Photo Essay

  • Palestinians walk past the collapsed minaret of a destroyed mosque in Gaza City, on July 30 2014 after it was hit in an overnight Israeli strike.
  • Palestinians look at a damaged classroom at a United Nation-run school sheltering Palestinians displaced by an Israeli ground offensive, which witnesses said was hit by Israeli shelling, in Jebalya refugee camp in the northern Gaza Strip on July 30, 2014.
  • Palestinian civilians wounded during Israeli shelling in a UN school wait at the Kamal Adwan hospital in Beit Lahia on July 30, 2014. 
  • A Palestinian man rushes a child, injured from an Israeli Strike in Shijaiyah neighborhood, to an emergency room at Shifa Hospital, in Gaza City, Wednesday, July 30, 2014.
  • A Palestinian boy (L) comforts his father, whom medics said was wounded by Israeli shelling in Shejaia, at a hospital in Gaza City July 30, 2014.
  • Palestinians look out from behind the doors at Kamal Adwan hospital where victims have been brought following an Israeli strike on a compound housing a UN school in Jabalia refugee camp in the northern Gaza Strip early on July 30, 2014.
  • Palestinians carry the bodies of 10 members of the Al Astal family, killed by an Israeli strike on their houses, during their funeral in Khan Younis, in the southern Gaza Strip, on July 30, 2014.
  • A ball of fire rises following an Israeli military strike on the outskirts of Gaza City early on July 30, 2014.
  •  Family and friends of Israeli soldier Barkai Yishai Shor mourn during his funeral on July 29, 2014 in Jerusalem, Israel. 
  • A Palestinian firefighter helps to put out a fire at Gaza’s main power plant, which witnesses said was hit during Israeli shelling, in the central Gaza Strip on July 29, 2014.
  • A Palestinian man inspects the damage to his family’s flat, after an Israeli strike on a neighboring building housing the offices of the Hamas movement’s Al-Aqsa satellite TV station, in Gaza City, northern Gaza Strip, on July 29, 2014.
  • Displaced Palestinians receive bread rations brought by a truck at the Jabalia primary school in the northern Gaza Strip on July 29, 2014.
  • An Israeli cannon fires a 155mm shell towards targets in the Gaza Strip from their position along the border between Israel and the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip on July 29, 2014. 
  • Israeli soldiers mourn over the grave of Sergeant Sagi Erez, an infantry soldier training to be a squad commander, during his funeral at the military cemetery in Haifa, northern Israel, on July 29, 2014.
  • Palestinians from a neighboring apartment building carry out debris as they walk on the rubble of the offices of the Hamas movement’s Al-Aqsa satellite TV station, in Gaza City, northern Gaza Strip, destroyed by an Israeli strike, on July 29, 2014. 
  • Palestinian firefighters extinguish a fire at a mosque after it was hit by an Israeli air strike, on July 29, 2014 in Gaza City.
  • Israeli forces’ flares light up the night sky of Gaza City on early Tuesday, July 29, 2014.
  • Israeli residents and relatives take cover from Palestinian militant rocket strike from the Gaza Strip during the funeral of Israeli soldier Corporal Meidan Maymon Biton at the cemetery of the southern Israeli city of Netivot on July 29, 2014. 
  • Palestinian relatives mourn in the morgue of Shifa hospital following an explosion the killed 10 people, nine of them children, in a park at Shati refugee camp, in the northern Gaza Strip, on July 28, 2014
  • An Israeli soldier stands at a staging area after crossing back into Israel from Gaza on July 28, 2014. 
  • A Palestinian man, wearing an undershirt stained with the blood of his son, reacts in rage outside al-Shifa hospital in Gaza City on July 28, 2014. 
  • Palestinians attend the Eid al-Fitr prayer at al-Farouk mosque, which witnesses said was hit by an Israeli air strike, in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on July 28, 2014. 
  • Palestinians gather in the rubble of a building that police said was hit by an overnight Israeli air strike, in Jabaliya in the northern Gaza Strip on July 24, 2014.
  • Palestinian supporters of Hamas take shelter while clashing with Israeli security forces on July 25, 2014 near Ramallah, West Bank.
  • The wife (L) and the mother (R) of slain 36-year-old Israeli reservist Sergeant First Class (res.) Yair Ashkenazi, who was killed early morning in the northern Palestinian Gaza Strip, mourn during his funeral on July 25, 2014 at the military cemetery in the southern Israeli city of Rehovot.
