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Islam, Women and Feminism ( 27 Jul 2014, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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‘Hug A Terrorist?’ Arab Girls Act to Save Gaza Victims

 New Age Islam News Bureau

27 Jul 2014

 Delhi Government School Denies Admission to Two Muslim Girls

 Colorado Woman's Quest for Jihad Baffles Neighbours

 ISIS Female Members Are Terrorizing Women Who Won't Follow the Caliphate's Rules

 NIA Begins Probe in Bengal on Child Trafficking to Kerala

 Ethiopian Girls Forced Into Marriage and Divorce to Get Into the Maid Trade

 Two Expat Arab Women Caught Driving Stolen Car

 Samina Baig becomes first Pakistani woman to conquer seven highest peaks

 Thousands of pregnant women in Gaza needs maternity care

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau





‘Hug A Terrorist?’ Arab girls act to save Gaza victims

27 July, 2014

In this short clip, two Palestinian-Syrian girls in Toronto, Canada called on strangers to "hug a terrorist."

Produced by the social media activist group Like for Syria, the video portrays two young girls hugging people to inform pedestrians about the escalating death toll in Gaza.

They asked people for hugs, holding a banner that read “Hug A Terrorist” and recorded the reactions of people.

One passer-by said: “I say on both sides: we are all people that should be loved, no fighting and I love you. I love you guys.”

The video endeavored to display some of the actual victims of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s “defensive operation” – children, not terrorists.

As tensions continue to mount in Gaza, Israeli troops are expanding operation “Protective Edge” farther into the Strip. The death toll has risen on both sides with more than 840 Palestinians and 37 Israelis killed in almost two weeks, according to current estimates.

While the majority of people who have been killed in the coastal enclave are civilians, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu maintains that his nation has the right to defend itself from “terrorists.”

In the past week, many people have taken to the street across the world, to express their solidarity with Palestinians as well as to show unity between Arabs and Israelis, highlighted by the #JewsAndArabsRefuseToBeEnemies social media campaign.

International charity organization Save The Children stated that “one out of every five people” killed in Gaza has been a child since the hostilities flared up, adding the sum of children dying has increased by more than 40 percent since the ground assault into Gaza started on July 17.



Delhi Government School Denies Admission to Two Muslim Girls

27 July, 2014

Not just college, getting admission in a government school in the city too seems to have become an impossible task. Take the case of the two sisters -- Kulsum and Yasmin – whose father has been trying to secure them a berth in one of the government schools in Raghubir Nagar since April without any success.

Having failed to get his daughters admitted to any school in Delhi, their father Irshad, who is a tailor, then approached advocate Ashok Agarwal (working in the field of Right to Education). The advocate now claims to have “sent a legal notice to the Directorate of Education in the matter”.

Elaborating on the case, he said: “Kulsum and Yasmin have been denied admission in the Government Girls Secondary School No. 3, M Block, Raghubir Nagar for Class IX and XI respectively.”

Irshad, a resident of R-535, Raghubir Nagar, has been trying to get his daughters admitted in a proper school. “The school authorities are giving excuses such as being over-crowded. But they cannot take away from any child the right to education,” said Mr. Agarwal.

“We feel that the girls are being harassed. The delay in giving them admission in these crucial classes is also taking away education time from them making it difficult for them to catch up and complete their syllabus,” said Irshad.

Stating that the schools should take a humanitarian view in this case, Mr. Agarwal said: “These girls come from a very poor background and are keen to finish their education. To harass them is not fair on these children.”

The family has been trying to get these girls admitted in any of the government schools since April but has been unsuccessful so far. “We will file a case in the Delhi High Court,” said the lawyer.

Meanwhile, the two sisters who were earlier residing in Delhi were forced to move to Uttar Pradesh with their father who had to go there for work. “After my work got complete we returned to Delhi and sought admission in the nearby government schools. However, each of the three schools that we approached denied admission to both the girls. We have written several letters requesting admission; all of them went unanswered,” said Irshad.

“I have the valid transfer certificates of my daughters, which have been counter-signed, as well as their mark sheets. There are no grounds for denying the admission and I feel that the school’s actions are arbitrary and unjust. This act of the school will most severely damage their career and lives,” added Irshad.

The advocate added that the girls have been forced to stay out of school despite directive by senior officials in the Education Department of the Delhi Government asking the schools to accommodate them. “Despite the Delhi Education Department repeatedly asking head of schools to admit the girls there has been no positive outcome,” he said.



Colorado Woman's Quest for Jihad Baffles Neighbours

Los Angeles Times

27 July, 2014

To those who knew her, Shannon Maureen Conley was a bright teenager lost in middle-class suburbia who went searching for love and purpose.

She thought she found it half a world away with a Tunisian man 13 years her senior who promised marriage and holy war. The plan went only as far as Denver International Airport, where Conley was arrested in April as she tried to board a plane to support Islamic fighters in Syria.

Conley told the FBI she was determined to be "defending Muslims on the Muslim homeland against people who are trying to kill them." If that was illegal, she added, she "would rather be in prison than do nothing."

The 19-year-old Colorado woman is now under federal indictment, charged with conspiracy to aid Islamic State, the extremist military force with ties to Al Qaeda that has been on the march across Iraq and Syria.

Her transformation from a smiling girl, often clad in shorts or jeans and a floppy hat, who chatted with friends, to a solemn, dreamy young woman wearing the long dresses and flowing head scarves of traditional Islam, is one that neighbours and school administrators said came relatively suddenly.

She had been "among the brightest kids" at Arvada West High School, said principal Rob Bishop, adding that she was the daughter of a professor at a Catholic university, was enrolled in honours courses and presented no discipline problems.

Sometime during her junior year, Bishop said, Conley had begun to wear traditional Muslim dress. Several girls complained that she was kneeling on the bathroom floor three times a day for her prayers.

"I talked to her about accommodating her to get her out of the bathroom and move her into an office in our school's front offices," Bishop said. Conley told him she was converting to Islam and seemed grateful for his support.

Neighbours, too, noticed the change in her appearance, and said she often seemed lonely and reflective. Many neighbours were not closely acquainted with Conley or her parents. Her mother, Ana Marie Conley, is an associate professor of economics at Regis College, while her father, John Conley, works in the computer field and teaches martial arts out of his garage on weekends, according to neighbours.

Robert Taylor, who lives nearby, said he would sometimes see Conley sitting alone in a neighborhood park, drifting silently on the playground swing.

"She just seemed kind of lost," he said.

On Conley's Facebook page, she began calling herself Halima, an Arabic name meaning "gentle and mild-mannered," and described her work as a "slave to Allah."

In fall 2013, Conley began showing up at Faith Bible Church, a Christian mega-church not far from her home known for its support of Israel. Pastor George Morrison said members became unnerved by the frequent sightings of the young woman in Muslim dress, carrying a large backpack and wandering in and out of classes and services.

The church has a history. In December 2007 a gunman opened fire at the dormitory of a missionary group that shares campus space at the church, killing two and wounding two others.

Morrison said staff repeatedly asked Conley if she had questions about the church or wanted to join.

She declined, saying she was a Muslim doing research. Morrison said he didn't see her as a threat: "I felt like from the beginning she was a wannabe," he said. Still, on Nov. 3, the church finally asked her not to come back, and four days later, the FBI conducted what was to be the first of many interviews with Conley.

According to an affidavit filed in court, Conley was asked why she had gone to the church. "I hate those people," she replied, adding that once church leaders began to watch her, she decided to goad them by pretending to take notes. "If they think I'm a terrorist, I'll give them something to think I am."

She told FBI agents she had signed up for a weekend with the U.S. Army Explorers, a career program offered under the umbrella of the Boy Scouts of America, to be trained in military tactics and firearms. Her intention, she said, was "to use that training to go overseas to wage jihad."

FBI agents initially interviewed Conley's parents in February, asking them to engage their daughter in "candid conversation" about Islam.

Though they have declined to be interviewed by reporters, it is apparent from court documents that the Conleys' alarm about their daughter was growing. On March 10, the FBI said, John Conley called the FBI and told agents he had not realized that his daughter had become so extreme. A few days later, he recounted walking in on a Skype conversation his daughter was having with a man she said she had met online.

The man, whose name is redacted in the complaint, asked Conley if he could marry his daughter and bring her to the Middle East.

Her father refused, but Conley said she was going anyway. On April 1, John Conley said, he found on his desk a one-way ticket to Turkey for his daughter and called the FBI.

In all, federal agents met with Conley eight times between Nov. 7 and April 8, and six times with her parents. Court documents describe agents trying to dissuade her from the notion of jihad, and suggesting the option of working for a humanitarian organization. But Conley's determination only appeared to grow.

The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, as the group was called until recently, fighter she had met online was her "suitor," she said, and she planned to travel to meet him. They would live near the border between Turkey and Syria. She would be "a housewife and the camp nurse," and if necessary take up arms, she said. "I wouldn't like it ... but I would do it."

