Truce efforts as Israel tanks fire into Gaza

Israel moved forces into a southern Gaza town on Tuesday, rejecting all truce efforts to end bloodshed in Gaza in an 11-day-old assault in which hundreds of Palestinians have been killed.

Truce efforts as Israel tanks fire into Gaza
Israel moved forces into a southern Gaza town on Tuesday, rejecting all truce efforts to end bloodshed in Gaza in an 11-day-old assault in which hundreds of Palestinians have been killed.

Air and naval bombardments killed 45 Palestinians on Monday, bringing to 548 the number of Palestinians killed since the offensive began on December 27.

While international truce efforts gathered speed after the New Year's holiday, an Israeli air strike killed three Palestinians in a U.N. school in the Gaza Strip where people had sought refuge from the fighting, medical officials said.

An "Israeli tank shell" killed three Israeli soldiers and wounded 24 other troops on Monday.

An Israeli officer was killed in a separate incident, apparently also "by Israeli fire", the army said.

Palestinian witnesses said Israeli forces pushed into Khan Younis in southern Gaza as the army widened the ground assault it launched four days ago after days of assults.

There was intense fighting overnight on the outskirts of the city of Gaza, where residents huddled indoors in fear. Deaths recorded by Palestinian medics reached 564.

Many of the Gaza Strip's 1.5 million people lack food, water or power.

Palestinian medics, reporting on casualties before the deaths at the U.N. school, said 20 Palestinian civilians were killed on Tuesday, including 10 people who were hit by naval shells along the beach in the central Gaza Strip.

Truce efforts

French President Nicolas Sarkozy began a peace-brokering tour of the Middle East by calling on Monday for a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas.

Sarkozy urged Israel to halt its violence in Gaza, but Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, rejected any truce calls.

Sarkozy said after meeting Abbas: "We, Europe want a ceasefire as soon as possible. Time is working against peace. The weapons must be silenced and there must be a temporary humanitarian truce."

Hamas has demanded a lifting of Israel's siege of Gaza in any future ceasefire.

Abbas called "for an immediate and unconditional end to the Israeli aggression against my people in the Gaza Strip."

"Israel must take a risk for peace," Sarkozy said at a meeting with Israeli President Shimon Peres on Monday evening, after which he met Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.

"Israel cannot leave the humanitarian situation as it is today," Sarkozy told a news conference in Ramallah.

"We in Europe want a ceasefire as quickly as possible, and everyone understands that time is running against peace," Sarkozy said.

Israel has rejected any ceasefire cals despite international efforts.

Sarkozy said Egypt was prepared to put all subjects on the table in order to build confidence on all sides.


Agencies
Last Mod: 06 Ocak 2009, 12:31
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