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Deadly Israeli strikes hit UN school, market area

KDWN

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) — Israeli artillery shells tore through the walls of a U.N. school crowded with sleeping war refugees and back-to-back explosions rocked a market filled with shoppers Wednesday as Israel’s stepped up campaign against Gaza’s Hamas rulers claimed at least 116 Palestinian lives.

After the strikes near the shopping area in Gaza City, bodies lay scattered in the streets as the wounded screamed for help. “Where is the ambulance?” one man moaned as he lay on the blood-soaked ground.

Some 3,300 Gazans seeking refuge from the fighting had been crammed into the U.N. school at the Jebaliya refugee camp when a series of Israeli artillery shells hit before daybreak, turning a classroom where families had been sleeping into a tragic scene of bloodied clothing, bedding and debris.

Assad Sabah said he and his five children were huddled under desks because of the constant sound of tank fire throughout the night when suddenly mayhem struck.

“We were scared to death,” he said. “After 4:30 a.m., tanks started firing more. Three explosions shook the school. One classroom collapsed over the head of the people who were inside.”

Palestinian health officials said at least 17 people were killed and 90 wounded in the school attack – the latest in a series of strikes the United Nations says has hit U.N. facilities that are supposed to be safe zones in the 23-day-old war.

“Where will we go next?” wailed 56-year-old Aishe Abu Darabeh, sitting dazed outside a classroom after the shelling. “We fled and they are following us.”

Israel’s military said no U.N. facility had been intentionally targeted during Wednesday’s operation, but troops had responded to Hamas mortar fire directed at Israeli soldiers near the school.

However, the chief of the U.N. aid agency for Palestinian refugees expressed “anger and indignation” at Israeli forces firing toward a U.N. facility even after being told 17 times, including just hours before the shelling attack, that it was filled with civilians.

“Enough is enough,” Pierre Kraehenbuehl told The Associated Press, noting that six U.N. schools have been hit since the fighting began.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called the school shelling “outrageous” and “unjustifiable,” and demanded an immediate humanitarian cease-fire.

“Nothing is more shameful than attacking sleeping children,” the U.N. chief said.

At least 116 Palestinians were killed Wednesday, including 16 in the shopping area, while the overall Palestinian death toll since July 8 climbed to 1,361, said Palestinian health official Ashraf al-Kidra.

The Israeli military said three of its soldiers were killed when a booby-trapped house collapsed after they identified an entrance to a Hamas tunnel inside. In all, 56 soldiers have been killed, as well as two Israeli civilians and a Thai citizen.

Wednesday marked a second day of particularly heavy Israeli air and artillery attacks, at a time when Egyptian cease-fire efforts appeared to be stalling. Israeli media said late Wednesday that Israel’s Security Cabinet decided to press forward with the operation.

Egyptian officials, meanwhile, met with an Israeli envoy about Israel’s conditions for a cease-fire, including disarming Hamas, according to a high-ranking Egyptian security official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not allowed to discuss the delicate diplomatic efforts.

Hamas has said it will only halt fire once it receives guarantees that the Gaza border blockade by Israel and Egypt will be lifted. Rejecting calls for an unconditional cease-fire, Hamas has fired dozens of rockets at Israel each day.

Israel, in turn, has said its forces will stay in Gaza at least until they complete the demolition of more than 30 Hamas military tunnels used for launching attacks on Israel. Brig. Gen. Mickey Adelstein, commander of the Gaza Regional Division, said two-thirds had been destroyed and that it will take “a few more days” to destroy the rest.

Israel says it wants to decimate Hamas’ rocket-launching capability, diminish its weapons arsenal and demolish the tunnels. It has launched more than 4,000 strikes against Hamas-linked targets, including rocket launchers and mosques where it says weapons were stored.

Israeli strikes have also hit dozens of homes. Mahmoud Abu Rahma of the Palestinian human rights group Al Mezan said nearly half of the Palestinians killed so far died in their homes.

Israeli officials have accused Hamas of using Gaza’s civilians as human shields by firing rockets from crowded neighborhoods and putting them at risk in the event of an Israeli counterstrike.

However, Kraehenbuehl, the U.N. official, said Israel must try harder to ensure that civilians are not hurt, especially in Gaza where 1.7 million people are squeezed into a small coastal territory. His agency has opened 80 of its schools to more than 200,000 Gazans fleeing the violence.

“What maybe the world forgets … is that the people of Gaza have nowhere to go,” he said. “So when the fighting starts and they move, it is not as if they can cross a border to somewhere.”

Yigal Palmor, spokesman for the Israeli Foreign Ministry, called Wednesday’s deaths at the U.N. school “tragic,” but blamed “Hamas’s criminal entrenchment within civilian populations and its frenzy to wage war within civilian establishments.”

He noted that Kraehenbuehl’s U.N. agency has issued three statements about finding weapons in empty schools, presumably stashed there by militants.

Kraehenbuehl said the attempt by militants to use the schools is unacceptable, and that the U.N. agency has been transparent about the discoveries.

The White House also condemned the deadly school shelling.

