Palestinians flee the scene from what medics said was
Israeli shelling, near a market in Shejaia in the east of
Gaza City. REUTERS/Finbarr O'Reilly
Israeli shelling killed at least 15 Palestinians
sheltering in a UN-run school and another 17 near a street
market, Gaza's Health Ministry said, with no ceasefire in sight
after more than three weeks of fighting.
Israel's security cabinet decided to continue its offensive
in the enclave and there was no sign of a halt to a 23-day
conflict in which 1,326 people, mostly civilians, have died.
Some 3,300 Palestinians, including many women and children,
were taking refuge in the school in Jabalya refugee camp when
it came under fire around dawn, the United Nations Relief and
Works Agency (UNRWA) said.
"Our initial assessment is that it was Israeli artillery that
hit our school," UNRWA chief Pierre Krahenbuhl said in a
statement after representatives of the agency visited the
scene and examined fragments, craters and other damage.
Blood-splattered floors and mattresses inside classrooms at
the Jabalya Girls Elementary School and survivors picked
through shattered glass and debris for flesh and body parts
"I call on the international community to take deliberate
international political action to put an immediate end to the
continuing carnage," Krahenbuhl said.
The Gaza Health Ministry put the number of dead in the school
attack at 15, with more than 100 wounded. The United Nations
said 16 people were killed in the attack.
An Israeli military spokeswoman said militants had fired
mortar bombs from the vicinity of the school and troops shot
back in response. The incident was still being reviewed.
The army said three Israeli soldiers were killed on Wednesday
when a booby-trap bomb exploded in a tunnel shaft they had
uncovered in a residence in the southern Gaza Strip.
UNRWA said on Tuesday it had found a cache of rockets
concealed at another Gaza school - the third such discovery
since the conflict began. It condemned unnamed militant
groups for putting civilians at risk.
Krahenbuhl said the Jabalya school's precise location and the
fact that it was sheltering thousands of displaced people had
been communicated to the Israeli military 17 times, with the
last notification just hours before the fatal shelling.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, speaking in Costa Rica,
condemned the killing. "It is outrageous. It is
unjustifiable. And it demands accountability and justice," he
At the White House, National Security Council spokeswoman
Bernadette Meehan said: "We are extremely concerned that
thousands of internally displaced Palestinians who have been
called on by the Israeli military to evacuate their homes are
not safe in UN-designated shelters in Gaza.
"We also condemn those responsible for hiding weapons in
United Nations facilities in Gaza."
In a separate incident, Israeli shelling killed at least 17
people and wounded about 160 others near a fruit and
vegetable market in Shejaia, a heavily bombarded
neighbourhood on the eastern outskirts of the city of Gaza,
the Health Ministry said.
Witnesses said the crowd had gathered to watch a petrol
station, hit earlier, burn in the distance. The Israeli
military had no immediate comment.
"Such a massacre requires an earthquake-like response," Hamas
spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said.
The army said more than 50 rockets were fired from the
teeming coastal enclave into Israel on Wednesday, causing no
reported casualties or damage.
Israeli Communications Minister Gilad Erdan, a member of the
Security Cabinet, said the forum had instructed the military
to press on with its campaign to locate and destroy tunnels
that militants have built under the Gaza border and have used
to launch attacks inside Israel.
"In the coming few days we'll be giving the IDF (Israel
Defence Forces) full operational freedom to strike against
terrorism and complete neutralizing and destroying the
tunnels," Erdan told Channel Two.
The head of the military's southern command, Major General
Sami Turgeman, told reporters the army was "but a few days
away from destroying all the attack tunnels". He added that
the offensive against militants in the Hamas
Islamist-dominated enclave had been broadened to include more
targets in the central and southern Gaza Strip.
According to the Gaza Health Ministry, 1,326 Palestinians,
mostly civilians, have been killed since Israel began its
offensive on July 8 with the declared aim of halting
cross-border rocket fire and tackling Hamas's tunnel network.
Ninety-nine Palestinians were killed on Wednesday alone. On
the Israeli side, 56 soldiers and three civilians have been
killed. Public support remains strong for continuing the
military operation in the hope of preventing future
Mohammed Deif, the shadowy leader of Hamas's armed wing, said
in a broadcast message on Tuesday that Palestinians would
continue confronting Israel until its blockade on Gaza -
which is supported by neighbouring Egypt - was lifted.
Israel has balked at freeing up Gaza's borders under any
de-escalation deal unless Hamas's disarmament is also
"We are not looking for a ceasefire, though of course
military manoeuvres are supposed to be followed by diplomatic
manoeuvres," Erdan said. "But a ceasefire must fulfil
Israel's terms, a long-term calm and the dimilitarization of
Egypt said on Tuesday it was revising an unconditional
ceasefire proposal that Israel had originally accepted but
Hamas rejected, and that a new offer would be presented to
Egyptian officials said an Israeli delegation had held brief
talks in Cairo on Wednesday, but gave no further details.
In previous bouts of fighting between Israel and its
neighbours, the United States has often leaned on the
Israelis to stop after incidents that caused high civilian
casualties. Washington appears to have less sway with either
side this time.
Israel says Hamas is ultimately responsible for such
casualties because its fighters, including rocket-launching
squads, operate in densely populated residential areas. The
army has warned civilians to evacuate whole neighbourhoods
before military operations.
The United Nations said Israeli bombing over the past three
weeks has destroyed or severely damaged 4,000 Palestinian
homes, scores of schools and almost two dozen health
Some 240,000 people in the Gaza Strip had sought refuge in UN
schools or with relatives or friends, the UN said.
Both U.S. President Barack Obama and the UN Security Council
have called for an immediate ceasefire to allow relief to
reach Gaza's 1.8 million Palestinians, followed by
negotiations on a more durable end to hostilities.
Amidst the bloodshed, Switzerland said on Wednesday it was
taking soundings about the possibility of holding a Middle
East peace conference later this year following a request
from Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
The Swiss Foreign Ministry said in a statement that as
custodian of the 1949 Geneva Conventions laying down the
rules of war, "Switzerland transmitted this request to the
states parties and is currently carrying out informal
consultations", but it noted a broad consensus would be
needed on the terms of reference and the expected results.