Thursday, January 15, 2009
Israeli forces shell UN office
After nightfall, shells landed near Gaza City's Quds Hospital, where many families had sought refuge, and the building caught fire, forcing staff to evacuate hundreds of people. According to a hospital medic, some patients were pushed down the street on gurneys; a few held white flags.
The destruction added to what aid groups say is a humanitarian crisis in Gaza and ratcheted up tensions between Israel and the international community even as diplomats indicated progress in cease-fire talks.
Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni was departing Thursday night for Washington to discuss a Gaza cease-fire with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. The United States and Egypt have been working to forge an agreement to end 20 days of bitter fighting.
The U.N. compound, made up of 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 U.N. 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, causing the three injuries, Ging said. Throughout this time, he said, U.N. officials were frantically contacting Israeli officials to urge an end to the firing on the U.N. compound.
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