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UN school compound in Gaza hit by deadly strike

July 24, 2014 at 6:09 PM EDT
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JUDY WOODRUFF: The battle between Israel and Hamas entered its 17th day. So far, at least 788 Palestinians and 32 Israeli soldiers, plus two Israeli citizens and an immigration worker, have been killed.

Meanwhile, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry continued his efforts to broker a cease-fire.

Emergency workers rushed victim after victim to this hospital after a U.N. school compound was hit in northern Gaza. The Palestinian Red Crescent and Hamas blamed Israeli tank fire.

IHAB MOHSEN, Hamas Spokesman: It was a shelter for the people and they thought that it’s a safe place to stay in it, and that Israel strike them and there is until now more than 20 killed people and many injuries.

JUDY WOODRUFF: The Israelis said they’re investigating. But they said it may have been Hamas rocket fire that hit the school. The U.N. Agency for Palestinian Refugees has confirmed finding rockets stashed in two vacant U.N. schools in recent days.

And in Jerusalem, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu again condemned Hamas tactics after meeting with the British foreign secretary.

BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, Prime Minister, Israel: This use of human shields is extraordinarily cynical, it’s grotesque, it’s inhuman, but what is equally grotesque is that Israel was condemned in the Human Rights Council. It’s a travesty of justice. It’s a travesty of fairness. It’s a travesty of common sense. It’s a travesty of truth.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Yesterday, the U.N. Human Rights Council had criticized Israel for the heavy civilian toll it’s taking, while warning both sides over possible war crimes.

And, today, Valerie Amos, the U.N.’s top humanitarian official, issued a fresh appeal to stop the violence.

VALERIE AMOS, UN Humanitarian Chief: We have over 118,000 people now who are sheltering in U.N. schools. We have schools that are now unable to be used for education. People are running out of food. Water is also a serious concern.

JUDY WOODRUFF: But the ferocity of the fighting continued unabated. Israeli fighter jets pounded neighborhoods in Jabalia, north of Gaza City, in the early hours. And more tanks and troops crossed into Gaza. Hamas, meanwhile, claimed it fired more rockets in the direction of Ben Gurion Airport at Tel Aviv, but no warning sirens sounded.

Last night, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration lifted its suspension on U.S. flights in and out of Ben Gurion. And Europe’s aviation agency followed suit today. On the diplomatic front, Secretary of State John Kerry returned to Cairo, in a bid to get a cease-fire. Egyptian officials talked of negotiating a humanitarian truce by next week, the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

Hamas’ leader has voiced support for the idea, but only if Israel ends its economic blockade of Gaza. Israeli officials suggested a truce is not imminent, and said the army might need two more weeks to finish destroying the Hamas tunnel network.