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Israel Warns Residents Along Gaza-Egypt Border of Air Strikes


Israeli aircraft have dropped leaflets over Rafah in southern Gaza, warning people to leave before Israeli forces launch air strikes on the border city.

Rafah has the only crossing between the Palestinian territory and Egypt, but it is largely closed. It also has an extensive network of illegal tunnels into Egypt, used by Hamas militants as well as civilians to smuggle supplies.

The Israeli military has targeted those tunnels in its air strikes in previous days.

The Israelis stopped their attacks for three hours Wednesday to allow a "humanitarian corridor" into beleaguered Gaza, and to allow residents to stock up on vital goods. Hamas also stopped firing rockets at Israel during the pause.

Israeli officials said they will consider further temporary cease-fires in the coming days.

Palestinian medics said a family of four traveling in a car in northern Gaza were among those killed during Israeli strikes Wednesday.

Hamas also resumed rocket attacks on Israel. There were no reports of injuries.

The United Nations World Food Program welcomed Israel's decision to briefly hold off on attacks, but also said the halt is not enough to address the humanitarian crisis.

Concerns are mounting about drastic shortages of food, water and medicine in Gaza. Israel also has faced strong international criticism for civilian casualties during its 12-day offensive in the densely populated territory.

On Tuesday, Israeli shelling killed some 40 Palestinians at a U.N.-run school in Gaza, where hundreds of civilians were taking refuge. Israel said its shelling at the school was in response to mortar fire from within the premises. U.N. officials have disputed that account.

Mourners today attended open-air funerals during the three-hour lull in fighting to bury those killed in the air strike on the school.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said it is unacceptable that the strikes would happen near U.N. facilities, and U.N. officials have demanded an investigation.

Palestinian medics estimate that Israel's massive air and ground assault has killed more than 700 Palestinians. The United Nations has estimated that one quarter of the victims were civilians, including many children. Medics said some 3,000 people have been wounded.

The Palestine Red Crescent Society said 100 children had been killed as of Tuesday.

Dozens of doctors are gathered on the Egyptian side of the border with Rafah, but have been frustrated in their attempts to get to and help the wounded.

At least nine Israelis, three of them civilians, have been killed since the campaign began.

The U.S. State Department issued a warning urging Americans, including journalists and aid workers, to avoid all travel to the Gaza Strip. It also banned all U.S. government travel within Gaza and 30 kilometers near the territory.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.

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