Day 12: UN school bombing stirs pressure for ceasefire

Israel is facing mounting pressure to agree to a ceasefire after the army launched an attack on a UN school on Tuesday leaving 43 Palestinians dead and 100 wounded. At least 683 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza and nearly 3,085 wounded since the war began on December 27. Seven Israeli soldiers and three civilians have died in the same period.
A Palestinian girl, who fled her house with her family during Israel's offensive, looks out of a window at a U.N. school in Jabalya in the northern Gaza Strip January 7, 2009. © Mohammed Salem/Reuters

BEIRUT, January 7, 2008 (MENASSAT) - The Israeli attacks on three United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) schools has provoked international condemnation with Ban-Ki-moon, Secretary-General of the United Nations, calling the attacks "unacceptable."

Tuesday was one of the deadliest days for Palestinians in the 12-days since Israel launched its military offensive against the Gaza Strip - more than 130 people were killed yesterday.

The UNRWA school in the refugee camp Jabaliya was the third to be hit by Israeli fire in 24 hours. Some 43 were killed and more than 100 wounded in what eyewitnesses are saying was complete carnage at the school site.

Israel said they were retaliating to missiles fired by Palestinian fighters from the UN building. However UNRWA spokesman Christopher Gunness said the agency was "99.9 per cent certain" that there were no militants or militant activity in the school compound, and called for an independent investigation into the incident.

A spokesman for Hamas also denied that there had been any attacks on Israelis from the school, but two residents of the area who spoke on condition of anonymity were quoted by Associated Press saying a small group of fighters did fire mortar rounds from a street near the school.

Israel has agreed to halt its bombardment of the Gaza Strip for three hours every day, which, according to an Israeli military spokesman, “would allow residents to re-supply, get aid and so on."

Human rights groups and aid agencies have warned of a humanitarian crisis for the 1.5 million Gazans who cannot leave the Strip and are unable to receive basic necessities because of Israel’s blockade.

UNRWA's Gunness, said that a 3-hour ceasefire is not enough.

"When you are trying to feed 750,000 people a day in Gaza as we are, you need a permanent ceasefire. You can't do that in a three-hour window," he said.

Ceasefire gaining support

Little official details have been released about the joint French-Egyptian ceasefire proposal.

Diplomats have said it focuses on measures to stop weapons smuggling from Egypt to Gaza, easing the Israeli blockade on the Strip. The proposal could also include stationing international monitors at the Egyptian-Gaza border.

Currently there is an agreement that says that European Union monitors must be present at the Rafah border crossing with Egypt in order for the border to be opened.

The French-Egyptian proposal has been backed by the United States, the UN and by Palestinian president and Fatah leader, Mahmoud Abbas, whose Palestinian Authority lost control of Gaza to Hamas in July 2007.

Condoleezza Rice said that she would support the proposal on Wednesday at a meeting of the UN Security Council, on condition that Hamas stops firing rockets in to Israeli towns.

She did not call for the cessation of Israeli military operations in Gaza.

Israel's security cabinet met on Wednesday to consider the deal.

The Prime Minister's bureau issued a statement that said the office is ready to discuss recent offers made by Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to broker a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas.

The statement said that Israel "expresses its gratitude to the Egyptian President and the French President for their efforts to advance a solution that will bring an end to terror from Gaza and the smuggling of weapons to the Strip."

An Israeli delegation will leave for Cairo in the coming days, where they will discuss the proposal with Egyptian leaders.

But ministers were also expected to discuss expanding operation and stepping up their assault.

According to two senior Israeli political sources who spoke with Reuters, the cabinet is going to debate whether troops should storm Gaza's urban centres – the third and final stage of the offensive. 

The first phase was a series of air raids launched on December 27 and the second a ground invasion that began on January 3.

A Palestinian official said, Gaza's Hamas rulers were debating the proposal, Reuters reported. Hamas also announced to halt rocket launching during the three hour window the Israeli government has allowed for aid deliveries.

Overnight, Israeli forces launched 40 fresh air strikes in Gaza, while Israeli media reports say nine rockets were fired into southern Israel from Gaza early on Wednesday.

For more on the situation in Gaza:

Norwegian doctor's SMS alerts from Gaza spread in Europe
Posted on 06/01/2009 - 16:22
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Lebanese head to the American Embassy
Posted on 05/01/2009 - 13:37
On January 4, the day after Israel started its ground invasion of Gaza, protesters in Beirut took their demonstration to the US embassy in the hills above Beirut—a favored target of the Arab street in the region ever since the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003. beirut demos-Gaza 107r.jpg 
When people become numbers
Posted on 06/01/2009 - 15:04
Since the attack on Gaza started on December 27, local and international media outlets in the Arab world, and international news agencies have been busy counting - the number of dead and injured and the number of missiles fired. Fadi Abu Saada director of the Palestine News Network, asks what happens when people become only numbers in a news briefs, leaving the real stories in Gaza to fall on deaf ears?

ANALYSIS: A broader look at the recent Gaza attacks
Posted on 31/12/2008 - 13:03
With the end of the Israeli military offensive on Gaza nowhere in sight, MENASSAT looks at what is truly at stake with this military offensive. Is this the end of Arab resistance to military aggression or just the end of Hamas? GAZA RESISTANCE OR NOT