She made it as far as Denver International Airport, where on April 8 she checked in for her flight to Frankfurt, with a connection to Turkey, and made it halfway down the jetway before she was confronted by the FBI and taken into custody.

The U.S. attorney and FBI have declined to comment on the case, as has Conley's public defender.

Since her arrest, the initial complaint charging her with providing material support to a terrorist group has been reduced to a conspiracy charge that carries a maximum of five years in prison rather than 15.

Back in Arvada, neighbours along Taft Circle are more saddened than fearful. When Conley disappeared in April, they thought she had moved.

Once the news broke July 2 and TV trucks began arriving, Taylor slipped a note into the Conleys' front door offering support. So far, they haven't responded.

Recently at Faith Bible Church, Morrison offered a special prayer for the young woman sitting in a jail cell.

"I never thought she was dangerous, but you never know," he said later. "She ignored every warning they gave her. She was crossing a line, stepping into an area that could've sucked her into something really bad. I think maybe getting arrested just might have saved her life."



ISIS Female Members Are Terrorizing Women Who Won't Follow the Caliphate's Rules


27 July, 2014

Shortly after the Sunni militant group the Islamic State Iraq and Syria (ISIS)  retook control of this northern Syrian city earlier this year, it created the al-Khansaa' Brigade, an all-female unit operating in the city. Its purpose is to apprehend civilian women in Raqqa who do not follow the organization's strict brand of Sharia law, including a mandate that all women be fully covered in public and that they be accompanied by a male chaperone.

“We have established the brigade to raise awareness of our religion among women, and to punish women who do not abide by the law,” says Abu Ahmad, an ISIS official in Raqqa.

“There are only women in this brigade and we have given them their own facilities to prevent the mixture of men and women.”

The organization, which has been pushing further into eastern Syria after taking control of the Iraqi city of Mosul and key points on the Iraq-Syria border last month, needs a female brigade to “raise awareness among women, and arrest and punish women who do not follow the religion correctly,” says Ahmad. “Jihad is not a man-only duty. Women must do their part as well.”

The women who join the brigade are either from Raqqa and want to take part in ISIS activities there, or, often, the wives of Mujahideen who have come to fight from other parts of Syria or the region.

Though women are assuming new, more powerful roles across Syria — the UN now estimates that one in four displaced families in Syria has a female head — residents here say that any “girl power” wrought by the brigade is mitigated by the harsher restrictions they have been tasked with imposing on Raqqa women.

“ISIS created it to terrorize women,” says Abu al-Hamza, a local media activist. He says the brigade raided the city’s Hamida Taher Girls School and arrested ten students, two teachers and a secretary on the grounds that some of them were wearing veils that were too thin. Others were accused of wearing hair clips under the veil, pinning them in a way that showed too much of their faces.

Hamza says that the women subsequently spent six hours in an ISIS detention centre, where they were whipped. “After arresting those women and girls,” continues Hamza, “they took them to ISIS prisons and locked them in for six hours and punished some of them with 30 whips each.”

Criminalizing A Walking Teen

Zainab, a local teen, was arrested by female members of ISIS four months ago. “I was walking down the street when a car suddenly stopped and a group of armed women got out,” she says. “They insulted me and yelled at me. They took me to one of their centers and kept me locked in a room. Nobody talked to me or told me the reason for my detention. One of the women in the brigade came over, pointing her firearm at me. She then tested my knowledge of prayer, fasting and Hijab.”

The fighter told Zainab she had been arrested because she had been walking alone, without an escort and because her Hijab was not worn properly. “You should be punished for taking your religion lightly,” Zainab recalls the women saying before threatening harsher punishment should the teenager be arrested again.

Two hours later, she was released. But for Zainab — and other women here — the message was clear.

“The brigade has created fear among the women and girls of Raqqa,” she says. “We've seen how they move, always watching women on the street, raiding schools, arresting students and locking them in for hours.”



NIA Begins Probe in Bengal on Child Trafficking to Kerala

27 July, 2014

KOLKATA: The National Investigation Agency (NIA) is probing the alleged trafficking of children from Malda district in North Bengal to madrasas in Kerala.

The NIA has begun its probe based on the reports of state intelligence branch and  Central intelligence agencies that 58 Muslim children from Malda, 350 km from here, who were rescued from Kerala-based Anwarul Huda Orphanage at Vettathur in Malappuram last month was a not a “simple case of child trafficking”.