The Obama administration is “extremely concerned” that thousands of Palestinians aren’t safe in U.N.-designated shelters, White House spokeswoman Bernadette Meehan said.

The mortar shells that struck the U.N. school were fired from a distance of some 200 yards (meters), said an Israeli military official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the media.

Hours later, Israeli artillery fire hit a crowded shopping area in the Shijaiyah district in Gaza City, killing 16 people and wounding more than 200 others, Gaza health officials said.

“People were in the street and in the market, mostly women and kids. Suddenly more than 10 shells landed,” said Salim Qadoum, 26, who witnessed the strike.

“The area now is like a blood bath, everyone is wounded or killed. People lost their limbs and were screaming for help. It’s a massacre. I vomited when I saw what happened.”

Witnesses said a first strike hit a workshop near a crowded market, setting off a fire that sent a large cloud of black smoke billowing into the sky as firefighters and ambulances arrived at the scene. As a crowd gathered, another hit, according to an AP photographer who was nearby.

Al-Kidra, the Palestinian health official, said the shopping area was busy because residents, and many who had taken shelter in the area from fighting elsewhere, thought a cease-fire was in place.

The Israeli military had no immediate comment on the strike on the shopping area. However, Israel had earlier announced a “humanitarian window” in certain parts of the territory, though it said it would not halt fire in other areas, including in Shijaiyah.

Scores of wounded were brought to Gaza City’s Shifa Hospital, where the emergency room quickly overflowed, forcing some to be treated on the blood-smeared floor.

Goldenberg reported from Jerusalem. Associated Press writers Ian Deitch and Yousur Alhlou in Jerusalem contributed to this report.

Deadly Israeli strikes hit UN school, market area

KDWN

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) — Israeli artillery shells tore through the walls of a U.N. school crowded with sleeping war refugees and back-to-back explosions rocked a market filled with shoppers Wednesday as Israel’s stepped up campaign against Gaza’s Hamas rulers claimed at least 116 Palestinian lives.

After the strikes near the shopping area in Gaza City, bodies lay scattered in the streets as the wounded screamed for help. “Where is the ambulance?” one man moaned as he lay on the blood-soaked ground.

Some 3,300 Gazans seeking refuge from the fighting had been crammed into the U.N. school at the Jebaliya refugee camp when a series of Israeli artillery shells hit before daybreak, turning a classroom where families had been sleeping into a tragic scene of bloodied clothing, bedding and debris.

Assad Sabah said he and his five children were huddled under desks because of the constant sound of tank fire throughout the night when suddenly mayhem struck.

“We were scared to death,” he said. “After 4:30 a.m., tanks started firing more. Three explosions shook the school. One classroom collapsed over the head of the people who were inside.”

Palestinian health officials said at least 17 people were killed and 90 wounded in the school attack – the latest in a series of strikes the United Nations says has hit U.N. facilities that are supposed to be safe zones in the 23-day-old war.

“Where will we go next?” wailed 56-year-old Aishe Abu Darabeh, sitting dazed outside a classroom after the shelling. “We fled and they are following us.”

Israel’s military said no U.N. facility had been intentionally targeted during Wednesday’s operation, but troops had responded to Hamas mortar fire directed at Israeli soldiers near the school.

However, the chief of the U.N. aid agency for Palestinian refugees expressed “anger and indignation” at Israeli forces firing toward a U.N. facility even after being told 17 times, including just hours before the shelling attack, that it was filled with civilians.

“Enough is enough,” Pierre Kraehenbuehl told The Associated Press, noting that six U.N. schools have been hit since the fighting began.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called the school shelling “outrageous” and “unjustifiable,” and demanded an immediate humanitarian cease-fire.

“Nothing is more shameful than attacking sleeping children,” the U.N. chief said.

At least 116 Palestinians were killed Wednesday, including 16 in the shopping area, while the overall Palestinian death toll since July 8 climbed to 1,361, said Palestinian health official Ashraf al-Kidra.

The Israeli military said three of its soldiers were killed when a booby-trapped house collapsed after they identified an entrance to a Hamas tunnel inside. In all, 56 soldiers have been killed, as well as two Israeli civilians and a Thai citizen.

Wednesday marked a second day of particularly heavy Israeli air and artillery attacks, at a time when Egyptian cease-fire efforts appeared to be stalling. Israeli media said late Wednesday that Israel’s Security Cabinet decided to press forward with the operation.

Egyptian officials, meanwhile, met with an Israeli envoy about Israel’s conditions for a cease-fire, including disarming Hamas, according to a high-ranking Egyptian security official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not allowed to discuss the delicate diplomatic efforts.

Hamas has said it will only halt fire once it receives guarantees that the Gaza border blockade by Israel and Egypt will be lifted. Rejecting calls for an unconditional cease-fire, Hamas has fired dozens of rockets at Israel each day.

Israel, in turn, has said its forces will stay in Gaza at least until they complete the demolition of more than 30 Hamas military tunnels used for launching attacks on Israel. Brig. Gen. Mickey Adelstein, commander of the Gaza Regional Division, said two-thirds had been destroyed and that it will take “a few more days” to destroy the rest.

