Israel Temporarily Halts Gaza Attacks

ISRAEL (RushPRnews) 01/07/09-Israel’s military has temporarily stopped its attacks on Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip to allow humanitarian aid into the Palestinian territory.The Israelis said they would halt their attacks for three hours Wednesday, and announced the creation of a “humanitarian corridor” to allow Gaza residents to stock up on vital goods.Hamas said it would stop firing rockets at Israel during the three-hour halt of Israeli military operations. Concerns have mounted over shortages of food, water and medicine in Gaza. Israel has also faced strong international criticism over Palestinian civilian casualties that have resulted from its 12-day-old offensive against Hamas militants.

Israel’s security Cabinet was to meet Wednesday to discuss whether to expand the military operation in Gaza to allow Israeli forces to enter urban centers.

Meanwhile, Israeli forces say they hit 40 Hamas targets overnight with air strikes and artillery fire. Gaza health officials say the latest strikes killed at least eight people. Hamas rockets also hit southern Israel, but no casualties were reported.

On Tuesday, Israeli shelling killed some 40 Palestinians at a U.N.-run school in Gaza where hundreds of civilians were taking refuge.

Israel said its shelling at the school was in response to mortar fire from within the premises and accused Hamas militants of using schools, mosques and other civilian places to hide.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said it was unacceptable that the strikes would happen near U.N. facilities, and U.N. officials demanded an investigation.

Israel’s massive air and ground assault has killed more than 670 Palestinians since it started nearly two weeks ago. The United Nations estimates that one quarter of the victims were civilians, including many children. Some 2,500 people have been wounded.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.

Photo: AFP – A Palestinian woman cries in front of her neighbour’s home next to a school run by the United Nations which were hit by Israeli fire in the Jabalia refugee camp in the northern Gaza Strip, 07 Jan 2009