By Nidal al-Mughrabi and Jeffrey Heller
GAZA/JERUSALEM, July 30 (Reuters) - Israeli shelling killed at least 15 Palestinians sheltering in aschool in Gaza's biggest refugee camp on Wednesday, the Health Ministry said, as Egyptian mediators prepared a revised proposal to try to halt more than three weeks of fighting.
Some 3,300 Palestinians, including many women and children, were taking refuge in the building inJabalya refugee camp when it came under fire around dawn, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) said.
"Our initial assessment is that it was Israeli artillery that hit our school," UNRWA chief Pierre Krahenbuhl said in a statement after representatives of the agency visited the scene and examined fragments, craters and other damage.
Blood splattered floors and mattresses inside classrooms at the Jabalya Girls Elementary School and survivors picked through shattered glass and debris for flesh and body parts to bury.
"I call on the international community to take deliberate international political action to put an immediate end to the continuing carnage," Krahenbuhl said.
A Palestinian girl cries while receiving treatment for her injuries following an Israeli strike at a U.N. school in Jebaliya refugee camp in Beit Lahiya on July 30, 2014. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)
The Gaza Health Ministry put the number of dead in the attack at 15 after a local UNRWA official said 19 had been killed. Krahenbujl, however, said it was premature to give an official death toll.
"But we know that there were multiple civilian deaths and injuries, including of women and children and the UNRWA guard, who was trying to protect the site," Krahenbujl said.
An Israeli military spokeswoman said militants had fired mortar bombs from the vicinity of the schooland troops shot back in response. The incident was still being reviewed.
The army said it would hold fire unilaterally in limited areas of the Gaza Strip where soldiers were not operating for four hours from 3 p.m. (1200 GMT) as a "temporary humanitarian window". It was not clear whether that included Jabalya.
Sami Abu Zuhri, a spokesman for the Hamas Islamist movement which controls Gaza, dismissed the partial, temporary ceasefire as a "media stunt", saying it would not allow rescue workers to retrieve casualties in combat zones Israel had excluded.
A Palestinian man grieves the death of his relative following an Israeli strike at a U.N. school in Jebaliya refugee camp in Beit Lahiya on July 30, 2014. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)
Israel has been shelling in Jebalya, where some 120,000 people live, since Tuesday, in what the chiefIsraeli military spokesman, Brigadier-General Motti Almoz, described as a slight broadening of its campaign against militants in the Hamas Islamist-dominated Gaza Strip.
UNRWA said on Tuesday it had found a cache of rockets concealed at another Gaza school - the third such discovery since the conflict began. It condemned unnamed groups for putting civilians at risk.
Krahenbuhl said the Jabalya school's precise location and the fact that it was housing thousands of displaced people had been communicated to the Israeli military 17 times, with the last notification just hours before the fatal shelling.
Israeli tank fire also struck the main market in Jabalya on Wednesday, killing at least three people and wounding 40 others, the health ministry said. Seven members of one family died in an Israeli attack in Deir al-Balah, in the central Gaza Strip.
The ministry said 1,287 Palestinians, mostly civilians, have been killed since Israel began its offensive on July 8 with the declared aim of halting cross-border rocket fire.
In ground operations launched 10 days later, the army has said its main mission is to locate and destroy tunnels that militants have built under the frontier and have used to launch attacks inside Israel.
On the Israeli side, 53 soldiers and three civilians have been killed. Public support remains strong for continuing the military operation in the hope of preventing future flareups.
Mohammed Deif, the shadowy leader of Hamas's armed wing, said in a broadcast message on Tuesday that Palestinians would continue confronting Israel until its blockade on Gaza - which is supported by neighboring Egypt - was lifted.
Five rockets were fired from Gaza at Israel on Wednesday, landing harmlessly in open areas, police said.
Israel has balked at freeing up Gaza's borders under any de-escalation deal unless Hamas's disarmament is also guaranteed.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was due to review progress with his security cabinet later on Wednesday, and a Palestinian delegation was expected in Cairo for discussions on an elusive truce.
In previous bouts of fighting between Israel and its neighbors, the United States has often leaned on the Israelis to stop after incidents that caused high civilian casualties. Washington appears to have less sway with either side this time.
Egypt said on Tuesday it was revising an unconditional ceasefire proposal that Israel had originally accepted but Hamas rejected, and that a new offer would be presented to the Palestinian representatives.
UNRWA, the main U.N. relief agency in Gaza, said it was at "breaking point" with more than 200,000 Palestinians having taken shelter in its schools and buildings following calls by Israel for civilians to evacuate whole neighborhoods before military operations.
Both U.S. President Barack Obama and the U.N. Security Council have called for an immediate ceasefire to allow relief to reach Gaza's 1.8 million Palestinians, followed by negotiations on a more durable end to hostilities.
Efforts led by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry last week failed to achieve a breakthrough, and the explosion of violence appeared to dash international hopes of turning a brief lull for the Muslim Eid al-Fitr festival into a longer-term ceasefire.
In a statement on Wednesday, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said he was "extremely concerned about the escalating fighting in and around Gaza" in which civilian infrastructure and U.N. facilities have come under fire.
"Everything must be done to prevent civilian victims and to uphold humanitarian law," he said. "I urge both sides to agree to an immediate ceasefire and to resume negotiations about a long-term ceasefire on the basis of the Egyptian suggestions."