Israel says it wants to decimate Hamas’ rocket-launching capability, diminish its weapons arsenal and demolish the tunnels. It has launched more than 4,000 strikes against Hamas-linked targets, including rocket launchers and mosques where it says weapons were stored.

Israeli strikes have also hit dozens of homes. Mahmoud Abu Rahma of the Palestinian human rights group Al Mezan said nearly half of the Palestinians killed so far died in their homes.

Israeli officials have accused Hamas of using Gaza’s civilians as human shields by firing rockets from crowded neighborhoods and putting them at risk in the event of an Israeli counterstrike.

However, Kraehenbuehl, the U.N. official, said Israel must try harder to ensure that civilians are not hurt, especially in Gaza where 1.7 million people are squeezed into a small coastal territory. His agency has opened 80 of its schools to more than 200,000 Gazans fleeing the violence.

“What maybe the world forgets … is that the people of Gaza have nowhere to go,” he said. “So when the fighting starts and they move, it is not as if they can cross a border to somewhere.”

Yigal Palmor, spokesman for the Israeli Foreign Ministry, called Wednesday’s deaths at the U.N. school “tragic,” but blamed “Hamas’s criminal entrenchment within civilian populations and its frenzy to wage war within civilian establishments.”

He noted that Kraehenbuehl’s U.N. agency has issued three statements about finding weapons in empty schools, presumably stashed there by militants.

Kraehenbuehl said the attempt by militants to use the schools is unacceptable, and that the U.N. agency has been transparent about the discoveries.

The White House also condemned the deadly school shelling.

The Obama administration is “extremely concerned” that thousands of Palestinians aren’t safe in U.N.-designated shelters, White House spokeswoman Bernadette Meehan said.

The mortar shells that struck the U.N. school were fired from a distance of some 200 yards (meters), said an Israeli military official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the media.

Hours later, Israeli artillery fire hit a crowded shopping area in the Shijaiyah district in Gaza City, killing 16 people and wounding more than 200 others, Gaza health officials said.

“People were in the street and in the market, mostly women and kids. Suddenly more than 10 shells landed,” said Salim Qadoum, 26, who witnessed the strike.

“The area now is like a blood bath, everyone is wounded or killed. People lost their limbs and were screaming for help. It’s a massacre. I vomited when I saw what happened.”

Witnesses said a first strike hit a workshop near a crowded market, setting off a fire that sent a large cloud of black smoke billowing into the sky as firefighters and ambulances arrived at the scene. As a crowd gathered, another hit, according to an AP photographer who was nearby.

Al-Kidra, the Palestinian health official, said the shopping area was busy because residents, and many who had taken shelter in the area from fighting elsewhere, thought a cease-fire was in place.

The Israeli military had no immediate comment on the strike on the shopping area. However, Israel had earlier announced a “humanitarian window” in certain parts of the territory, though it said it would not halt fire in other areas, including in Shijaiyah.

Scores of wounded were brought to Gaza City’s Shifa Hospital, where the emergency room quickly overflowed, forcing some to be treated on the blood-smeared floor.

Goldenberg reported from Jerusalem. Associated Press writers Ian Deitch and Yousur Alhlou in Jerusalem contributed to this report.

Deadly Israeli strikes hit UN school, market area

KDWN

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) — Israeli artillery shells tore through the walls of a U.N. school crowded with sleeping war refugees and back-to-back explosions rocked a market filled with shoppers Wednesday as Israel’s stepped up campaign against Gaza’s Hamas rulers claimed at least 116 Palestinian lives.

After the strikes near the shopping area in Gaza City, bodies lay scattered in the streets as the wounded screamed for help. “Where is the ambulance?” one man moaned as he lay on the blood-soaked ground.

Some 3,300 Gazans seeking refuge from the fighting had been crammed into the U.N. school at the Jebaliya refugee camp when a series of Israeli artillery shells hit before daybreak, turning a classroom where families had been sleeping into a tragic scene of bloodied clothing, bedding and debris.

Assad Sabah said he and his five children were huddled under desks because of the constant sound of tank fire throughout the night when suddenly mayhem struck.

“We were scared to death,” he said. “After 4:30 a.m., tanks started firing more. Three explosions shook the school. One classroom collapsed over the head of the people who were inside.”

Palestinian health officials said at least 17 people were killed and 90 wounded in the school attack – the latest in a series of strikes the United Nations says has hit U.N. facilities that are supposed to be safe zones in the 23-day-old war.

“Where will we go next?” wailed 56-year-old Aishe Abu Darabeh, sitting dazed outside a classroom after the shelling. “We fled and they are following us.”

Israel’s military said no U.N. facility had been intentionally targeted during Wednesday’s operation, but troops had responded to Hamas mortar fire directed at Israeli soldiers near the school.

However, the chief of the U.N. aid agency for Palestinian refugees expressed “anger and indignation” at Israeli forces firing toward a U.N. facility even after being told 17 times, including just hours before the shelling attack, that it was filled with civilians.

