Israeli defense minister apologized to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Thursday after Israeli forces shelled the main U.N. aid compound in the city of Gaza, as te troops moved further into Gaza City amid ongoing truce talks. (UPDATED)
The United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) said its compound, where up to 700 Palestinians were being sheltered, was hit twice by fire and three staff members were injured.
"I conveyed my strong protest and outrage to the defense minister and the foreign minister and demanded a full explanation," Ban was quoted by Reuters as saying at a news conference in
"The defense minister said to me it was a grave mistake and he took it very seriously. He assured me that extra attention will be paid to U.N. facilities and staff and this will not be repeated," he said.
The attacks occurred as Israeli ground troops advanced into a crowded residential area on the outskirts of the city.
The U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees suspended its operations inside
Chris Gunness, a Jerusalem-based spokesman for the agency, told AP hundreds of people were taking refuge inside the compound when the building was hit by what was believed to be three white phosphorous shells.
MEDIA OFFICES HIT
Israeli troops also hit another building which hosted media organization's bureaus. Two cameramen were wounded on Thursday when an Israeli strike hit a building in
Live television footage showed smoke coming from the roof of the building, which towers over the generally low-rise city center.
Reuters said its office was also in the building. Reuters journalists on the spot said they had not been aware of any presence of armed men in the building beforehand.
An Israeli army spokesman had spoken with Reuters staff in
An army spokeswoman said after the blast that she was checking. She said troops were engaged with Hamas guerrillas in exchanges of fire in the city and said fighters had taken over a media office in the same area late on Wednesday.
A hospital in
The strike occurred near the
Israeli troops backed by helicopter gunships, tanks and heavy guns thrust deeper into the city than ever before to seek Hamas fighters.
Battles raged in the northern town of
The operation is the deepest thrust into the city of a 20-day Israeli offensive in
Thousands of terrified residents were fleeing their homes in their pajamas, some wheeling elderly parents in wheelchairs, the Associated Press reported. Others were stopping journalists’ armored cars or ambulances pleading for someone to take them to safety.
Columns of thick black smoke rose into the sky above several neighborhoods in
On the Israeli side, 10 soldiers and three civilians have died as a result of combat or rocket fire.
TRUCE TALKS AT NEW STAGE
Egyptian mediation for a truce between
Gilad, Egypt's main contact on the Israeli side in the mostly secret talks, was to be briefed by Egypt's pointman for Israeli-Palestinian affairs, intelligence chief Omar Suleiman, the day after Hamas presented its "vision" for a ceasefire, limiting its acceptance to the plans "broad outlines."
"This crucial meeting should last two or three hours, and Gilad should leave this afternoon to inform the Israeli government for them to take a decision," a diplomatic source close to the negotiations told AFP.
Ban was to meet with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, President Shimon Peres and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni in
He arrived in
He was to meet with Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas in the West Bank city of