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Israel Calls Up 16,000 Reserves        07/31 07:01

   Israel said Thursday it has called up another 16,000 reservists, allowing it 
to potentially widen its Gaza offensive against the territory's Hamas rulers in 
a war that has killed more than 1,300 Palestinians and more than 50 Israelis.

   JERUSALEM (AP) -- Israel said Thursday it has called up another 16,000 
reservists, allowing it to potentially widen its Gaza offensive against the 
territory's Hamas rulers in a war that has killed more than 1,300 Palestinians 
and more than 50 Israelis.

   The new call-up follows another day of intensive fighting, in which tank 
shells struck a U.N. school where Palestinians were sheltering and air strikes 
tore through a crowded Gaza shopping area. At least 116 Palestinians and three 
Israeli soldiers were killed Wednesday alone.

   The move also coincides with stalled diplomatic efforts to end the war, 
which has claimed more than 1,360 Palestinian lives -- most of them civilians 
-- and reduced entire Gaza neighborhoods to rubble since it began on July 8.

   Israeli attacks in the strip continued Thursday, with witnesses saying that 
munitions struck the Omar Ibn al-Khatab mosque next to a U.N. school in the 
northern town of Beit Lahiya.

   Fifty-six Israeli soldiers and three civilians on the Israeli side have died 
in the Gaza campaign, as Palestinians have fired hundreds of rockets at Israel 
-- some reaching major cities -- and carried out attacks through tunnels 
beneath the heavily guarded frontier.

   Israel has now called up a total of 86,000 reserves during the Gaza 
conflict, which it launched to try to end the rocket fire from Hamas and other 
militant groups in Gaza.

   An initial aerial campaign was widened into a ground offensive on July 17. 
Since then the campaign has concentrated on destroying more than 30 
cross-border tunnels that militants have constructed to carry out attacks on 
Israeli territory.

   Israel says that most of the 32 tunnels it has uncovered have now been 
demolished and that getting rid of the remainder will take no more than a few 
days.

   The strike in Beit Lahiya early Thursday damaged water tanks on the roof of 
a building near the mosque, sending shrapnel flying into the adjacent school 
compound."The shrapnel from the strike on the mosque hit people who were in the 
street and at the entrance of the school," said Sami Salebi, an area resident.

   Gaza health official Ashraf al-Kidra said at least 15 people were wounded, 
with three of them in critical condition.

   Kifah Rafati, 40, was being treated for shrapnel injuries at the nearby 
Kamal Adwan hospital. She said she and her six children had been sleeping in a 
classroom facing the mosque when the explosion went off. "There is no safety 
anywhere," she said.

   On Wednesday Israeli tank shells struck a U.N. school in the Jebaliya 
refugee camp where some 3,300 Gazans had crammed in to seek refuge from the 
fighting, killing at least 17 people and drawing sharp condemnation from the 
United Nations.

   Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called the deadly school shelling "outrageous" 
and "unjustifiable," and demanded an immediate humanitarian cease-fire.

   "Nothing is more shameful than attacking sleeping children," the U.N. chief 
said.

   Hours later, an Israeli airstrike hit a crowded shopping area in the 
Shijaiyah district in Gaza City, killing at least 16 people, including local 
Palestinian photographer Rami Rayan, who was wearing a press vest at the time, 
and wounding more than 200 people, al-Kidra said.

   Thursday marked a third day of particularly heavy Israeli air and artillery 
attacks, at a time when Egyptian cease-fire efforts appeared to have stalled. 
Israeli media said late Wednesday that Israel's Security Cabinet decided to 
press forward with the operation.

   Egyptian officials, meanwhile, met with an Israeli envoy about Israel's 
conditions for a cease-fire, including disarming Hamas, according to a 
high-ranking Egyptian security official, who spoke on condition of anonymity 
because he was not allowed to discuss the delicate diplomatic efforts.

   Hamas has said it will only halt fire once it receives guarantees that a 
seven-year-old Gaza border blockade by Israel and Egypt will be lifted.

   Israel says it wants to decimate Hamas' rocket-launching capability, 
diminish its weapons arsenal and demolish the tunnels. It has launched more 
than 4,000 strikes against Hamas-linked targets, including rocket launchers and 
mosques where it says weapons were being stored.

   Israeli strikes have also hit dozens of homes. Mahmoud Abu Rahma of the 
Palestinian human rights group Al Mezan said nearly half of the Palestinians 
killed so far died in their homes.

   Israeli officials have said Hamas uses Gaza's civilians as human shields by 
firing rockets from crowded neighborhoods. Palestinian militants have fired 
more than 2,600 rockets at Israel over the past three weeks.

   However, Pierre Kraehenbuehl, chief of the U.N. aid agency for Palestinian 
refugees, said Israel must try harder to ensure that civilians are not hurt, 
especially in Gaza, where 1.7 million people are squeezed into a small coastal 
territory. His agency has opened 80 of its schools to more than 200,000 
Palestinians fleeing the violence.

   "What maybe the world forgets ... is that the people of Gaza have nowhere to 
go," he said. "So when the fighting starts and they move, it is not as if they 
can cross a border to somewhere."   


(KA)


 
 
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