  • An Israeli armed vehicle passes by near the Israeli-Gaza border on July 25, 2014 near Israel’s border with the Gaza Strip.
  • A Palestinian man holds a girl, whom medics said was injured in an Israeli shelling at a U.N-run school sheltering Palestinian refugees, at a hospital in the northern Gaza Strip July 24, 2014.
  • Palestinians sit in the bucket of an excavator as families flee the Shujayeh neighborhood during heavy Israeli shelling in Gaza City, July 20, 2014. 
  • A Palestinian protester walks next to burning tires at a protest against Israeli offensive in Gaza, at Qalandia checkpoint near the West Bank city of Ramallah, July 24, 2014. Israeli soldiers shot and killed a Palestinian protester and wounded about 200 on Thursday in confrontations with several thousand people who were demonstrating in the occupied West Bank against a 17-day-old Israeli offensive in Gaza, Palestinian medical officials said. The Israeli military confirmed troops had used “riot dispersal means” against protesters who threw rocks and firebombs at them and blocked a road with burning tires. 
  • Israeli security forces arrest a Palestinian (C) during clashes following traditional Friday prayers near the Old City in East Jerusalem on July 25, 2014.
  • A Palestinian woman wearing clothes stained with the blood of her relatives, who were wounded in Israeli shelling, cries at a hospital in Gaza City, July 20, 2014. 
  • An Israeli soldier is seen on a Merkava tank near Israel’s border with the Gaza Strip, July 20, 2014. The number of Palestinians killed in Israeli attacks on July 20 was at least 100, making it the bloodiest single day in five years for the battered enclave.
  • A Palestinian boy surveys damage around the Al-Aqsa mosque, which was destroyed in overnight attacks on Gaza City, July 22, 2014.
  • The mother of four-year-old Ghassim and six-year-old Emad Elwan, who were apparently killed after Israeli tanks shelled the region in the east of Gaza City, cries during their funeral in the east of Gaza City, July 19, 2014. 
  • Israeli soldiers smoke cigarettes at a military staging area outside the Gaza Strip, July 23, 2014.
  • Relatives of Palestinian Islamic Jihad militant Abduallah El-Buhasi, who medics said was killed in an Israeli air strike, mourn during his funeral in Deir El-Balah in the central Gaza Strip, July 22, 2014.
  • Women weep during the funeral of Israeli Sergeant Adar Barsano on July 20, 2014 in Nahariya, Israel. Sergeant Barsano was killed along with another IDF soldier on the twelfth day of operation “Protective Edge,” when Hamas militants infiltrated Israel from a tunnel dug from Gaza and engaged Israeli soldiers.
  • A Palestinian girl sits in a minibus after fleeing her family’s house during heavy Israeli shelling, in Gaza City July 20, 2014.
  • Smoke rises from the Al Shejaeiya neighborhood during an Israeli military operation in the east Gaza City, July 20, 2014.
  • Palestinian paramedics lift the body of a man from the Al Shejaeiya neighborhood, during a brief period of ceasefire requested by local rescue forces to retrieve dead and wounded from the Shuja’iyya neighborhood in east Gaza City, July 20, 2014.
  • Israeli soldiers evacuate their wounded comrades at an army deployment area near Israel’s border with the Gaza Strip, on July 20, 2014.
  • Israeli soldiers carry the coffin of Sgt. Bnaya Rubel during his funeral at the military cemetery in Holon, Israel, Sunday, July 20, 2014. Rubel was killed in a fighting with Palestinian militants in Gaza on Saturday.
  • Palestinian children look at mourners carrying the bodies of Roshdi, Mohammed and Reyad Naser, out of the family homes, during their funeral in the Khan Younis refugee camp in the southern Gaza Strip, Saturday, July 19, 2014. Roshdi, Mohammed and Reyad are three of nine Palestinians who were killed in an early morning Israeli missile strike, officials said.
  • Israeli tanks maneuver outside the northern Gaza Strip July 18, 2014.
  • A Palestinian family who fled their homes is en route to seek shelter in a UN school in Khan Younis, central Gaza Strip, July 18, 2014. At least 24 Palestinians were killed overnight into Friday - with dozens more reported injured - officials said, as Israel ratcheted up its offensive in the Gaza Strip with ground troops. The first Israeli soldier was also killed in the ground fighting in the northern Gaza Strip, the Israeli military confirmed 18 July 2014. That means the overall death toll in the densely populated coastal enclave climbed to more than 260, with 2,000 injured, many of them civilians, Gaza Health Ministry spokesman Ashraf al-Qedra said.