“Enough is enough,” Pierre Kraehenbuehl told The Associated Press, noting that six U.N. schools have been hit since the fighting began.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called the school shelling “outrageous” and “unjustifiable,” and demanded an immediate humanitarian cease-fire.

“Nothing is more shameful than attacking sleeping children,” the U.N. chief said.

At least 116 Palestinians were killed Wednesday, including 16 in the shopping area, while the overall Palestinian death toll since July 8 climbed to 1,361, said Palestinian health official Ashraf al-Kidra.

The Israeli military said three of its soldiers were killed when a booby-trapped house collapsed after they identified an entrance to a Hamas tunnel inside. In all, 56 soldiers have been killed, as well as two Israeli civilians and a Thai citizen.

Wednesday marked a second day of particularly heavy Israeli air and artillery attacks, at a time when Egyptian cease-fire efforts appeared to be stalling. Israeli media said late Wednesday that Israel’s Security Cabinet decided to press forward with the operation.

Egyptian officials, meanwhile, met with an Israeli envoy about Israel’s conditions for a cease-fire, including disarming Hamas, according to a high-ranking Egyptian security official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not allowed to discuss the delicate diplomatic efforts.

Hamas has said it will only halt fire once it receives guarantees that the Gaza border blockade by Israel and Egypt will be lifted. Rejecting calls for an unconditional cease-fire, Hamas has fired dozens of rockets at Israel each day.

Israel, in turn, has said its forces will stay in Gaza at least until they complete the demolition of more than 30 Hamas military tunnels used for launching attacks on Israel. Brig. Gen. Mickey Adelstein, commander of the Gaza Regional Division, said two-thirds had been destroyed and that it will take “a few more days” to destroy the rest.

Israel says it wants to decimate Hamas’ rocket-launching capability, diminish its weapons arsenal and demolish the tunnels. It has launched more than 4,000 strikes against Hamas-linked targets, including rocket launchers and mosques where it says weapons were stored.

Israeli strikes have also hit dozens of homes. Mahmoud Abu Rahma of the Palestinian human rights group Al Mezan said nearly half of the Palestinians killed so far died in their homes.

Israeli officials have accused Hamas of using Gaza’s civilians as human shields by firing rockets from crowded neighborhoods and putting them at risk in the event of an Israeli counterstrike.

However, Kraehenbuehl, the U.N. official, said Israel must try harder to ensure that civilians are not hurt, especially in Gaza where 1.7 million people are squeezed into a small coastal territory. His agency has opened 80 of its schools to more than 200,000 Gazans fleeing the violence.

“What maybe the world forgets … is that the people of Gaza have nowhere to go,” he said. “So when the fighting starts and they move, it is not as if they can cross a border to somewhere.”

Yigal Palmor, spokesman for the Israeli Foreign Ministry, called Wednesday’s deaths at the U.N. school “tragic,” but blamed “Hamas’s criminal entrenchment within civilian populations and its frenzy to wage war within civilian establishments.”

He noted that Kraehenbuehl’s U.N. agency has issued three statements about finding weapons in empty schools, presumably stashed there by militants.

Kraehenbuehl said the attempt by militants to use the schools is unacceptable, and that the U.N. agency has been transparent about the discoveries.

The White House also condemned the deadly school shelling.

The Obama administration is “extremely concerned” that thousands of Palestinians aren’t safe in U.N.-designated shelters, White House spokeswoman Bernadette Meehan said.

The mortar shells that struck the U.N. school were fired from a distance of some 200 yards (meters), said an Israeli military official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the media.

Hours later, Israeli artillery fire hit a crowded shopping area in the Shijaiyah district in Gaza City, killing 16 people and wounding more than 200 others, Gaza health officials said.

“People were in the street and in the market, mostly women and kids. Suddenly more than 10 shells landed,” said Salim Qadoum, 26, who witnessed the strike.

“The area now is like a blood bath, everyone is wounded or killed. People lost their limbs and were screaming for help. It’s a massacre. I vomited when I saw what happened.”

Witnesses said a first strike hit a workshop near a crowded market, setting off a fire that sent a large cloud of black smoke billowing into the sky as firefighters and ambulances arrived at the scene. As a crowd gathered, another hit, according to an AP photographer who was nearby.

Al-Kidra, the Palestinian health official, said the shopping area was busy because residents, and many who had taken shelter in the area from fighting elsewhere, thought a cease-fire was in place.

The Israeli military had no immediate comment on the strike on the shopping area. However, Israel had earlier announced a “humanitarian window” in certain parts of the territory, though it said it would not halt fire in other areas, including in Shijaiyah.

Scores of wounded were brought to Gaza City’s Shifa Hospital, where the emergency room quickly overflowed, forcing some to be treated on the blood-smeared floor.

Goldenberg reported from Jerusalem. Associated Press writers Ian Deitch and Yousur Alhlou in Jerusalem contributed to this report.

Deadly Israeli strikes hit UN school, market area

KDWN

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) — Israeli artillery shells tore through the walls of a U.N. school crowded with sleeping war refugees and back-to-back explosions rocked a market filled with shoppers Wednesday as Israel’s stepped up campaign against Gaza’s Hamas rulers claimed at least 116 Palestinian lives.

