Saturday, January 17, 2009

Israel Criticized for New Deaths as Cease-Fire Looms in Gaza

By STEVEN ERLANGER - JERUSALEM — Israeli tank fire killed two young brothers sheltering at a United Nations school in the northern Gaza town of Beit Lahiya on Saturday, Palestinian and United Nations officials said, even as Israel prepared to declare a unilateral cease-fire in Gaza.
The deaths brought a new round of sharp condemnation for Israel from the United Nations, including aid officials who raised questions about whether the attack, and others like it, should be investigated as war crimes. The Israeli Army said that it was investigating the reports at the highest level but that initial inquiries indicated that troops were returning fire from near or within the school.
The military said that it struck hundreds of targets overnight, including rocket-launching sites, about 70 smuggling tunnels, and weapons caches, and that its troops tightened the encirclement of Gaza City.
Hamas officials outside Gaza vowed to fight on, regardless of any Israeli cease-fire declaration. The group’s representatives were scheduled to meet Egyptian officials in Cairo who are trying to pull together a lasting truce in this three-week-old war, in which more than 1,200 Palestinians, and 13 Israelis, have died.

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