  • Smoke from flares rises in the sky in Gaza City, in the northern Gaza Strip, July 17, 2014. Israel launched a large-scale ground offensive in the Gaza Strip Thursday, escalating a 10-day military operation to try to destroy Hamas’ weapons arsenal, rocket firing abilities and tunnels under the Palestinian territory’s border with Israel. It was the first major Israeli ground offensive in Gaza in just over five years.
  • Netream Netzleam holds the body of her daughter Razel, 1, who medics said died on Friday from injuries sustained in an Israeli air strike on Thursday afternoon, at her funeral in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, July 18, 2014. Israel stepped up its ground offensive in Gaza early on Friday pounding targets with artillery fire and using tanks and infantry to battle Hamas fighters.
  • A mourner lowers the body of one of four boys killed in an Israeli strike, during their funeral in Gaza City, July 16, 2014. The four boys, who were cousins and ages 9 to 11, were killed while playing on a beach off a coastal road west of Gaza City, said Ashraf Al Kedra, a Palestinian doctor. 
  • A Palestinian man burns a tire during clashes with Israeli soldiers following a protest against the Israeli offensive in Gaza, outside Ofer, an Israeli military prison near the West Bank city of Ramallah, Friday, July 18, 2014. Israeli troops pushed deeper into Gaza on Friday to destroy rocket launching sites and tunnels, firing volleys of tank shells and clashing with Palestinian fighters in a high-stakes ground offensive meant to weaken the enclave’s Hamas rulers. 
  • A Palestinian child shouts at al-Shifa hospital after Israeli forces shelled her house in Gaza City, July 18, 2014.
  • An Israeli tank maneuvers to take a position along the Israel-Gaza Border, July 17, 2014. Israel and Hamas have begun observing a five-hour humanitarian cease-fire, as fighting extended into a 10th day. The two sides agreed to the pause following a request by the United Nations so that supplies could be delivered to Gaza.
  • Medics treat a wounded Palestinian at the emergency room of Shifa hospital in Gaza City, northern Gaza Strip, July 18, 2014. The heavy thud of tank shells, often just seconds apart, echoed across the Gaza Strip early Friday as thousands of Israeli soldiers launched a ground invasion, escalating a 10-day campaign of heavy air bombardments to try to destroy Hamas’ rocket-firing abilities and the tunnels militants use to infiltrate Israel. 
  • Palestinian relatives of four boys from the same extended Bakr family, grieve in the family house during their funeral in Gaza City, July 16, 2014. The four boys, who were cousins and ages 9 to 11, were killed while playing on a beach off a coastal road west of Gaza City, said Ashraf Al Kedra, a Palestinian doctor. 
  • Palestinian protesters gesture towards Israeli soldiers during clashes at the entrance of Israeli-run Ofer prison in the West Bank village of Betunia, on July 18, 2014, following a protest against Israel’s military operation in the Gaza Strip.
  • Relatives weep as they hold the body of Sarah Omar el-Eid, 4, as the bodies of her father, Omar, 26, and her uncle, Jihad, 27, are brought into a house in Rafah, southern Gaza Strip, during their funeral, July 15, 2014. The three were killed by an Israeli strike late Monday. 
  • An Israeli armoured vehicle manoevres at the border with Gaza on July 18, 2014 near Sderot, Israel. Late last night Israeli forces escalated their operation with a ground offensive, sending troops into Gaza.
  • Relatives and friends mourn during the funeral of Dror Hanin at the Yahud cemetery, on July 16, 2014. Hanin died of his wounds after being hit by Hamas mortar fire as he was volunteering to bring food to soldiers at the Israel-Gaza Erez Crossing on the previous day. Hanin is the first Israeli casualty since the beginning of Operation Protective Edge, which began 9 days ago.
  • A picture taken from the Israeli side of the border with the Gaza Strip shows smoke billowing from the coastal Palestinian enclave following an Israeli air strike, on July 18, 2014.
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Scenes of war and heartbreak as Israel-Hamas conflict intensifies