“A six-member CID team from Kerala led by DySp Basheer had toured Harishchandrapur, Chanchal, Ratua and Manikchak blocks for three days. They told us that it was not a case of child trafficking,” Hassan Ali Shah, chairman of Malda Child Welfare Committee, told Express on Saturday.

He said the Kerala Police were of the opinion that the children had been sent by their families as they were very poor and could not even afford a proper meal, not to speak of education. They were lured by the maulavis  with assurances of free education, and boarding and lodging.

A district child protection team from West Bengal, which visited Anwarul Huda orphanage, was shocked to find that not only boys, but also girls had been taken to the orphanage.

Some of them told the district child welfare  body that they were taught Arabic, Malayalam and English and were very happy there, while others expressed their desire to return home.

Shah, a lawyer by profession, explained that since the maulavis and muezzins were paid a   pittance as stipend from the state government, they had taken up the job of teaching in Islamic schools and madrasas, where they were paid around `7,000 in addition to free boarding and lodging.

Initially the maulavis were appointed on contract basis, but were later offered permanent posts, if they brought at least 10 children each. It resulted in them luring children from West Bengal to Kerala, he said.

“The maulavis convinced poor people to send their wards to such institutions. Of the rescued children, 11 wanted to return and study there. We have helped the remaining children to get admission in schools near their villages,” Shah said.

According to a state IB official, the agency is also investigating whether children from other Muslim majority districts such as North and South Dinajpur and Murshidabad were also being taken.



Ethiopian girls forced into marriage and divorce to get into the maid trade

27 July, 2014

Marry young, divorce early, join the overseas maid trade: Is this the only way out for Ethiopian girls?

Up a bumpy, winding dirt track in the mountains of northern Ethiopia, past two bulls chewing pasture and a rondavel built from sticks and cow dung, is the modest home of Lubaba Abdella, its mudbrick walls reinforced by eucalyptus bark and topped by a corrugated roof.

Abdella has lived a lifetime, yet she is still in her teens. She dropped out of school, married, divorced three months later and emigrated illegally so she could cook and clean for a family in Saudi Arabia, earning money to support her parents and eight siblings. Now she is home and back to square one.

Three-quarters of girls in the Ethiopian region of Amhara become child brides like Abdella, according to the London-based Overseas Development Institute. Many also join the so-called “maid trade”: up to 1,500 girls and women leave the east African country each day to become domestic workers in the Middle East. A study has shown for the first time how these pernicious trends feed off each other.

In Ethiopia’s Muslim communities it is often deeply shameful or “sinful” for girls to remain unmarried after they begin menstruating, notes the ODI. But once girls are married and sexually initiated, parents consider their social and religious obligations complete.

The thinktank’s researchers in Amhara found it was therefore becoming common for parents to insist on marriage followed by a swift divorce so that their daughter was free to migrate and send her earnings home to her parents, rather than her husband.

The fact a girl had already been “deflowered” meant she was seen as less likely to be disgraced by foreign men. “It’s a question of virtue and virginity,” one local researcher says. “Better to lose it in a dignified way.”

The findings were released before the first Girl Summit, hosted by the British government and Unicef this month with the aim of ending female genital mutilation and child marriage within a generation. The ODI will warn that parents who see their daughters as commodities are pushing record numbers of girls into abusive early marriages.

Some 39,000 child brides marry every day – 14 million a year – often against their will. Amhara has Ethiopia’s lowest average marriage age – 14.7 years – and one of its highest illiteracy rates.

Abdella, now 19, illustrates the constrained choices and warped pragmatism that many here face. She was 16 when she dropped out of school for an arranged marriage to a 22-year-old. It lasted only three months. “He used to hit her,” says Abdella’s mother, Zeyneba Seid. “They didn’t like each other so divorce was inevitable.”

t was hastened when Abdella’s husband wanted to seek work abroad. Speaking Amharic through an interpreter, she recalls: “If a man migrates alone to the Middle East, he will cheat on you. But it’s difficult to migrate with your husband and still support your family. That’s why I wanted a divorce.”

Nevertheless, Abdella believed even her short-lived marriage would be an advantage overseas. “I was told I’m young and it’s better if I know what marriage is before migrating. People in the Middle East might force us to sleep with them. If a girl has been married and goes to Saudi and is raped, it’s not as bad as for one who’s single. If she’s single and bears a child, it’s really difficult to come back here. But if she’s been married, it’s OK.”

