July 28, 2014 5:20 pm

Hamas and Israel trade blame for deaths of 9 children, 1 adult in Gaza park

WATCH ABOVE: The head of the UN said in the name of humanity, the violence in the Gaza Strip must stop. But, Israel has warned it’s planning further action against Hamas. Stuart Greer reports.

LATEST UPDATES:

  • The Israeli military has denied responsibility for an attack on a hospital and a park in the Gaza Strip
  • UN Security Council agrees on demand for Gaza cease-fire
  • Hamas declares new 24-hour truce
  • Fighting resumes overnight after Hamas rejects ceasefire extension
  • Israeli forces push further into Gaza in search for Hamas tunnels
  • Israel agrees to extend a 12-hour cease-fire by four hours
  • Scroll down to follow the latest updates in our live blog

GAZA, Gaza Strip – Hamas and Israel blamed each other for an explosion at a Gaza park Monday that killed at least 10 Palestinians – including nine children playing on a swing – in a horrific scene that underscored the heavy price civilians are paying in the conflict.

Israel’s military said a rocket misfired by Gaza militants was responsible, and it later released aerial photos that it said showed the weapon’s path. Gaza officials blamed Israeli airstrikes.

PHOTOS: Cease-fire reveals Gaza destruction

The blast took place on the first day of Eid al-Fitr, a Muslim holiday that marks the end of the holy fasting month of Ramadan.

Afterward, dozens of Palestinians crowded the spot at the park in the Shati refugee camp northwest of Gaza City, where pools of blood could be seen on the ground. Some cried out, pleading for God’s mercy.

Witnesses said the youngsters had been playing on a swing set.

VIDEO GALLERY:

“The children were playing and were happy, enjoying Eid, and they got hit. Some lost their heads, others their legs and hands,” Nidal Aljerbi, a witness, told The Associated Press.

Another man stood beside a pool of blood and cried: “We don’t want an agreement. We don’t want a cease-fire. All of us, children, women, will give our souls for God!”

VIDEO: Aftermath of airstrike on Gaza park that killed 10 people according to a Palestinian official

Story continues below

In a hectic scene, Palestinians shed tears outside the doors of the morgue at Gaza City’s Shifa Hospital, and relatives crammed into the hall. The bodies of three children lay on shelves in the mortuary, their clothes heavily bloodstained, their flesh torn by shrapnel.

The strikes occurred on a day of heavy fighting after a temporary humanitarian cease-fire. At the same time, international efforts to end the three-week war intensified.

Israel denies striking Gaza hospital, park

The streets near the park were strewn with shattered glass from homes and shops, and the ground was marked with the bloody footprints of those who helped carry the bodies to ambulances.

Lt. Col. Peter Lerner, an Israeli army spokesman, denied Israel was involved. “This incident was carried out by Gaza terrorists whose rockets fell short,” he said.

WATCH: IDF releases footage of firefights against alleged Hamas militants

Early Tuesday, the military released aerial photographs that it said showed the paths of two misfired rockets that hit the Shifa Hospital and the park. It said the paths were detected by Israeli military radar and sensors.

Lerner said that since the start of the fighting, Israel has identified about 200 failed rocket launches that struck within the Gaza Strip.

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In a text message, Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said the killings would be avenged.

“The massacre against the children in Shati refugee camp is a war crime,” Zuhri said. “Such a crime is a result of the silence of the international community. This crime will not break our will, and the occupation will pay the price.”

READ MORE: UN Security Council agrees on demand for ‘unconditional’ Gaza cease-fire

The United Nations on Monday called for an immediate cease-fire in the fighting that has killed at least 1,085 Palestinians, 52 Israeli soldiers and three civilians on the Israeli side.

The United Nations says civilians make up more than three-fourths of the dead and a majority of the wounded. Children account for at least 30 per cent of the casualties, according to UNICEF, the U.N. children’s agency.

In another tragic episode involving children, four Palestinian boys, cousins ages 9 to 11, were killed July 16 on a beach west of Gaza City by shellfire from a navy ship. Israel later apologized for the deaths.

Israel blames the civilian deaths on Hamas, accusing it of firing from residential neighbourhoods and using civilians as human shields.

The Israeli military says it is doing its utmost to spare civilians, including issuing evacuation warnings to homes and neighbourhoods that are about to be hit in Israel’s air and ground operation.

Gaza is densely populated, with 1.7 million people squeezed into a small strip of land on the Mediterranean Sea, leaving little room for escape.

Over the course of the war, there have been similar instances in which each side blamed the other for strikes that have had horrific results.

U.S. angry over Israeli criticism of John Kerry

Obama administration officials are fuming over Israeli criticism of Secretary of State John Kerry’s latest bid to secure a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas.

In unusually harsh language, officials say the criticism of Kerry could put the relationship between the U.S. and Israel in jeopardy. They also say the personal attacks on Kerry cross a line and are particularly disappointing at a time of active conflict.

WATCH: John Kerry still working towards an unconditional humanitarian cease fire in Gaza.

Israeli media commentators have levelled almost nonstop criticism at Kerry in recent days over his attempts to bring Qatar and Turkey into the cease-fire negotiations. Both countries are viewed by Israel as strong Hamas supporters.

Fighting in Gaza continues despite truce

Israel and Hamas launched new attacks Sunday in the raging Gaza war, despite each side offering different truces to temporarily halt nearly three weeks of fighting ahead of a major Muslim holiday.

After initially rejecting an Israeli offer Saturday for a 24-hour truce, Hamas said Sunday it agreed to hold fire ahead of the Eid al-Fitr holiday marking the end of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan. But as Israel’s Cabinet met to discuss the offer and the ongoing war, rockets rained down on southern Israel and Israeli strikes could be heard in Gaza.

Each side blamed the other for scuttling the efforts.

© The Canadian Press, 2014

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