After the strikes near the shopping area in Gaza City, bodies lay scattered in the streets as the wounded screamed for help. “Where is the ambulance?” one man moaned as he lay on the blood-soaked ground.

Some 3,300 Gazans seeking refuge from the fighting had been crammed into the U.N. school at the Jebaliya refugee camp when a series of Israeli artillery shells hit before daybreak, turning a classroom where families had been sleeping into a tragic scene of bloodied clothing, bedding and debris.

Assad Sabah said he and his five children were huddled under desks because of the constant sound of tank fire throughout the night when suddenly mayhem struck.

“We were scared to death,” he said. “After 4:30 a.m., tanks started firing more. Three explosions shook the school. One classroom collapsed over the head of the people who were inside.”

Palestinian health officials said at least 17 people were killed and 90 wounded in the school attack – the latest in a series of strikes the United Nations says has hit U.N. facilities that are supposed to be safe zones in the 23-day-old war.

“Where will we go next?” wailed 56-year-old Aishe Abu Darabeh, sitting dazed outside a classroom after the shelling. “We fled and they are following us.”

Israel’s military said no U.N. facility had been intentionally targeted during Wednesday’s operation, but troops had responded to Hamas mortar fire directed at Israeli soldiers near the school.

However, the chief of the U.N. aid agency for Palestinian refugees expressed “anger and indignation” at Israeli forces firing toward a U.N. facility even after being told 17 times, including just hours before the shelling attack, that it was filled with civilians.

“Enough is enough,” Pierre Kraehenbuehl told The Associated Press, noting that six U.N. schools have been hit since the fighting began.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called the school shelling “outrageous” and “unjustifiable,” and demanded an immediate humanitarian cease-fire.

“Nothing is more shameful than attacking sleeping children,” the U.N. chief said.

At least 116 Palestinians were killed Wednesday, including 16 in the shopping area, while the overall Palestinian death toll since July 8 climbed to 1,361, said Palestinian health official Ashraf al-Kidra.

The Israeli military said three of its soldiers were killed when a booby-trapped house collapsed after they identified an entrance to a Hamas tunnel inside. In all, 56 soldiers have been killed, as well as two Israeli civilians and a Thai citizen.

Wednesday marked a second day of particularly heavy Israeli air and artillery attacks, at a time when Egyptian cease-fire efforts appeared to be stalling. Israeli media said late Wednesday that Israel’s Security Cabinet decided to press forward with the operation.

Egyptian officials, meanwhile, met with an Israeli envoy about Israel’s conditions for a cease-fire, including disarming Hamas, according to a high-ranking Egyptian security official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not allowed to discuss the delicate diplomatic efforts.

Hamas has said it will only halt fire once it receives guarantees that the Gaza border blockade by Israel and Egypt will be lifted. Rejecting calls for an unconditional cease-fire, Hamas has fired dozens of rockets at Israel each day.

Israel, in turn, has said its forces will stay in Gaza at least until they complete the demolition of more than 30 Hamas military tunnels used for launching attacks on Israel. Brig. Gen. Mickey Adelstein, commander of the Gaza Regional Division, said two-thirds had been destroyed and that it will take “a few more days” to destroy the rest.

Israel says it wants to decimate Hamas’ rocket-launching capability, diminish its weapons arsenal and demolish the tunnels. It has launched more than 4,000 strikes against Hamas-linked targets, including rocket launchers and mosques where it says weapons were stored.

Israeli strikes have also hit dozens of homes. Mahmoud Abu Rahma of the Palestinian human rights group Al Mezan said nearly half of the Palestinians killed so far died in their homes.

Israeli officials have accused Hamas of using Gaza’s civilians as human shields by firing rockets from crowded neighborhoods and putting them at risk in the event of an Israeli counterstrike.

However, Kraehenbuehl, the U.N. official, said Israel must try harder to ensure that civilians are not hurt, especially in Gaza where 1.7 million people are squeezed into a small coastal territory. His agency has opened 80 of its schools to more than 200,000 Gazans fleeing the violence.

“What maybe the world forgets … is that the people of Gaza have nowhere to go,” he said. “So when the fighting starts and they move, it is not as if they can cross a border to somewhere.”

Israeli Foreign Minister Yigal Palmor called Wednesday’s deaths at the U.N. school “tragic,” but blamed “Hamas’s criminal entrenchment within civilian populations and its frenzy to wage war within civilian establishments.”

He noted that Kraehenbuehl’s U.N. agency has issued three statements about finding weapons in empty schools, presumably stashed there by militants.

Kraehenbuehl said the attempt by militants to use the schools is unacceptable, and that the U.N. agency has been transparent about the discoveries.

The White House also condemned the deadly school shelling.

The Obama administration is “extremely concerned” that thousands of Palestinians aren’t safe in U.N.-designated shelters, White House spokeswoman Bernadette Meehan said.

The mortar shells that struck the U.N. school were fired from a distance of some 200 yards (meters), said an Israeli military official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the media.