Updated

Fifteen Palestinians were killed and 90 wounded Wednesday when Israeli shells hit a crowded U.N. school sheltering thousands of Gaza refugees, the latest in a series of U.N. compounds to come under attack on the 23rd day of hostilities between Israel and Hamas.

The Israeli military said that militants had fired mortar shells at Israeli Defense Force (IDF) soldiers from the vicinity of the school in Jabalya, and that the soldiers “responded towards the source of fire.” The military said it was reviewing the incident.

Hours after the strike, hundreds of dazed people still crowded the school courtyard, according to NBC News, the latest victims of an increasingly bloody conflict that has blurred the lines between civilian and military targets. Christopher Gunness, the spokesman for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, which operated the shelter, told NBC’s Andrea Mitchell that the U.N. agency had “notified the Israeli army of the exact position of this school … 17 times.”

“We’ve got over 200,000 people in 83 shelters – they’re overflowing,” Gunness said from Jerusalem, describing a growing humanitarian crisis. “We will soon have a situation where tens of thousands of people, if they continue to leave their homes, in the streets of Gaza without food, without water, without shelter.”

The death toll in Gaza now tops 1,259, according to the Palestinian Health Ministry, with more than 7,100 wounded. On the Israeli side, 53 soldiers and three civilians have been killed since the beginning of military operations. The latest violence comes amid an intensifying Israeli air and military assault on Gaza, which began on July 8 in response to rocket fire from Hamas militants aimed at Israeli cities. Tuesday marked the deadliest day so far, with 153 Palestinians killed.

A four-hour “humanitarian window” announced Wednesday by the Israeli military was immediately rejected by Hamas, which said the brief cease-fire was a media ploy. The unilateral suspension of hostilities in Gaza did not include areas where IDF soldiers were already operation or areas along the border with Israel.

Israeli forces have been on high alert in recent days as growing violence and protests have spread to the occupied West Bank, where clashes between Palestinian protesters and Israeli soldiers turned deadly last week. The protests, which came on the heels of a march last Thursday night that involved at least 10,000 Palestinians in the West Bank, were part of a planned “day of rage” over the escalating conflict in Gaza.

The scale of the Palestinian protests, the largest in nearly a decade, has raised fears that the unrest could escalate into a third intifada, or uprising.

President Obama has repeatedly called for an immediate cease-fire in the Middle East, as Israel and Hamas continue to trade accusations over what are legitimate targets and who is to blame for mounting civilian casualties in Gaza. But negotiations have broken down in recent days as both Hamas and Israel rejected multiple opportunities to halt the bloodshed.

The Obama administration was left fuming on Monday after Israeli politicians railed against the terms of an alleged cease-fire proposal by Secretary of State John Kerry, which senior officials in Jerusalem labeled a “strategic terrorist attack,” according to Haaretz.

Although Obama and Kerry continue to voice support for Israel’s right to defend itself, tensions are growing between Washington and Jerusalem with U.S. officials increasingly worried about the mounting death toll in Gaza. Public opinion in Europe has turned markedly against Israel since the conflict with Hamas began earlier this month. On Wednesday, British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond warned that its longtime ally was “undermining” support from the West with its aggressive tactics, telling BBC radio that Europeans were “rapidly turning against” Israel and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has told Israelis to prepare for a “prolonged” war with Hamas.

“There is no war more just than this,” Netanyahu said Monday in a televised speech. “We will continue to act aggressively and responsibly until the mission is completed to protect our citizens, soldiers and children.”

The Gaza Strip, a Palestinian region on the edge of the Mediterranean Sea and adjacent to Egypt, is just 139 square miles and home to 1.8 million people, about half of them children under the age of 18. It is one of the poorest and most dense regions in the world. It is run by Hamas, a U.S.-designated terrorist organization that controls a majority of seats in the Palestinian Parliament.

Civilian deaths in Gaza have surged in recent weeks as the Israeli military offensive known as “Protective Edge” has expanded operations in the Palestinian enclave, including a ground invasion to destroy tunnels used by Hamas to move supplies and launch attacks on Israel. The Israeli military campaign was launched after 10 days of aerial strikes failed to halt rocket attacks on Israeli cities from Gaza.

The U.N. children’s agency, UNICEF, estimates that one in three casualties in the conflict so far have been children.

Hostilities between Israel and Hamas flared up last month with the kidnapping and killing of three Israeli teens by Palestinian militants. In what appears to have been an act of retribution, a group of Israeli Jews then kidnapped and killed a Palestinian boy, who police said was burned alive. Suspects are in custody.

For more feature photography, go to msnbc.com/photography