The ODI found that some girls also choose to migrate, against their parents’ wishes, out of a sense of filial piety that tends to be weaker in boys. Abdella says it was her own decision because her family was in poverty, farming just one hectare of land. Notably she has an elder brother who is still at school. “He was asked to migrate but he wanted to continue his education, so I had to go and earn. I wanted my family to be better off.”

For the residents of Hara, a remote mountain village where the air fills with birdsong, cocks crowing and the Muslim call to prayer, and the streets with Bajajs (motorised three-wheeled rickshaws), camels and boys herding goats, Saudi Arabia offers an alluring promise of riches just as America once did to Europe’s huddled masses.

The results can be seen in a series of neat concrete houses with colourful paintwork, barred windows and a sprinkling of satellite dishes that have sprung up in the past five years, funded by wages from the east. Owning a corrugated roof is a status symbol here. For those still living in older houses made from mud and thatch there is the perpetual struggle of keeping up with the Joneses.

“Seeing the houses that were built makes you wish you’d migrated,” says Abdella, who sleeps with her family on the floor of two cramped rooms. “We have a lot of needs: clothes, shoes. Most of the time we cannot afford them, whereas people in Saudi had money.”

It is now illegal under Ethiopian law for anyone under 18 to migrate to work but Abdella, like thousands of others, got a passport by using a fake ID and telling the authorities she was 27. The entire process cost 15,000 birr (RM2,400). She cooked, cleaned and washed clothes for a Saudi couple and their three children and was paid 800 riyals (RM677) a month, paying off the debt and earning enough for her family to be connected to electricity and water and cover food bills.

The job came to an end after 20 months when Saudi Arabia carried out a mass deportation of illegal foreign workers.

“I’m doing nothing at the moment,” sighs Abdella as two chickens scamper across the house’s dirt floor. “Seeing my family suffering here, I don’t want to remarry, I just want to support my family. I want to go back to the Middle East. There’s no other option because the wage is really low here. My younger sister, who’s 15, is planning to go. I advise her to because she can earn more and do whatever she wants. But she would have to marry first; it’s our custom.”

The pattern of marriage and divorce is becoming increasingly common. Aesha Mohammed, 16, recently married a man six years her senior, only to divorce after two months because she refused to quit school. Her elder sister also married and divorced, then migrated to work in Saudi Arabia. Mohammed, who wants to become a doctor, says: “Sometimes when I joke with her, ‘I want to drop out of school and come to Saudi’, she says no, stay in school because it’s hard there. There is a lot of work and it’s a burden.”

et still thousands are pouring in for the sake of their families. The fate that awaits them can include overwork, non-payment, social isolation and abuse.

When Zemzem Damene set off to work in Kuwait, she was a normal girl who wanted to earn money and be like her friends. Today she is confused, withdrawn and virtually mute, a stranger to her own family. Something happened to Damene in Kuwait and no one knows exactly what.

According to Zemzem’s father Damene Alemu, his daughter’s first employer took all the money she had and even the clothes she brought from home, and that was the start of her decline. “She went to a hospital in Addis Ababa, but they didn’t tell us what the problem was, only that it’s a mental illness.” – Guardian News & Media



Two Expat Arab Women Caught Driving Stolen Car

27 July, 2014

AL-KHOBAR – Security officers in the Eastern Province have arrested two young expatriate women who allegedly stole a car from Al-Khobar and drove off.

The car was parked in Al-Aqrabiah district with its engine running. The Arab women were apprehended in the Abqaiq governorate late Friday night, said Eastern Province Police spokesman Col. Ziyad Al-Reqaiti.

He said a Saudi called the operations room saying his car was stolen when he went to a restaurant to pick up some food.

Police immediately circulated a description of the vehicle.

A patrol team spotted it in Abqaiq with only two women inside, apparently one of them driving. The two women were arrested and handed over to Al-Thuqbah police station.

The case has been referred to the Bureau of Investigation and Public Prosecution.



Samina Baig becomes first Pakistani woman to conquer seven highest peaks

27 July, 2014

ISLAMABAD: No mountain is high enough for Samina Baig, who became the first Pakistani woman to climb all seven highest peaks in the seven continents in just under eight months.

“We had the greatest honour to hoist our green flag on the seven summits,” said Mirza Ali who accompanied Samina Baig on the seven summits adventure, updating his Facebook page.

At 9am, Samina Baig stood at the top of Mt Elbrus, the highest peak in Russia, with her brother, holding the Pakistani flag high for a picture. With this summit, the 23 years old climber completed the challenge of climbing seven of the highest mountains around the world, including Mount Everest which she conquered in May, 2013.

