Gaza medics say death toll in offensive over 1,000

GAZA, Jan 14 (Reuters) - The number of Palestinians killed in a 19-day-old Israeli offensive in the Gaza Strip reached at least 1,000 on Wednesday, including hundreds of civilians, officials in the Hamas-run Health Ministry in the enclave said.

The figures, in common with previous counts, are subject to the difficulties of counting and verification in the chaos of the war. Israeli officials have given no firm casualty toll for Palestinians but say troops have killed hundreds of militants.

At least 10 people, including at least four militants, were killed on Wednesday, medics said. Bodies were also retrieved from past attacks. It took the total death toll to 1,010, said Muawiyah Hassanein, head of the ministry's ambulance service.

The Gaza-based Palestinian Center for Human Rights said it had compiled figures showing 673 civilians had died since Israel launched its air campaign on Dec. 27. These included 225 children and 69 women. Earlier this week, the health ministry said about 400 women and children were among the dead.

More than half Gaza's 1.5 million people are aged under 18.

In the first days of the war, hundreds of Hamas members were killed in air strikes. Israel regards all of these as militants, although some argue that many were police officers whose main functions were civilian.

Israel says it has lost nine soldiers in a ground offensive that began on Jan. 3, four of these to "friendly fire", while a 10th soldier and three Israeli civilians were killed by Hamas rockets fired into southern Israel in the first week of the war.

Israel says it launched the offensive to halt rocket fire that had killed 18 people between 2001 and the start of the air campaign. It says it is trying to avoid civilian casualties.

The United Nations has led calls for an immediate ceasefire.