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Terrorism & Security

Israel agrees to brief bombing break in Gaza

The daily three-hour pause comes amid indications that cease-fire talks may be near.

By / January 7, 2009

A French-Egyptian proposal for an immediate cease-fire in Gaza and peace talks in Cairo between Israel and Palestinian factions appears to be gaining diplomatic traction. Israel has said it is considering the plan. It has also agreed to a daily three-hour pause in bombings to allow civilians to access essential supplies.

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The diplomatic efforts come amid further bloody battles in Gaza. An Israeli attack on a United Nations-run school in northern Gaza killed more than 40 Palestinians. Israel's military said it fired on the building in response to Hamas rocket fire, one of 40 Israeli strikes on targets inside Gaza overnight Tuesday. Schools in Gaza are being used to shelter civilians fleeing the fighting, and the UN has denied that militants were present.

The Washington Post reports that the mortar attack on the school near Jabalya refugee camp is among the deadliest incidents in 11 days of fighting. The UN has called for an independent investigation and a diplomat condemned Israel and Hamas leaders for waging war in the impoverished territory. A senior hospital official said the Palestinian death toll in Gaza had reached 625, with more than 2,900 injured.

Tuesday's attack on the school came only hours after an Israeli missile struck a residential area in al-Bureij refugee camp, injuring seven U.N. workers in a nearby medical clinic, U.N. officials said. Late Monday, an Israeli airstrike on a U.N. school in Gaza City had killed three members of a family.
U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon called the attacks "totally unacceptable."
"After earlier strikes, the Israeli government was warned that its operations were endangering U.N. compounds," he said in a statement. "I am deeply dismayed that despite these repeated efforts, today's tragedies have ensued."

The Los Angeles Times reports that many families in Gaza have fled their homes since the conflict began. In some cases, houses are seen as unsafe because of their location near security force installations. Some have sought sanctuary in public shelters or moved to the homes of relatives.

But even many purely civilian neighborhoods aren't safe because Gaza militants often fire rockets from such areas and Israel continues to bomb the homes of Hamas commanders and buildings and mosques it believes are used as weapons storehouses. As a result, almost every neighborhood in Gaza is littered with sites that Israel considers legitimate military targets.

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