Continued from page 1

U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said there was “a strong possibility” that Israel was committing war crimes in Gaza, where most Palestinian casualties have been civilians.

She also condemned indiscriminate Islamist rocket fire out of Gaza.

The U.N. Human Rights Council said it would launch an international inquiry into suspected violations.

Israel dismissed the threat. “Get lost,” Justice Minister Tzipi Livni said on her Facebook page in response to the investigation.

“Our interest and that of our people is that no agreement should be made before the conditions of factions of resistance are met,” Mr. Abu Zuhri said.

White House Deputy National Security Adviser Tony Blinken, meanwhile, said Hamas must be denied the ability to “rain down rockets on Israeli civilians.”

“One of the results, one would hope, of a cease-fire would be some form of demilitarization so that this doesn’t continue, doesn’t repeat itself,” Mr. Blinken said in an interview with NPR. “That needs to be the end result.”

On the ground, Israeli troops backed by tanks and aerial drones clashed with Hamas fighters armed with rocket-propelled grenades and assault rifles on the outskirts of Khan Younis, killing at least eight militants, a Palestinian health official said.

The Palestinian Red Crescent was trying to evacuate some 250 people from the area, which has been pummeled by airstrikes and tank shelling since early Wednesday.

As the battle unfolded, hundreds of eastern Khan Younis residents, many with children in tow, fled their homes and flooded into the streets with what few belongings they could carry. They said they were seeking shelter in U.N. schools.

“The airplanes and airstrikes are all around us,” said Aziza Msabah, a resident of Khan Younis. “They are hitting the houses, which are collapsing upon us.”

Farther north, in the Shijaiyah neighborhood of Gaza City, which endured intense fighting earlier this week, an airstrike demolished a home, killing 30-year-old journalist Abdul Rahman Abu Hean, his grandfather Hassan and his nephew Osama.

Israel launched its offensive July 8 to halt rocket salvos by Hamas and its allies, which have struggled under an Israeli-Egyptian economic blockade on Gaza and have been angered by a crackdown on their supporters in the West Bank.

After aerial and naval bombardment failed to quell the outgunned guerrillas, Israel poured ground forces into the Gaza Strip last Thursday, looking to knock out Hamas‘ rocket stores and destroy a vast network of tunnels.

“We are meeting resistance around the tunnels. They are constantly trying to attack us around and in the tunnels. That is the trend,” said Lt. Col. Peter Lerner, an Israeli military spokesman.

Story Continues →