Alpine Club of Pakistan (ACP) confirmed the news on Saturday. “We are planning a reception for Samina Baig when she returns this week,” said ACP Executive Council Member Karrar Haidri.

The two flew out to Russia, after Alaska, where they pushed to capture the highest mountain in Europe, Mt Elbrus, which is 5,642 metres tall, bringing their ‘Seven Summits’ adventure to an end.

Samina Baig was part of an adventure diplomacy mission, funded by a few passionate climbers outside Pakistan, a few embassies in Islamabad and managed by the Serena Hotels, with no support from the government of Pakistan.

“The adventure diplomacy, gender equality and women empowerment project came to its amazing end with great success,” Mirza Ali said on his Facebook page. He also updated the news on his twitter account for the followers of the two climbers.

Hailing from Shimshal Valley in Hunza, both climbers had summated Mt McKinley, Alaska, reaching 6,168 metres into the sky on July 3. Samina Baig became the first Pakistani woman to climb to the top of the highest mountain in North America.

“Samina Baig set the record of capturing the summits in record age of 23 years and record time,” said Mirza Ali on his Facebook page.

In March, Samina Baig and Mirza Ali reached the top of the 4,884 metres-high Mount Carstensz Pyramid, the highest peak in Indonesia. In the last six months, the duo Samina Baig and Mirza Ali had made history in December when they climbed Mt Aconcagua in Argentina, the highest peak in South America.

In January, they conquered the highest peak in Antarctica, Mt Vinson, and then the 5,895 metres-high Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania in February.

Last year, Mirza Ali was unable to reach the top of Mount Everest. His plan had changed after an avalanche killed 16 Sherpas and climbers on Mount Everest, which was considered one of the deadliest accidents in climbing history.

Summating Mount Everest is still on his to do list, said Mirza Ali. If he also climbs Everest, the brother and sister will be the first siblings in the world to conquer the seven summits.



Thosands of pregnant women in Gaza needs maternity care

World Bulletin/News Desk

27 July, 2014

Four Palestinians were killed Sunday in fresh Israeli attacks on the Gaza Strip as the Israeli army resumed its military offensive against the blockaded Palestinian enclave.

Two Palestinians were killed in an Israeli raid on Nuseirat refugee camp in central Gaza Strip, while two others were killed in an Israeli shelling of Abasan town and al-Zanaa neighborhood, both in Khan Younis province, Palestinian Health Ministry spokesman Ashraf al-Qodra.

The shelling of eastern Khan Younis also left three people injured, the spokesman said.

The latest fatalities bring to 1053 the number of Palestinians killed in Israeli attacks on the Gaza Strip since July 7. At least 6000 Palestinians have also been injured.

According to the latest UNRWA Gaza situation report, numbers of Internally Displaced people (IDPs) in shelters exceeds 162,862. An estimated 20,000 Gazans are reported to be sheltering with relatives and in public schools, mosques, churches, unfinished buildings and open areas.

Report states that the attacks have been horrible for babies and women.  An estimated 45,000 pregnant women in Gaza in need of maternity care and an estimated 5,000 of these displaced by the current conflict. OCHA also reports a rise in the numbers of child mortalities, miscarriages and premature births among pregnant women.

The Israeli army on Sunday said it resumed its military offensive against the Gaza Strip, citing Palestinian resistance group Hamas' "incessant" rocket fire at Israel.

"Due to Hamas' incessant rocket fire during the humanitarian window, we are renewing our aerial, naval and ground activity in Gaza," the army said on its official Twitter account.

The announcement came shortly after the Ezzeddin al-Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of Gaza-based Palestinian faction Hamas, said that it fired several rockets at Israel.

In a statement, the brigades said it fired two M75 rockets at Tel Aviv and five Grad rockets at Ashdod.

The Gaza-based Hamas said late on Saturday that it did not approve an extension of an 12-hour humanitarian ceasefire in the Gaza Strip, which came to an end on Saturday evening in the Palestinian enclave.

Following the expiry of the temporary truce, the brigades said that it fired 24 rockets on different Israeli cities and sites.

Gaza's 12-hour U.N.-proposed humanitarian lull came to an end at 17:00 GMT, but the Israeli government said it was expanding this calm by four more hours so that it can come to an end at midnight.

Israel's military operation, dubbed operation "Protective Edge," is the self-proclaimed Jewish state's third major offensive against the densely-populate Gaza Strip – which is home to some 1.8 million Palestinians – within the last six years.