'40 killed at UN school' in Gaza

Israeli tank shells killed at least 40 Palestinians today at a UN school where civilians had taken shelter, medical officials said, in carnage likely to boost international calls for a halt to Israel's Gaza offensive.

An Israeli military spokeswoman said she was looking into information on the incident at al-Fakhora school in Jabalya refugee camp.

People cut down by shrapnel lay in pools of blood on the street. Witnesses said two Israeli tanks shells exploded outside the school, killing at least 40 civilians - Palestinians who had taken refuge there and residents of nearby buildings.

In a separate attack earlier in the day, three Palestinians were killed in an airstrike on another school run by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency.

The deaths raised to 75 the number of Palestinian civilians killed on Tuesday alone, according to medical officials.

They said four militants also were killed in fighting during the day and put the total Palestinian death toll since Israel began the offensive on 19 December at 629.

More than 2,700 Palestinians have been wounded since Israel began the campaign with the declared aim of ending Hamas rocket attacks on its southern towns. Nine Israelis, including three civilians hit by rocket fire, have been killed in the conflict.

At least five rockets fired from the Gaza Strip landed in Israel on Tuesday, including one that hit the town of Gadera, 28 km from Tel Aviv, police said. A three-year-old girl was wounded.

International efforts already under way to end the fighting have focused on securing a ceasefire deal that would meet an Israeli demand to ensure Hamas, an Islamist group in charge of the Gaza Strip, could not rearm once hostilities end.

"That is the make-or-break issue," Mark Regev, a spokesman for Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, said about ensuring an end to weapons smuggling along the Gaza-Egypt frontier by Hamas.

A senior Israeli official said French President Nicolas Sarkozy, on a Middle East visit and in partnership with Egypt, was pursuing "a serious initiative" for a ceasefire in Israel's 11-day-old operation and Hamas rocket strikes.

Talks were focusing, the official said, on the size of an "international presence" along the blockaded Gaza-Egypt border, where rockets and other weapons have reached Hamas through a network of tunnels.

Tony Blair, the Middle East envoy of major powers sponsoring Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, said Sarkozy, the European Union and the United States were all in agreement that new anti-smuggling measures would be needed to clinch a ceasefire.

"What is being talked about is a credible plan to stop the smuggling," Blair, a former British prime minister, told reporters in Jerusalem.

He said he hoped the plan could be completed quickly and that enhanced Israeli security would lead to "a significant advance in opening up Gaza to the outside world".

In Damascus, Sarkozy, who met Olmert and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Monday, said after talks with President Bashar al-Assad he had no doubt the Syrian leader "will throw all his weight to convince every one to return to reason".

Syria is one of the main backers of Hamas, an Islamist group that seized the Gaza Strip from Abbas's Fatah group in fighting in 2007.

Hamas, which has rebuffed Western demands to recognise Israel, end violence and accept existing interim peace deals, has demanded a lifting of the blockade of the Gaza Strip in any future ceasefire.

Palestinian witnesses said Israeli forces pushed into Khan Younis in southern Gaza as the army widened the ground assault it launched four days ago against Hamas militants after a week of air strikes failed to stamp out cross-border rocket fire.

Most of the deaths reported by Gaza hospitals in recent days have been civilians.

The Israeli military said it killed 130 militants since Saturday, a figure that suggested the total Palestinian death toll since 27 December might be close to 700 and that bodies could still be on the battlefield.

Many of the Gaza Strip's 1.5 million people lack food, water or power. In southern Israel, schools remained closed and hundreds of thousands of people have been rushing to shelter at the sound of alarms heralding incoming rockets.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Life and Style
love + sex
Life and Style
Tikka Masala has been overtaken by Jalfrezi as the nation's most popular curry
food + drink
News
people
Voices
A propaganda video shows Isis forces near Tikrit
voicesAdam Walker: The Koran has violent passages, but it also has others that explicitly tells us how to interpret them
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Junior IT Support Technician

£20000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Junior IT Support Technician ...

Recruitment Genius: Installation and Service Engineer - Doors / Windows

£18000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This specialist designer and ma...

Recruitment Genius: Systems Developer

£26000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A market leading provider of tu...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Consultant - OTE £30,000+

£15000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Day In a Page

Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

Poldark star Heida Reed

'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn