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Gift of the Givers to travel to Gaza

The foundation plans to send a team of specialist trauma doctors and search and rescue workers.

An Israeli artillery gun fires a 155mm shell towards targets in the Gaza Strip from their position near Israel’s border with the Gaza Strip on 30 July, 2014. Picture: AFP.

JOHANNESBURG/GAZA - South African relief group Gift of the Givers says it's preparing for what could be its most dangerous mission yet - a trip to Gaza where more than 1,361 Palestinians, most of them civilians, have been killed.

Nearly 7,000 have also been wounded in fighting between the Israeli Defence Force (IDF) and Hamas fighters.

Africa's largest disaster relief organisation says it plans to send a team of specialist trauma doctors and search and rescue workers.

Israel has lost nearly 60 people, most of them killed in the ground operation in Gaza.

Gift of the Givers founder Imtiaz Sooliman says their volunteers will help civilians in Gaza, who don't have anything to treat injuries.

The humanitarian agency also intends digging the dead out from underneath massive piles of rubble.

"When I told them we were coming with an extra team to help, they were ecstatic. When I said we're going to train them, they were more ecstatic. They're waiting because they need some expertise to help them unearth people trapped under rubble."

ISRAEL PRESSING AHEAD

Israel is pressing ahead with its Gaza offensive saying it was days from achieving its core goal of destroying all cross-border tunnels, but a soaring Palestinian civilian toll has triggered international alarm.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's security cabinet on Wednesday approved continuing the assault launched on 8 July in response to a surge of rocket attacks by Gaza's dominant Hamas group.

Israel also sent a delegation to Egypt, which has been trying, with Washington's blessing, to broker a ceasefire.

A military source said some 16,000 reservists were being called up at short notice in the coming hours to relieve a similar number who would be stood down.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon was incensed on Wednesday at the deaths of at least 15 Palestinians among thousands sheltering at a school whose UN administrator said was hit by Israeli artillery.

"It is outrageous. It is unjustifiable. And it demands accountability and justice," Ban said.

Israel says it is trying to avoid civilian casualties and blames these on Hamas and other Palestinian factions dug in for urban combat.

Both sides have voiced openness to a truce, but their terms diverge dramatically.

Israel wants Gaza stripped of infiltration tunnels and rocket stocks while Hamas rules that out, and seeks an end to a crippling Gaza blockade enforced by Israel and Egypt, which view the Palestinian group as a security threat.

The negotiations are further complicated by the fact Israel and the United States shun Hamas as a terrorist group, while the go-betweens - Egypt, Qatar and Turkey - disagree on Gaza policy.

Additional reporting by Reuters

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