(Additional reporting by Ari Rabinovitch in Jerusalem and Alexandra Hudson in Berlin; Writing byJeffrey Heller; Editing by Paul Taylor)
BEFORE YOU GO
08/08/2014 2:47 PM EDT
White House Concerned By Renewed Fighting
The White House on Friday urged Israel and the Palestinians to resume talks and do what they can to protect civilians after Egyptian-mediated negotiations failed to extend a ceasefire and rocket fire resumed.
"The United States is very concerned about today's developments in Gaza," White House spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters.
"We condemn the renewed rocket fire and we are concerned about the safety and security of civilians on both sides of that conflict," he said.
08/08/2014 1:42 PM EDT
Official: 5 Palestinians Killed In Gaza
Five Palestinians, including a 10-year-old boy, have been killed in Israeli airstrikes on Gaza since a ceasefire fell apart on Friday, a Palestinian medical official reported to Agence France Presse.
Meanwhile, the Israeli army said Palestinian militants fired 35 rockets into Israel on Friday, injuring a soldier and a civilian.
The father of a ten-year old Palestinian boy, who was killed in an Israeli air strike on the Sheikh Radwan neighbourhood in northern Gaza City, mourns at the city's Al-Shifa hospital, on August 8, 2014. (MOHAMMED ABED/AFP/Getty Images)
08/08/2014 9:23 AM EDT
Palestinian Delegation Says Gaza Talks Will Continue
Palestinian factions will remain in Cairo and press on with Egyptian-mediated talks despite the end of the ceasefire in Gaza, the head of the delegation, Fatah official Azzam Ahmed, said on Friday.
"We are not for escalation. We are ready to continue through our Egyptian brothers in negotiating to reach a final agreement that would return the rights to their owners," Ahmed said. "I mean here lifting the blockade of Gaza."
Ahmed said Palestinian negotiators were due to meet Egyptian intelligence officials, who have been mediating the talks, later in the day. He said Palestinian factions were united in their decision not to extend the 72-hour truce that ended at 0500 GMT and had been clear about their basic demands to end the conflict.
08/08/2014 9:13 AM EDT
Egypt: Agreement Close In Gaza Talks
Egypt called on Friday for an immediate resumption of the ceasefire in Gaza and a return to the negotiating table, saying that only a few outstanding issues remained in negotiations it was mediating between Israel and the Palestinians.
"The foreign ministry calls on all sides to rise to their responsibilities ... and to return immediately to the ceasefire commitment and exploit the opportunity available to resume negotiations on the very limited sticking points that remain in the fastest possible time," the foreign ministry said in a statement.
08/08/2014 3:58 AM EDT
Israeli Airstrikes On Gaza Resume
BREAKING: Israel says it's resumed strikes on Gaza in response to rocket fire, after end of 3-day truce.— The Associated Press (@AP) August 8, 2014
08/08/2014 3:02 AM EDT
Cease-Fire Ends With New Rocket Attacks
A 72-hour cease-fire expired at 8 a.m. today, and not long after, Gaza militants began firing rockets at Israel, The Associated Press reported.
The Israeli military said at least 10 rockets had been fired at Israel since the truce ended. Prior to the attacks, a senior official for Hamas said the militant groups would not extend the cease-fire.
For more, click here.
08/06/2014 2:46 PM EDT
Official: Israel Agrees To Extend Ceasefire
Israel has conditionally agreed to extend a ceasefire that ended a month of fighting in Gaza beyond a Friday deadline, an Israeli official said on Wednesday, speaking on condition of anonymity.
The official did not say for how much longer Israel had agreed to extend the truce, only that: "Israel has expressed its readiness to extend the truce under its current terms," referring to the deal brokered by Egypt that took effect on Tuesday.
Hamas had no immediate comment.
08/06/2014 2:12 PM EDT
IDF: Rocket Sirens Were False Alarm
IDF confirms rocket sirens in southern Israel were false alarm http://t.co/QN677jtlXE— Haaretz.com (@haaretzcom) August 6, 2014
08/06/2014 1:18 PM EDT
Report: Rocket Sirens Sound At Gaza Border
ABC Foreign Editor Jon Williams reports that the IDF have confirmed the rocket sirens are sounding, but are checking to see if it is a false alarm.
08/05/2014 4:20 PM EDT
Israel Arrests Kidnapping Suspect
Reuters reports that Israel has arrested one of the suspects in the kidnapping and killing of three Israeli teenagers in the West Bank in June.
Hussam Kawasme, a 40-year-old resident of the West Bank city of Hebron, was arrested on July 11 in connection with the killing of Israelis Gil-Ad Shaer, Naftali Fraenkel and Eyal Yifrah, who went missing on June 12 and were discovered dead a couple of weeks later.
Their kidnapping sparked a cycle of violence that led to the month-long conflict between Israel and Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip.
Kawasme's arrest was made public for the first time on Tuesday in a document from an Israeli court case over whether houses belonging to him and two other suspects - who remain at large - should be destroyed as a punitive measure.
The lawyers listed as representing Kawasme were not reachable for comment.
The court document said Kawasme had admitted to helping to organize the kidnapping - securing funding from the Hamas Islamist group in Gaza and purchasing weapons which he passed on to the two other suspects who carried out the attack.
Kawasme also helped to bury the bodies of the teenagers in a plot of land he had bought a few months earlier, it said.
Israel has named the other two suspects in the case as Marwan Kawasme and Amar Abu Aysha.