Hours later, Israeli artillery fire hit a crowded shopping area in the Shijaiyah district in Gaza City, killing 16 people and wounding more than 200 others, Gaza health officials said.

“People were in the street and in the market, mostly women and kids. Suddenly more than 10 shells landed,” said Salim Qadoum, 26, who witnessed the strike.

“The area now is like a blood bath, everyone is wounded or killed. People lost their limbs and were screaming for help. It’s a massacre. I vomited when I saw what happened.”

Witnesses said a first strike hit a workshop near a crowded market, setting off a fire that sent a large cloud of black smoke billowing into the sky as firefighters and ambulances arrived at the scene. As a crowd gathered, another hit, according to an AP photographer who was nearby.

Al-Kidra, the Palestinian health official, said the shopping area was busy because residents, and many who had taken shelter in the area from fighting elsewhere, thought a cease-fire was in place.

The Israeli military had no immediate comment on the strike on the shopping area. However, Israel had earlier announced a “humanitarian window” in certain parts of the territory, though it said it would not halt fire in other areas, including in Shijaiyah.

Scores of wounded were brought to Gaza City’s Shifa Hospital, where the emergency room quickly overflowed, forcing some to be treated on the blood-smeared floor.

Goldenberg reported from Jerusalem. Associated Press writers Ian Deitch and Yousur Alhlou in Jerusalem contributed to this report.

Deadly Israeli strikes hit UN school, market area

KDWN

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) — Israeli strikes hit a crowded shopping area in Gaza City Wednesday, hours after tank shells tore through the walls of a U.N. school crowded with war refugees in the deadliest of a series of air and artillery attacks that pushed the Palestinian death toll above 1,360 in more than three weeks of fighting.

The bloodshed came on the heels of an escalation by both sides fighting in the embattled coastal territory, further dimming prospects for a sustainable cease-fire despite international diplomatic efforts.

The attack on the U.N. school in the Jebaliya refugee camp was the second deadly strike on a U.N. compound in a week. Tank shells slammed into the compound before dawn, said Adnan Abu Hasna, a spokesman for the U.N. Relief and Works Agency, UNRWA, which is sheltering more than 200,000 people displaced by the fighting at dozens of U.N. schools across Gaza.

Gaza health ministry official Ashraf al-Kidra said at least 17 people were killed and about 90 wounded in the school strike. Four of the dead were killed just outside the school compound, two in their home nearby and two in the street, after returning from pre-dawn prayers, their relatives said.

The Israeli military said it fired back after its soldiers were targeted by mortar rounds launched from the vicinity of the school.

Assad Sabah said he and his five children were huddling under desks in one of the classrooms because of the constant sound of tank fire throughout the night.

“We were scared to death,” he said. “After 4:30 a.m., tanks started firing more. Three explosions shook the school.”

“One classroom collapsed over the head of the people who were inside,” he said.

In one classroom, the front wall was blown out, leaving debris and bloodied clothing. Another strike tore a large round hole in the ceiling of a second-floor classroom.

Hundreds of people crowded the school courtyard after the strike, some dazed, others wailing.

“Where will we go?” asked Aishe Abu Darabeh, 56. “Where will we go next? We fled and they (the Israelis) are following us.”

In all, 1,361 Palestinians have been killed – 116 on Wednesday – and more than 7,600 wounded since the July 8 start of fighting, al-Kidra said.

The Israeli military said three of its soldiers were killed when a booby-trapped house collapsed after they identified an entrance to a tunnel inside, raising to 56 the number killed since a ground war began earlier this month. Three civilians also have been killed on the Israeli side.

The U.N. said it was the sixth school to be hit since the conflict began, and the second to cause deaths. At least 15 civilians also were killed last Thursday when the courtyard of a U.N. school in Gaza City was hit. Israel has acknowledged that troops fired a mortar shell that hit the courtyard but said aerial footage shows the yard was empty at the time and that the shell could not have killed anyone.

“I reached levels of anger and indignation about the fact that despite all the efforts that we have put in, to ensure that places like these would be respected, that people in them would be protected when they were there – that this was not the case is intolerable,” said Pierre Kraehenbuehl, the UNRWA commissioner general.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called Wednesday’s trike “outrageous” and “unjustifiable,” and demanded an immediate humanitarian cease-fire in the war between Israel and Hamas.

“Nothing is more shameful than attacking sleeping children,” Ban said on his arrival in San Jose, Costa Rica. He added that “all available evidence points to Israeli artillery as the cause” and noted that Israeli military authorities had received the coordinates of the school from the United Nations 17 times, including on Tuesday night.

The White House also condemned the deadly shelling. White House spokeswoman Bernadette Meehan also said the U.S. is “extremely concerned” that thousands of Palestinians aren’t safe in U.N.-designated shelters, despite being told by Israel’s military to leave their homes. Israel has been warning civilians by phone and leaflet to leave dangerous areas ahead of strikes on militant targets.

The mortar shells were fired from a distance of some 200 meters (yards) from the school, said an Israeli military official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the media.

