Israel on Sunday buried the first of its children killed in the latest war in the Gaza Strip, and at the funeral, the country’s president made indirect reference to the nearly 500 Palestinian children who have died as well in the course of nearly seven weeks of brutal conflict.
Mourners thronged the funeral of 4-year-old Daniel Tragerman, who was killed by a mortar shell Friday in a kibbutz just outside Gaza. Many residents of such Israeli communities on the Gaza periphery have fled north — as the child’s parents had been planning to do when the lethal strike took place.
With Egyptian-led mediation efforts appearing stalled, the two sides traded heavy fire again Sunday.
More than 650 rockets and mortar shells have struck Israel since the latest truce unraveled on Tuesday, the military reported, with at least 117 falling Sunday. Most were intercepted or fell in open areas without causing injuries or damage.
Israel has hit back with blistering retaliatory bombardment that leveled two large apartment and office buildings in Gaza in less than 24 hours ending Sunday morning. The military said both structures had been used by Hamas.
Israel has also been going after individual Hamas figures in recent days, to lethal effect. Among those targeted in Sunday’s airstrikes was an official reportedly responsible for salary transfers for the militant group, the army said.
The strike against alleged Hamas financier Mohammed Talat al-Ghoul was the third raid in six days targeting the group’s leadership, beginning with a bombardment Tuesday meant to eliminate the fugitive commander of Hamas’ military wing, Mohammed Deif.
Israeli intelligence officials were quoted Sunday as saying there was still no definitive word on whether Deif, in hiding for decades, had been killed in the air raid in Gaza City that left his wife and two of his children dead. Three senior Hamas military commanders were killed in a subsequent strike in Rafah, in southern Gaza.
Mortar fire from within Gaza on Sunday also struck the main Erez crossing point into Israel, injuring three Israelis, officials in Jerusalem said. Israel said it was closing the crossing, which had been used for dozens of humanitarian cases — the sick and injured — to cross daily into Israel.
On the Israeli side of the Gaza boundary, the parents of slain 4-year-old Daniel gave vent to their grief, calling him a beautiful and much-loved child. Israeli President Reuven Rivlin, who attended the funeral, laid the blame on Hamas for the deaths of hundreds of Palestinian children who have been killed in fighting that broke out on July 8.
“We knew that the terrorists [who] have no regard for the blood of their children would not spare our own,” he said.
Israel maintains that Hamas has deliberately put civilians in harm’s way by building infiltration tunnels and launching rockets from civilian neighborhoods. Palestinian officials, human rights groups and the United Nations say Israel has been reckless in its fire with sometimes imprecise battlefield weapons aimed at densely populated areas in the coastal territory.
About 2,100 Palestinians in Gaza have been killed in this round of fighting, most of them civilians, according to the United Nations, but Israel says hundreds were fighters for Hamas or other militant groups. Sixty-eight people have died on the Israeli side, all but four of them soldiers.
This has been the third war in Gaza since 2008, but the current fighting has been the longest and the deadliest.