A third deadly attack on a
school sheltering people
fleeing bombardment in
was strongly condemned by both the UN
and the US on Sunday, with UN chief,
, calling it a "moral outrage and
a criminal act" and pleading for an end to "this
The US said it was appalled by the
"disgraceful" attack, which killed at least 10
people and injured dozens just days after the
shelling of two other UN schools in Gaza caused
international shock and anger.
A hospital near the site of the attack, in
the southern town of Rafah, was overwhelmed with
the dead and injured. Children's bodies were
stored in an ice-cream freezer as the morgue ran
out of room.
It was, said Ban, "yet another gross
violation of international humanitarian law,
which clearly requires protection by both
parties of Palestinian civilians, UN staff and
UN premises, among other civilian facilities".
He called for a swift investigation, saying
"those responsible [must be] held accountable.
It is a moral outrage and a criminal act."
Israel Defence Forces (IDF) had been
"repeatedly informed of the location of these
sites", Ban added.
In an unusually severe statement, the US
state department called on Israel to do "more to
meet its own standards and avoid civilian
The Israeli military was investigating the
incident, said a spokesman, but preliminary
inquiries had shown that its forces were
"targeting a number of terrorists on a motorbike
near the school, and we did identify a
successful hit on a motorbike. We do not target
schools. We certainly do not target civilians.
We are still reviewing the incident."
The attack came as Israeli forces began
withdrawing most troops from Gaza in what the
military described as a "new phase" in the
28-day conflict. Air strikes and shelling
continued alongside the troop redeployment and
Hamas continued to launch rockets at Israel.
"The troops are in the midst of a
redeployment to other parts of the border," said
IDF spokesman Lt-Col Peter Lerner. "We are
releasing troops from the frontline but the
mission is ongoing. Ground forces are operating.
Air forces are operating."
Troops were "extremely close" to completing a
mission to destroy Hamas's network of attack
tunnels, he said. The IDF had "a rapid reaction
force on the ground that can engage Hamas if
Residents of some areas of Gaza, who had been
warned to evacuate, were told they could return
to their homes. The IDF has dropped leaflets in
parts of Gaza telling residents to "tell your
hidden leaders the battle is over" and that "all
members and leaders of Hamas and other terrorist
movements are unsafe".
Residents, who reported limited shelling
overnight in the northern areas, were reluctant
to return to their homes following the breakdown
of previous ceasefires.
Israeli analysts said that Israel was
effecting a unilateral winding down of the
military operation rather than engage in truce
negotiations with Hamas. Yossi Melman, a
respected commentator, wrote in Ma'ariv: "After
27 days of fighting and 63 IDF soldiers
killed—the war is over … It is a unilateral
political decision that is based on a military
assessment. The IDF will deploy along defensive
lines in a security zone inside the Gaza Strip
and, at the same time, will reduce the number of
troops and redeploy many of them in staging
grounds inside Israel.".
The Israeli defence ministry said on Sunday
night that Israel would hold a truce in most of
Gaza for seven hours on Monday for humanitarian
aid and to allow displaced Palestinians to
return to their homes, but would fight back if
The humanitarian truce, beginning at 10am
(0700 GMT), would not apply in areas of Rafah,
the ministry said, because Israeli forces are
remaining on the ground in and around the
southern Gaza town to destroy a cross-border
But the international community is likely to
be alarmed at Israel bypassing negotiations.
Political leaders and senior diplomats have
repeatedly stressed that the two sides must
address and resolve underlying issues that led
to the current conflict to break the cycle of
Efforts to forge a truce resumed in Cairo on
Sunday, with Middle East envoy Tony Blair and US
special envoy Frank Lowenstein flying in, along
with a Palestinian delegation which included
representatives of Hamas and Islamic Jihad, the
main militant groups in Gaza.
Israel declined to send a team to join the
talks, , an indication that it wants to proceed
on its own terms, diminishing prospects for an
Among demands tabled by the Palestinians were
an end to the blockade of Gaza, extending the
permitted fishing zone at sea and the removal of
the no-go buffer zone inside the border, as well
as the rehabilitation of Gaza, emergency aid and
a release of prisoners.
As diplomats prepared for talks in Cairo, the
funeral took place of Hadar Goldin, a
23-year-old soldier whom Israel originally said
had been captured by Hamas during an attack near
Rafah on Friday. Hamas denied it was holding the
soldier. Israel retaliated for the attack – in
which two other soldiers were killed – with
massive bombardment of the area.
In a statement issued on Saturday night, the
IDF said Goldin had been killed in battle,
bringing the number of soldiers killed to 64. It
also confirmed he was related to the defence
minister, Moshe Ya'alon.
Sami Abu Zuhri, Hamas's spokesman in Gaza,
told reporters: "Israel tricked and deceived the
world when it claimed a soldier had been
abducted and then admitted that he had actually
been killed in battle in Rafah. It did this only
in order to breach the 72-hour ceasefire agreed
upon with the UN and the US, in order to commit
massacre in Rafah."
Praising the soldier as a "great hero", the
Israeli prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, told
Goldin's parents: "I hope that you will find
consolation in the fact that he fell to uphold
the people of Israel in the struggle for our
The UN warned of a rapidly unfolding health
disaster in Gaza, with overwhelmed medical
services on the verge of collapse. It said a
third of hospitals, 14 primary healthcare
clinics and 29 ambulances had been damaged in
the fighting, at least five medical staff had
been killed on duty and more than 40% of medical
staff were unable to get to places of work.
Critical supplies of medicines and other
supplies were almost depleted and damage and
destruction of power supplies had left hospitals
dependent on unreliable generators.
The Palestinian death toll passed 1,750, 80%
of whom are civilians, according to UN
estimates. About 460,000 people have been
displaced since the start of the conflict.
The UN said many were "now living in
overcrowded conditions in schools, with
relatives or in makeshift shelters. This,
coupled with lack of inadequate water and
sanitation, poses serious risks of outbreak of
waterborne and communicable diseases."
Meanwhile, a statement signed by the EU and
European commission presidents on behalf of 28
member states has called on Israel and Hamas to
"immediately stop" hostilities and condemned the
loss of life.
"The bloodshed needs to stop. We deplore the
terrible loss of lives, including innocent women
and children," it said, saying Gaza residents
were suffering "intolerable violence". It also
called the continued rocket fire by Hamas "an
unacceptable threat" to Israeli citizens.