- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 6, 2009

UNITED NATIONS | At least 30 Gazans died in Israeli artillery attacks on a U.N.-run shelter Tuesday, further inflaming international outrage at the Jewish state and renewing Arab and European calls for an immediate cease-fire.

The attack was the worst single incident in the 11-day war, which has claimed at least 635 lives and injured thousands.

Hundreds of people had sought shelter from ground fighting in a girls’ elementary school run by the United Nations in the Jabaliya area in northern Gaza, a densely populated area and a Hamas stronghold.

Three Israeli artillery shells pounded the school grounds, and most of the dead and injured were outside the school itself.

“They were in a U.N. location, seeking refuge. If they had been at home, they would have been suffering the same fate,” said John Ging, director of Gaza operations for the U.N. Relief and Works Administration (UNRWA), which administers schools and clinics and other relief efforts inside the Gaza Strip.

Mr. Ging repeated an appeal to the Israelis for a cease-fire, and demanded an independent investigation into the school shellings.

An Israeli official told the Associated Press that Palestinian militants fired on Israeli soldiers from the courtyard of the school.

The official said he spoke on condition of anonymity because the army is still drafting the official response to the incident.

Palestinian medics said 34 people were killed in the strike, while the United Nations confirmed 30 were killed and 55 injured.

Speaking by video link from Gaza, Mr. Ging said four clearly marked schools and health center had been attacked since late Monday evening.

UNRWA had provided GPS locations to the Israeli army, with the expectation that these emergency shelters would be spared, he said.

U.N. officials said other sites in Gaza attacked by Israel included:

• A school in Beit Lanoun, where three people were killed.

• A U.N. health center in Burayj refugee camp, in which 10 people, including seven UNRWA staffers were injured.

Israel has accused Hamas of hiding weapons in schools and mosques, and using other civilian sites as launching pads for rockets and attacks.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is scheduled to attend Tuesday afternoon’s Security Council is to meeting to discuss a cease-fire resolution.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is also expected.

Diplomats from the Arab League and France — which presides over the council for the month of January — are working on a draft resolution calling for a cease-fire.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy continued his tour of the region, meeting with Syrian President Bashar Assad on Tuesday.

“The worsening situation makes it all the more urgent to establish, as the European Union requested at its foreign ministers’ meeting in Paris on 30 December, a humanitarian truce and open crossing points to humanitarian workers and goods so that all necessary aid can reach the populations,” the French government said in a statement.

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