Yomtov Tamir, a retired Israeli general, said he was not familiar with Wednesday’s strike but said that even though tank fire is generally “very accurate” it can miss its target for a variety of reasons.

“One – it might have gone through a target. Two – it might be a mistake in identification, that they intended to hit something specific but that it was actually something other than what the person aiming intended,” he said.

Hours later, several Israeli shells hit a crowded shopping area in the Shijaiyah district in Gaza City, killing at least 16 people, including local Palestinian photographer Rami Rayan, who was wearing a press vest at the time, and wounding more than 200 people, Gaza health officials said. A witness had previously described airstrikes, but a Civil Defense official said the area was hit by shelling.

Al-Kidra and witnesses said the shopping area was busy because residents, and many who had taken shelter in the area from fighting elsewhere, thought a cease-fire was in place. The Palestinian Red Crescent confirmed the death toll.

The Israeli military had no immediate comment on the strike on the shopping area, saying it was investigating the report.

Israel had earlier announced a “humanitarian window” in certain parts of the territory. But it said it would not halt fire in other areas, including in Shijaiyah, where the strike took place. Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri dismissed the cease-fire, saying it lacked any “value” because it excluded border areas from where Hamas wanted to evacuate the wounded.

“People were in the street and in the market, mostly women and kids. Suddenly more than 10 shells landed in the area, the market, in the Turkman area, and next to the gas station,” said Salim Qadoum, 26, who witnessed the strike.

Blood stained the streets near the strike and limbs were strewn across the floor. Some survivors were yelling in shock. Scores of wounded were brought to Gaza City’s Shifa Hospital where the emergency room quickly overflowed. Some of the wounded were treated on the blood-smeared floor.

An earlier strike also hit a warehouse in the Shijaiyah district, which has been frequently targeted by Israel. That caused a fire and sent a large cloud of black smoke billowing into the sky as firefighters and ambulances arrived at the scene.

Brig. Gen. Mickey Adelstein, a senior military official, said the structure was a clinic operated by the U.N. but the U.N. said it could not confirm that.

Gaza militants also fired 84 rockets at Israel Wednesday, including more than 26 after the cease-fire was announced, the military said.

Israel says its Gaza operation is meant to stop Hamas rocket and mortar fire that has reached increasingly deeper into its territory and to destroy a sophisticated network of tunnels used for attacks inside Israel. Hamas has steadfastly refused efforts to forge a truce, insisting its demands including the lifting of an Israeli and Egyptian blockade must be met first.

Maj. Gen. Sami Turgeman, the head of the army’s southern command, said Israel was “a few days” away from destroying the 32 tunnels it has located so far. More than two-thirds of those have been demolished, according to Adelstein, the senior military official.

“Hamas could have built two hospitals, 20 schools, 20 clinics and 100 kindergartens with the amount of cement they used to build the tunnels,” Turgeman said.

Gaza militants have fired more than 2,600 rockets toward Israel over the past three weeks, according to the Israeli army. Over the past 23 days, Israeli forces have hit 4,100 targets in Gaza, about one-third connected to rocket launching, a statement said.

Enav reported from Jerusalem. Associated Press writers Ibrahim Barzak in Gaza City, Ian Deitch, Yousur Alhlou in Jerusalem and Ariel David from southern Israel contributed to this report.

Deadly Israeli strikes hit UN school, market area

KDWN

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) — Israeli strikes hit a crowded shopping area in Gaza City Wednesday, hours after tank shells tore through the walls of a U.N. school crowded with war refugees in the deadliest of a series of air and artillery attacks that pushed the Palestinian death toll above 1,360 in more than three weeks of fighting.

The bloodshed came on the heels of an escalation by both sides fighting in the embattled coastal territory, further dimming prospects for a sustainable cease-fire despite international diplomatic efforts.

The attack on the U.N. school in the Jebaliya refugee camp was the second deadly strike on a U.N. compound in a week. Tank shells slammed into the compound before dawn, said Adnan Abu Hasna, a spokesman for the U.N. Relief and Works Agency, UNRWA, which is sheltering more than 200,000 people displaced by the fighting at dozens of U.N. schools across Gaza.

Gaza health ministry official Ashraf al-Kidra said at least 17 people were killed and about 90 wounded in the school strike. Four of the dead were killed just outside the school compound, two in their home nearby and two in the street, after returning from pre-dawn prayers, their relatives said.

The Israeli military said it fired back after its soldiers were targeted by mortar rounds launched from the vicinity of the school.

Assad Sabah said he and his five children were huddling under desks in one of the classrooms because of the constant sound of tank fire throughout the night.

“We were scared to death,” he said. “After 4:30 a.m., tanks started firing more. Three explosions shook the school.”

“One classroom collapsed over the head of the people who were inside,” he said.

In one classroom, the front wall was blown out, leaving debris and bloodied clothing. Another strike tore a large round hole in the ceiling of a second-floor classroom.

Hundreds of people crowded the school courtyard after the strike, some dazed, others wailing.

“Where will we go?” asked Aishe Abu Darabeh, 56. “Where will we go next? We fled and they (the Israelis) are following us.”

