JERUSALEM: A child was killed and 30 people wounded in a strike on a refugee camp in Gaza City on Monday just minutes into an Israeli-declared truce, medics said.
The strike hit a house in the beachfront Shati refugee camp, killing an eight-year-old girl, emergency services spokesman Ashraf al-Qudra told AFP.
Witnesses said it was an Israeli air strike but there was no immediate comment from the Israeli army, which said it was looking into the incident.
Earlier Israel announced it would be holding its fire in most of Gaza for seven hours Monday, amid world outrage over a deadly strike on a UN school in the Palestinian territory.
The unilateral truce, four weeks into the offensive in Gaza, came after world powers fiercely condemned the attack that left 10 Palestinians sheltering at a school dead.
The Israeli army said the seven-hour “humanitarian window” would take place between 0700-1400 GMT in all of the Palestinian enclave except the area east of southern city Rafah,“where there was still the presence of Israeli military.
“The army warned in a statement that it would “respond to any attempt to exploit this window” and attack civilians and soldiers during the truce, the sixth Israel has declared since the July 8 beginning of the confrontation.
It also said that residents of Abasan al Kabira and Abasan al Saghira, two villages east of Khan Yunis in southern Gaza, could return home.
The announcement was received with distrust by the Islamist Hamas movement, whose spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri called on Gazans to proceed with caution.
“The unilateral ceasefire announced by Israel is an attempt to divert the attention from Israeli massacres,” he said.
The Israeli army claimed that it had on Sunday targeted three militants on a motorbike “in vicinity of an UNRWA school in Rafah. “UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon called the attack on the school sheltering some 3,000 Palestinians who had fled their homes due to the fighting “a moral outrage and a criminal act”.
US State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said Washington was “appalled” by the attack and called for a “full and prompt” investigation.
“Israel must do more to meet its own standards and avoid civilian casualties,” she said.
French President Francois Hollande said the bombing of the school was “unacceptable”, backing calls by Ban “to ask that those responsible for this violation of international law answer for their actions”, without saying who he considered responsible.
In an early Monday statement, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said “Israel does not aim its fire at civilians and is sorry for any attack that unintentionally hits civilians,” without directly addressing the attack on the school.
Israeli strikes on Gaza meanwhile continued Monday and killed 11 people, among them a militant commander, raising the death toll since the July 8 beginning of the confrontation to over 1,820 according to Palestinian medical sources.
The Israeli announcement on the truce came as the 28th day of the confrontation began, with international attempts to broker a diplomatic end to the Israeli offensive bearing no results.
Efforts were continuing with a Palestinian delegation in Cairo for talks with US and Egyptian officials, after Israel’s security cabinet decided not to send a representative.
The Palestinians, who met Sunday to hammer out a common position, want “a ceasefire; Israeli troop withdrawal from Gaza; the end of the siege of Gaza and opening of its border crossings,” said Maher al-Taher, a member of the delegation..
In his Monday statement, Netanyahu said the Gaza operation “will continue until its goals are reached: a return of quiet and security for Israeli citizens for a long period, while significantly harming terror infrastructure. “
“After completing our actions against the terror tunnels aimed at a mass attack against Israeli civilians, the IDF (Israel Defence Forces) will deploy for further activity according to our security needs, until our goals are achieved,” he said, echoing a Saturday remark seen as being the harbinger of a unilateral Israeli withdrawal.
On Sunday, the army confirmed it had begun withdrawing some troops from Gaza.
“We are removing some (forces),” Lieutenant Colonel Peter Lerner told AFP, saying troops were “extremely close” to completing a mission to destroy a network of tunnels.
“We are redeploying within the Gaza Strip, taking out other positions,” he said, indicating that the military was “changing gear”.
Witnesses had on Saturday reported seeing troops leave Beit Lahiya and Al-Atatra in the north as well as from villages east of Khan Yunis in the south.
On Sunday, AFP correspondents reported around 100 tanks gathering in the border area outside Gaza where they had not been before, having just pulled out, while others were seen driving away from the border.