory.

On Sunday, Israel announced it was expanding its ground offensive in the Gaza Strip following days of shelling and aerial bombardment.

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