One day after Israeli mortar shells killed as many as 40 Palestinians, among them women and children, outside a United Nations school in Gaza, Israel pondered its next move in the 12-day conflict, under international pressure to accept a pause in the fighting but committed on the ground to breaking Hamas’ ability to fire rockets into Israel.
By TAGHREED EL-KHODARY and ISABEL KERSHNER
The New York Times
With the death toll mounting, President Shimon Peres told Sky News in an interview on Wednesday that Israel would study cease-fire proposals put forward by Egypt. According to news reports, Israel’s security cabinet was also planning to debate the military options after almost two weeks of aerial bombardment of Gaza and a ground offensive that began Saturday.
Agence France-Presse reported on Wednesday that Israeli tanks which reportedly pushed into the southern Gaza city of Khan Yunis pulled out before dawn as fighting continued elsewhhere.
In Gaza City, many still reeled from events on Tuesday when Israeli mortar fire struck near a U.N. school where many people were taking refuge. The Israeli military contended that Hamas fighters had fired mortars from the school compound, and U.N. officials called for an independent inquiry into the episode.
The rising civilian death toll in crowded Gaza heightened international urgency to end the combat. American and European diplomats said it was highly likely that Prime Minister Ehud Olmertof Israel would travel to Egypt on Wednesday to discuss a cease-fire. Israel has said it will not end the operation until it has crushed Hamas’s ability to fire rockets into its civilian areas.
Meanwhile, Hamas continued to fire rockets on Tuesday, despite the presence of large numbers of Israeli troops on the fourth day of the ground operation. One rocket reached farther than ever into Israeli territory, only 20 miles from Tel Aviv, and wounded an infant.