Israeli-Palestinian conflict rages on as France pushes ceasefire resolution at UN

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Israel and armed Palestinian groups in Gaza exchanged fire overnight into the early hours of Wednesday, as France proposed a ceasefire to stem more than a week of bloodshed.

Israel started bombing the besieged coastal strip run by Islamist group Hamas on May 10, in response to Palestinian armed groups there firing rockets towards the Jewish state after Israeli forces cracked down on Palestinians in Jerusalem.

War planes continued to hit Gaza city in the hours before dawn, flying low and keeping many people awake, an AFP correspondent there said.

Randa Abu Sultan, 45, said her family were all gathered in one room to sit out the night.

"We're all terrified by the sound of explosions, missiles and fighter jets," said the mother of seven.

"My four-year-old son tells me he's scared that if he falls asleep he'll wake up to find us dead."

Late Tuesday, an AFP photographer saw streaks of light in the sky as Israel's air defence system intercepted rockets launched from Gaza.

Israeli air strikes have killed at least 217 Palestinians, including 63 children, in Gaza since May 10, the enclave's health ministry said.

Palestinian groups have meanwhile killed 12 people in Israel with their rockets, Israeli police said.

A UN Security Council meeting broke up without issuing a statement late Tuesday, but France then said it had proposed a resolution calling for a ceasefire, in coordination with Israel's neighbours Egypt and Jordan.

Zhang Jun, Beijing's ambassador to the UN, told reporters his team had heard the French ceasefire proposal and China was "supportive".

Another diplomat said the proposal would seek to cease hostilities, but also "allow humanitarian access".

Humanitarian crisis

The United States, a key Israel ally, has repeatedly blocked adoption of a joint UN Security Council statement calling for a halt to the hostilities.

But EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell backed mounting calls for a ceasefire and urged Israel's military to act in a "proportionate" manner.

Hamas has launched nearly 3,700 rockets at Israel since May 10, often forcing people living by Gaza into bomb shelters around the clock.

Israel's near-relentless bombing campaign has left two million Palestinians in Gaza desperate for reprieve.

The humanitarian crisis has deepened in the impoverished strip, with the UN saying 72,000 Palestinians have been displaced.

But a convoy of international aid trucks that started rolling into Gaza through a border crossing from Israel, Kerem Shalom, was halted when Israel quickly shuttered it again, citing a mortar attack on the area.

Israel says its fighter jets have hit Hamas' underground tunnels, which it has previously acknowledged run in part through civilian areas.

An air raid Monday knocked out Gaza's only Covid-19 testing laboratory, the health ministry said, and the Qatari Red Crescent said a strike damaged one of its offices.

Hospitals in the territory, which has been under Israeli blockade for almost 15 years, have been overwhelmed by patients and there are frequent blackouts.

'Day of anger'

At an air force base in Israel's south on Tuesday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Hamas and Islamic Jihad, the second biggest armed group in Gaza, had "received blows they didn't expect".

"We'll continue as long as necessary to bring... quiet back to the citizens of Israel," he added.

On Tuesday, Israeli forces and protesters clashed across the occupied West Bank and in east Jerusalem, as Palestinians rallied in solidarity with their besieged Gazan counterparts.

The Palestinian health ministry said Israeli forces shot dead four Palestinians, including one the Israeli army said had attempted to attack soldiers, bringing up to 24 those Palestinians killed there since May 10.

The Palestinian Red Crescent said its teams had treated more than 150 people in Jerusalem and the occupied West Bank, including 35 with live bullet wounds.

Israel's army said troops came under fire north of Ramallah, and two of its soldiers were injured.

Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas' Fatah movement had called for a "day of anger" Tuesday, a call echoed in Arab and ethnically mixed towns inside Israel.

"We are here to raise our voice and stand with the people in Gaza who are being bombed," Ramallah protester Aya Dabour told AFP.

In east Jerusalem's Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood, Palestinian protesters faced off against police, who used stun grenades and "skunk water" cannon to disperse protesters.

The latest escalation was sparked after clashes broke out at east Jerusalem's Al-Aqsa mosque compound, one of Islam's holiest sites, as well as over planned expulsions of Palestinians from Sheikh Jarrah.