At least 50 Palestinians were killed on Sunday by Israeli shelling in a Gaza neighbourhood, where bodies were strewn in the street and thousands fled for shelter to a hospital packed with wounded, witnesses and health officials said.
As the number of dead mounted, Israel and Gazas dominant Hamas movement agreed to a two-hour humanitarian truce in that area, from 1:30 pm to 3:30 pm, at the request of the Red Cross. Fighting continued elsewhere in Gaza.
The mass casualties in Shejaia, in northeast 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 on Sunday Hamas had deployed rockets and built tunnels and command centers in Shejaia.
Two days ago, residents of Shejaia received recorded messages to evacuate the area in order to protect their lives, an Israeli military spokeswoman said. Anguished cries of Did you see Ahmed? Did you see my wife? echoed through the courtyard of Gazas Shifa hospital, a where panicked residents of Shejaia gathered in family groups, seeking a safe haven. Inside, bodies and wounded lay on blood-stained floors. Elderly men there said the Israeli attack was the fiercest they had seen since the 1967 Middle East war, when Israel captured Gaza.