Saturday, January 17, 2009
14:51 Mecca time, 11:51 GMT
News Middle East
Israel shells UN school in Gaza
The UN has called for a war crimes investigation over the shelling of its
Israeli tank shells hit a UN-run school in Gaza, killing at least two people,
as war in the Palestinian territory stretched into a 22nd day.
Heavy bombardment of so-called Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip - from artillery
on the ground and jets overhead - continued on Saturday despite speculation
that Israel will wrap up its military operations later in the day.
The death toll from the now more than three weeks of assault stands at 1,199
Palestinians killed, including more than 400 children according to UN and
Palestinian medical sources.
At least 13 Israelis have also died in the same period, including three
A Palestinian woman and a child were killed in the early hours of Saturday at
the school run by the UN relief and works agency (Unrwa) in Beit Lahiya,
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Christopher Gunness, an Unrwa spokesman, said several rounds hit the UN school
at about 6:45am. After a short pause, the third floor of the school took a
direct hit, killing the two and injuring another 14 people.
Witnesses said four more people were killed when other shells struck nearby as
people tried to escape.
About 1,600 civilians had sought refuge from the fighting inside the building,
"The Israeli army knew exactly our GPS co-ordinates and they would have known
that hundreds of people had taken shelter there," he said.
"When you have a direct hit into the third floor of a UN school, there has to
be an investigation to see if a war crime has been committed."
In Jabaliya refugee camp, a Palestinian doctor from al-Shifa hospital lost his
three daughters and one niece during an Israeli air attack. Dr Ezzedine Abu
al-Aish is a familiar voice in Israel, where he has been interviewed by local
At least 10 people were also killed late on Friday after a tank shell slammed
into their home during a funeral wake in Gaza City.
Meanwhile, about five rockets were reported to have been fired from Gaza into
While Israel's bombardment of the Gaza Strip intensified on Saturday, the
country's security cabinet is expected to decide on ending the assault, Israeli
sources have said.
The move would be seen as preferable to entering into an Egyptian-brokered
ceasefire with Hamas, unnamed sources have said.
Tzipi Livni, Israel's foreign minister, said on Israel's Channel 10 television
that "the end doesn't have to be in agreement with Hamas, but rather in
arrangements against Hamas".
UN and Palestinian medical sources say more than 400 children have been killed
A unilateral ceasefire would allow Israel to avoid agreeing concessions with
Hamas, such as easing the 18-month-old blockade of the Gaza Strip, which has
prevented medical aid and basic supplies from reaching the Palestinians.
Egypt has been pushing Israel and the rival Palestinian factions to reach an
agreement, and a Hamas delegation returned to Cairo on Friday for a second
round of talks.
Responding to talk of unilateral action by Israel, Hamas on Saturday threatened
to ignore such a ceasefire and continue fighting.
"Clearly, we have nothing new to propose ... either we hear what we have
proposed [is accepted] or we will go back to the battlefield," Osama Hamdan,
Hamas's representative in Lebanon, said.
"The [large] number of our martyrs will not push us to surrender, but to insist
Speaking at a forum in Beirut, Hamdan called on Arab leaders to stand by the
Palestinian "resistance", and urged European nations to cut ties with Israel for
its "crimes" in Gaza.
An unnamed Israeli official told the AFP news agency that Israeli troops would
remain in Gaza in the event of any such ceasefire being called.
"If they [Hamas] decide to open fire, we will not hesitate to respond and
continue the offensive," the official was quoted as saying.
Israel's stated aim of the war, which it dubbed Operation Cast Lead, was to
halt Palestinian rocket attacks on southern Israel.
Source: Al Jazeera and agencies
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