- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 8, 2009

UNITED NATIONS | The main U.N. relief agency in Gaza suspended operations Thursday after Israel fired on its convoys in at least two separate incidents, killing one driver.

The International Red Cross also suspended relief efforts for at least a day, saying one of its ambulances came under fire by Israeli soldiers.

The U.N. Relief and Works Agency, or UNRWA, ordered several hundred staffers to their homes, temporarily shutting down its network that supplies food and runs dozens of schools and clinics in Gaza.

“These are shocking incidents today,” said John Holmes, the head of U.N. humanitarian operations, who noted that all movement had been arranged with and cleared by the Israeli army.

“We have to balance the danger to staffers against the eagerness of the staff” to do their jobs, Mr. Holmes said, stressing that UNRWA will resume activities as quickly as possible.

Israel said it was investigating the incident.

Three rockets fired at Israel from south Lebanon raised the prospect of a two front war. No group took responsibility, there were no serious injuries and Israel retaliated with mortars.

For the second day in a row, Israel declared a three-hour pause in fighting to allow Gazans to collect food, drinking water and other supplies.

On the diplomatic front, the United States dropped its opposition to a legally binding Security Council resolution demanding an immediate cease-fire.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was at the United Nations in New York for a third day of negotiations on the resolution. Talks there included Arab foreign ministers.

Israeli diplomats also flew to Cairo to discuss opening Egyptian border crossings to evacuate Gaza’s wounded and import relief supplies.

Israeli police reported Gaza militants fired 24 rockets at Israel, injuring four, one seriously, according to the Associated Press.

During the Israeli bombing pause, about three dozen bodies were found beneath the rubble of bombed buildings in Gaza City.

About 750 Palestinians and 12 Israelis have been killed since the Israeli offensive began Dec. 27.

In Paris, French President Nicolas Sarkozy said any time lost will play into the hands of those who want war.

“The weapons must go quiet, the escalation must stop, Israel must obtain security guarantees and leave Gaza,” he said.

Israel said militants in Gaza fired 24 rockets into Israel on Thursday, injuring four people, one seriously.

The Israeli government again spelled out conditions for a cease-fire.

“There has to be a total and complete cessation of all hostile fire from Gaza into Israel, and we have to see an arms embargo on Hamas that will receive international support,” government spokesman Mark Regev told the AP.

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