In all, 1,361 Palestinians have been killed – 116 on Wednesday – and more than 7,600 wounded since the July 8 start of fighting, al-Kidra said.

The Israeli military said three of its soldiers were killed when a booby-trapped house collapsed after they identified an entrance to a tunnel inside, raising to 56 the number killed since a ground war began earlier this month. Three civilians also have been killed on the Israeli side.

The U.N. said it was the sixth school to be hit since the conflict began, and the second to cause deaths. At least 15 civilians also were killed last Thursday when the courtyard of a U.N. school in Gaza City was hit. Israel has acknowledged that troops fired a mortar shell that hit the courtyard but said aerial footage shows the yard was empty at the time and that the shell could not have killed anyone.

“I reached levels of anger and indignation about the fact that despite all the efforts that we have put in, to ensure that places like these would be respected, that people in them would be protected when they were there – that this was not the case is intolerable,” said Pierre Kraehenbuehl, the UNRWA commissioner general.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called Wednesday’s trike “outrageous” and “unjustifiable,” and demanded an immediate humanitarian cease-fire in the war between Israel and Hamas.

“Nothing is more shameful than attacking sleeping children,” Ban said on his arrival in San Jose, Costa Rica. He added that “all available evidence points to Israeli artillery as the cause” and noted that Israeli military authorities had received the coordinates of the school from the United Nations 17 times, including on Tuesday night.

The White House also condemned the deadly shelling. White House spokeswoman Bernadette Meehan also said the U.S. is “extremely concerned” that thousands of Palestinians aren’t safe in U.N.-designated shelters, despite being told by Israel’s military to leave their homes. Israel has been warning civilians by phone and leaflet to leave dangerous areas ahead of strikes on militant targets.

The mortar shells were fired from a distance of some 200 meters (yards) from the school, said an Israeli military official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the media.

Yomtov Tamir, a retired Israeli general, said he was not familiar with Wednesday’s strike but said that even though tank fire is generally “very accurate” it can miss its target for a variety of reasons.

“One – it might have gone through a target. Two – it might be a mistake in identification, that they intended to hit something specific but that it was actually something other than what the person aiming intended,” he said.

Hours later, several Israeli shells hit a crowded shopping area in the Shijaiyah district in Gaza City, killing at least 16 people, including local Palestinian photographer Rami Rayan, who was wearing a press vest at the time, and wounding more than 200 people, Gaza health officials said. A witness had previously described airstrikes, but a Civil Defense official said the area was hit by shelling.

Al-Kidra and witnesses said the shopping area was busy because residents, and many who had taken shelter in the area from fighting elsewhere, thought a cease-fire was in place. The Palestinian Red Crescent confirmed the death toll.

The Israeli military had no immediate comment on the strike on the shopping area, saying it was investigating the report.

Israel had earlier announced a “humanitarian window” in certain parts of the territory. But it said it would not halt fire in other areas, including in Shijaiyah, where the strike took place. Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri dismissed the cease-fire, saying it lacked any “value” because it excluded border areas from where Hamas wanted to evacuate the wounded.

“People were in the street and in the market, mostly women and kids. Suddenly more than 10 shells landed in the area, the market, in the Turkman area, and next to the gas station,” said Salim Qadoum, 26, who witnessed the strike.

Blood stained the streets near the strike and limbs were strewn across the floor. Some survivors were yelling in shock. Scores of wounded were brought to Gaza City’s Shifa Hospital where the emergency room quickly overflowed. Some of the wounded were treated on the blood-smeared floor.

An earlier strike also hit a warehouse in the Shijaiyah district, which has been frequently targeted by Israel. That caused a fire and sent a large cloud of black smoke billowing into the sky as firefighters and ambulances arrived at the scene.

Brig. Gen. Mickey Adelstein, a senior military official, said the structure was a clinic operated by the U.N. but the U.N. said it could not confirm that.

Gaza militants also fired 84 rockets at Israel Wednesday, including more than 26 after the cease-fire was announced, the military said.

Israel says its Gaza operation is meant to stop Hamas rocket and mortar fire that has reached increasingly deeper into its territory and to destroy a sophisticated network of tunnels used for attacks inside Israel. Hamas has steadfastly refused efforts to forge a truce, insisting its demands including the lifting of an Israeli and Egyptian blockade must be met first.

Maj. Gen. Sami Turgeman, the head of the army’s southern command, said Israel was “a few days” away from destroying the 32 tunnels it has located so far. More than two-thirds of those have been demolished, according to Adelstein, the senior military official.

“Hamas could have built two hospitals, 20 schools, 20 clinics and 100 kindergartens with the amount of cement they used to build the tunnels,” Turgeman said.

Gaza militants have fired more than 2,600 rockets toward Israel over the past three weeks, according to the Israeli army. Over the past 23 days, Israeli forces have hit 4,100 targets in Gaza, about one-third connected to rocket launching, a statement said.

Enav reported from Jerusalem. Associated Press writers Ibrahim Barzak in Gaza City, Ian Deitch, Yousur Alhlou in Jerusalem and Ariel David from southern Israel contributed to this report.