Israel pressed ahead with its Gaza offensive Thursday despite international pressure, calling up another 16,000 reservists, after some of the fiercest days of fighting in the 23-day old war that has killed more than 1,300 Palestinians and more than 50 Israelis.
Witnesses reported continued airstrikes and shelling overnight from Israeli forces on the tiny Palestinian seaside enclave, which is run by the militant Islamist group Hamas. And rockets from Gaza continued to be fired into Israel through the night Wednesday and early Thursday morning.
Israel’s new call-up, which brings the number of reserves summoned to 86,000, came after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s security cabinet Wednesday approved continuing the ground, air and sea assault launched in response to rocket attacks on Israeli territory by Hamas and other militant groups. Israel said the call-up was to provide relief to those soldiers who have been serving since the operation began July 8.
The call-up came after United Nations officials accused Israel of violating international law Wednesday with artillery shells slammed into a school overflowing with evacuees, killing at least 20 people as they slept — one of the worst mass-casualty incidents of the war that has ravaged the Gaza Strip, home to some 1.8 million Palestinians.
The building was the sixth U.N. school in Gaza to be rocked by explosions during the conflict. Some 7,200 Palestinians have also been injured in the conflict, Gaza health officials said.
Israeli officials said they were trying to determine who was responsible for the bloodshed. In past incidents, the Israeli military blamed errant rocket or mortar fire by Gaza militants for explosions at U.N. schools — or said the blasts were under investigation.
The U.N. Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), which operated the school-turned-shelter in the Jabalya refugee camp, said it had gathered evidence, analyzed bomb fragments and examined craters after the attack. Its initial assessment was that three Israeli artillery shells hit the school where 3,300 people had sought refuge.
“I condemn in the strongest possible terms this serious violation of international law by Israeli forces,” said Pierre Krähenbühl, the UNRWA commissioner-general. “This is an affront to all of us, a source of universal shame. Today the world stands disgraced.”
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said “all available evidence points to Israeli artillery as the cause” of the pre-dawn attack.
Ban said Israel had received the precise GPS coordinates of the school from the United Nations 17 times.
The White House issued a statement condemning the attack and lamenting the deaths, but did not mention Israel as the possible source.
SOURCE: Sudarsan Raghavan, William Booth and Ruth Eglash
The Washington Post