Israeli forces shell UN headquarters in Gaza
Ibrahim Barzak And Amy Teibel, Associated Press Writers – 14 mins ago
GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip – Israel shelled the United Nations headquarters in the Gaza Strip on Thursday, the U.N. and witnesses said, engulfing the compound and the main warehouse in fire and destroying thousands of pounds of food intended for Palestinian refugees. The U.N. chief, in Israel for the day, demanded a "full explanation."
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who is in the region to end the devastating offensive against Gaza's Hamas rulers, said the Israeli defense minister told him there had been a "grave mistake."
An Israeli spokesman said the bombardment, which left three people wounded, was under investigation.
"It was a very difficult combat situation in the immediate vicinity of the building. It could have been stray fire. It could have been Hamas fire. Israel does not target U.N. facilities or U.N. personnel," said the spokesman, Mark Regev.
Even as a top Israeli envoy went to Egypt to discuss a cease-fire proposal, the military pushed farther into Gaza in an apparent effort to step up pressure on Hamas. Ground forces thrust deep into a crowded neighborhood for the first time, sending terrified residents fleeing for cover. Shells also struck a hospital, five high-rise apartment buildings and a building housing media outlets in Gaza City, injuring several journalists.
Bullets also entered another building housing The Associated Press offices, entering a room where two staffers were working but wounding no one. The Foreign Press Association, representing journalists covering Israel and the Palestinian territories, demanded a halt to attacks on press buildings.
The army had collected the locations of media organizations at the outset of fighting to avoid such attacks.
Israel launched its war on Dec. 27 in an effort to stop militant rocket fire from Gaza that has terrorized hundreds of thousands of Israelis. Some 1,100 Palestinians have been killed, roughly half of them civilians, according to U.N. and Palestinian medical officials. Gaza health official Dr. Moaiya Hassanain said at least 50 people were killed throughout Gaza on Thursday.
Thirteen Israelis also have been killed since the campaign began. Israel says it will press ahead until Hamas halts the rocket fire and stops smuggling weapons into Gaza from neighboring Egypt.