Israel Rejects UN Suggestion IDF Committed 'War Crimes' in Gaza

Two boys killed by IDF tank fire near UN school; five other Palestinians killed in Gaza fighting Saturday.

UN officials have said war crimes may have been committed during Israel's offensive in the Gaza Strip - a suggestion Israeli officials reject out of hand.

"These claims of war crimes are not supported by the slightest piece of evidence," Yigal Palmor, an Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman, said when asked if there was any chance of a case being brought to the International Criminal Court.

A United Nations official called for an investigation into possible war crimes after the Israel Defense Forces killed two people at a UN-run school in the northern Gaza Strip on Saturday.

Spokesman Chris Gunness says the school was crowded with 1,600 people who had sought shelter from Israel's three-week offensive in Gaza.

Hospital staff said four other people had been killed by tank fire in another Gaza neighborhood on Saturday. Hamas said one of its fighters had also been killed.

Adnan Abu Hasna, a spokesman for the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), said two brothers had been killed and 14 people had been wounded, including the boys' mother, when Israeli tank fire hit the school run by UNRWA in the northern town of Beit Lahiya.

Palestinian medics had earlier put the death toll at six.

This was the latest incident in which Israeli fire aimed at militants has struck a UN facility during the offensive. Gunness says Israel had the coordinates of the school and knew it was being used as a shelter. He says there should be an investigation into possible war crimes, and that anyone who is guilty should be brought to justice.

The IDF said it was investigating the incident and had no immediate comment. But in similar cases, it has accused Hamas militants of staging attacks from schools, mosques and other civilian areas.

Meanwhile, an IDF spokesman said one Israeli soldier was moderately wounded in the Gaza fighting overnight.

Israel Air Force warplanes returned to the attack on the Gaza Strip before first light on Saturday. Ending a night of sporadic gunfire, the roar of jet aircraft around 5:00 A.M. (0300 GMT) was followed by heavy explosions flashing over points to the south and north of the city of Gaza.

The IDF said 50 targets here hit, including 16 tunnels, two mosques from which troops were fired on, three bunkers, eight rocket-launching pads and six mined areas including a booby-trapped building.

On Friday, the Israel Air Force attacked about 40 targets across the Gaza Strip, on Day 21 of Israel's offensive on the Hamas-ruled coastal territory.

Palestinian sources said a 14-year-old was killed and several other people were wounded during an IAF attack on the Shabura refugee camp in southern Gaza. Three militants were also killed in IAF attacks, medics said.

The strikes came a day after the IAF killed Hamas Interior Minister Said Sayyam at the Gaza house where he was hiding.

An official military statement said that the targets bombed Friday included smuggling tunnels along the Egyptian border, a rocket launcher ready for firing and a mosque that housed a tunnel entrance and was also used to store arms.

The Israel Defense Forces also said that troops pinpointed a group of militants that had fired a mortar shell at Israel, and identified a hit.

Meanhile, the IDF announced that it would adhere to a four-hour humanitarian truce between 10 A.M. and 2 P.M. on Friday, to allow free flow of aid into the Gaza Strip.

Medics taking advantage of the pause said they had recovered 23 bodies on Friday from the previous day's fighting in the Tel al-Hawa neighborhood in Gaza City's southwest, the scene of some of the most intense clashes on Thursday.

IDF troops backed by helicopter gunships and tanks on Thursday thrust further into Gaza City than ever before in the current operation, seeking out Hamas gunmen and carrying out the army's most relentless shelling in Gaza yet.

Channel 10 television reported Thursday evening that troops were operating in the heart of the city, and had taken control of three of its neighborhoods. The television posed the question whether this could in fact be the delayed third stage of the IDF operation in Gaza.

The IDF also shelled the United Nations headquarters in Gaza City on Thursday, where hundreds of Gazans were seeking cover from the fighting among food and supplies meant for refugees. The attack infuriated the international body and drew words of caution from the United States.

The UN compound, comprising workshops and warehouses as well as offices, was struck about a half-dozen times over a roughly two-hour period while more than 700 civilians were sheltering there, said John Ging, head of Gaza operations for the UN Relief and Works Agency.

The civilians were huddling in the compound's vocational training center when it was struck by a tank round or an artillery shell, wounding three, Ging said. Throughout this time, he said, UN officials were frantically contacting Israeli officials to urge an end to the firing on the UN compound.

An IDF battalion commander and two other soldiers were lightly wounded in separate incidents during fighting in Gaza on Thursday.

Meanwhile, Gaza militants kept up their rocket fire at Israel, firing about 20 rockets on Thursday. One long-range rocket hit Be'er Sheva wounding five people, including a 7-year-old boy who was in critical condition, hospital officials said.