Gaza conflict: Israel calls up 16,000 reserve soldiers

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Israel is calling up 16,000 extra reservists to bolster its military as the conflict in Gaza continues.

The deployment brings the total called up by Israel to 86,000. Officials told Israeli media the call-up gave the military “room to breathe”.

The move comes as Israel pledged to investigate a strike on a UN-run school that killed at least 16 people.

In all, more than 100 people in Gaza were killed on Wednesday, Palestinian officials said.

Spokesman Mark Regev told the BBC Israel would apologise if it discovered that its fire was responsible for the strike on the school.

“We have a policy – we don’t target civilians,” he said.

The US and UN condemned the attack, with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon calling it “unjustifiable”.

Displaced Palestinian children collect water at the Abu Hussein UN school, in Jabaliya refugee camp, northern Gaza Strip, 30 July 2014
The UN school hit on Wednesday was sheltering more than 3,000 displaced Palestinians
On Wednesday, Israel’s security cabinet met to approve the continuation of strikes against Palestinian militant group Hamas, which controls Gaza.

Operations would continue against suspected militants, suspected rocket sites and a network of tunnels discovered leading into Israel, the military said.

At least 19 air strikes were carried out overnight, officials said.

Israel began Operation Protective Edge on 8 July. Since then at least 1,360 Palestinians have been killed. Most have been civilians.

Some 58 Israelis have been killed, 56 soldiers and two civilians. A Thai worker in Israel has also died.

‘Hostile fire’
The attack on the school in the Jabaliya refugee camp, which was sheltering more than 3,000 civilians, took place on Wednesday morning.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said “all available evidence” suggested Israeli artillery was the cause.

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Mark Regev: “If we find that it was errant fire from Israel I’m sure we will apologise”
Speaking to the BBC’s Newsnight, Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev said: “It’s not clear to us that it was our fire but we know for a fact there was hostile fire on our people from the vicinity of the school.”

He accused Hamas of hiding weapons in civilian facilities and UN shelters.

Chris Gunness, spokesman for the UN Relief and Works Agency (Unrwa) told the BBC that Israel had been told 17 times that the school was housing displaced people, saying the attack caused “universal shame”.

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One of Israel’s main objectives is to destroy tunnels used by militants, as Orla Guerin reports
The US state department also criticised the attack on the school. It also condemned those who hid weapons in UN facilities, a spokeswoman said.

Also on Wednesday, an attack on a market in Shejaiya killed 17 people, while an Israeli air strike killed seven people in Khan Younis, Palestinian officials said.

Israeli soldiers carries a shell next to a Merkava tank in a staging area, close to the Gaza Strip border, in southern Israel, 30 July 2014
Israel broadened its operation to a ground offensive on 18 July, saying it was needed to destroy Hamas’ underground tunnel network
Palestinians gather leaflets that fell from an Israeli plane warning residents in Gaza City, 30 July 2014
Gaza residents pick up warning leaflets dropped from an Israeli plane
Those attacks came during a four-hour humanitarian ceasefire called by the Israelis after the school incident.

However, Israel said the truce was only partial. Hamas rejected it as meaningless.

Israel said Palestinian militants continued to fire rockets from Gaza, with more than 50 launched on Wednesday.

‘Strong support’
The current conflict, now in its 24th day, is the longest between Israel and militants from Gaza.

A 2012 offensive lasted for eight days, and the 2008 conflict went on for 22 days.

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Martin Patience reports on the market attack in Shejaiya
The Gaza Strip, sandwiched between Israel and Egypt, has been a recurring flashpoint in the Israel-Palestinian conflict for years.

Hostilities increased after the abduction and killing of three Israeli teenagers in June. Israel blamed Hamas and carried out a crackdown on the group in the West Bank. Hamas denied being behind the killings.

Tensions rose further after the suspected revenge killing of a Palestinian teenager in Jerusalem on 2 July. Six Jewish suspects were arrested over the youth’s abduction and murder.

Recent opinion polls in Israel suggest strong support for the military operation.

Hamas says it will not stop fighting until a blockade, maintained by both Israel and Egypt, is lifted.

Israel occupied Gaza in the 1967 Middle East war and only pulled its troops and settlers out in 2005. Israel considered this the end of the occupation, but it still exercises control over most of Gaza’s borders, water and airspace. Egypt controls Gaza’s southern border.

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