Relatives of the four boys killed in Israeli shelling at the family home during their funeral in Gaza on Wednesday. (AFP)
Gaza/Jerusalem, July 16 (Reuters): Israeli shelling killed four boys on a Gaza beach today, a local health official said, and Palestinian militants fired a further 70 rockets into Israel after a failed Egyptian attempt to halt more than a week of warfare.
Israel urged the evacuation of several districts in the Gaza Strip where more than 100,000 people live, threatening ground operations to try to stem the rocket attacks.
An Israeli official said the defence minister asked Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's security cabinet to authorise the mobilisation of another 8,000 reserve troops. The military has said that around 30,000 reservists have been called up since the Israeli offensive began a week ago.
Israeli experts predicted overland raids in the Gaza Strip to destroy command bunkers and tunnels that have allowed the outgunned Palestinians to withstand air and naval barrages and keep the rockets flying.
The Hamas political leadership formally rejected Cairo’s ceasefire plan today, a spokesman for the Islamist group said, a day after its armed wing spurned it and kept up rocket salvoes at Israel, which held its fire for six hours yesteday.
Ashraf al-Qidra of the Gaza health ministry said shelling from an Israeli gunboat off Gaza’s Mediterranean coast killed four boys - two aged 10 and the others 9 and 11 - from one family and critically wounded another youngster on the beach.
An Israeli military spokesman had no immediate comment. Netanyahu says the armed forces try to avoid civilian casualties but that militant rocket crews deliberately put non-combatants at risk by operating in densely populated residential areas.
Ahmed Abu Hassera, who witnessed the incident at the shore, told Reuters:“The kids were playing on the beach. They were all ... under the age of 15.” Israeli shelling has frequently targeted Gaza beaches, which are suspected staging areas for militants.
”When the first shell hit land, they ran away but another shell hit them all,” said Abu Hassera, whose shirt was stained with blood.“It looked as if the shells were chasing them.”
Reacting to the incident, Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri told reporters in Gaza: “These crimes will not succeed to break our will. We will continue the confrontation and resistance and we promise (Israel) will pay the price for all these crimes.”
Earlier, Israeli attacks in the Gaza Strip killed at least eight Palestinians, five of them civilians, and a six-year-old boy died of wounds sustained a few days ago, Gaza medics said, raising the death toll in the Hamas-dominated enclave to 208.
Gaza health officials say most of the Palestinian dead from in the worst flareup of violence with Israel in two years have been civilians.
Gaza’s Al-Mezan Centre for Human rights said 259 houses had been demolished by Israeli air strikes and 1,034 damaged along with 34 mosques and four hospitals.
The rocket volleys from Gaza have a race to shelters a daily routine for hundreds of thousands in the Jewish state.
One Israeli has been killed in the rocket fire, most of whose projectiles have crashed on open ground or been intercepted by Israel’s Iron Dome anti-missile shield.