Israeli jets pound Gaza schools
Israeli tanks and troops surged into towns across the Gaza Strip yesterday striking Hamas targets, but hits on three UN-run schools killed at least 45 people sparking urgent new ceasefire calls.
Troops fought Islamist militants around the back alleys of Gaza's main city in the heaviest fighting of the 11-day-old offensive aimed at halting rocket attacks, but Hamas still made its deepest rocket strike yet into Israel.
Arab delegates met with the UN Security Council in New York, urging members to adopt a resolution calling for an immediate end to the attacks and a permanent ceasefire. At the same time, diplomats and European leaders travelled the region in an effort to stop Israel's expanding ground and air offensive.
As the Palestinian death toll hit 660, Arab nations pressed for a UN Security Council resolution condemning the onslaught, but Israel rejected ceasefire calls by French President Nicolas Sarkozy and other leaders.
"Europe must open its eyes," President Shimon Peres told an EU ministerial delegation that demanded a truce.
"We are not in the business of public relations or improving our image. We are fighting against terror and we have every right to defend our citizens."
The United Nations demanded an investigation after tank and air assaults hit three UN-run schools -- killing at least 45 people who had taken shelter in one at the Jabaliya refugee camp in northern Gaza.
Earlier, two people were killed when an artillery shell slammed into a school run by the UN Palestinian relief agency, UNRWA, in the southern city of Khan Yunis. Three people were killed in an air strike on a school in the Shati refugee camp in Gaza City, medics said.
The UN Humanitarian Coordinator for the Palestinian territories, Maxwell Gaylard, said Israel had the GPS coordinates of all UN buildings in Gaza -- including its schools.
"Neither homes nor UN shelters are safe" for civilians, he said in a statement which reaffirmed UN ceasefire calls.
"These tragic incidents need to be investigated, and if international humanitarian law has been contravened, those responsible must be held accountable."
Heavy fighting raged in parts of Gaza City and around nearby Deir al-Balah and Bureij. One air strike killed 12 members of a same family -- including seven children -- from the same family in Gaza City.
The bodies of the Daya family were pulled from the rubble of a four-storey house in Gaza City's southern neighbourhood of Zeitun, which was hit by two Israeli missiles overnight, according to witnesses.
They included seven children aged one to 12 years, three women and two men.
Tanks backed by helicopter gunships rolled into Khan Yunis before dawn, to be met by return fire from Hamas and its allies, witnesses said.
Four Israeli soldiers were killed in two friendly fire incidents during the overnight surge in fighting, the army said. Five have now died since Saturday.
The army said soldiers opened fire at one suicide bomber approaching them and detonated his belt with their bullets.
Around 12 Hamas rockets were fired over the border, one landing 45 kilometres (28 miles) inside Israel -- the deepest yet -- and lightly wounding a baby, the military said.