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Israel to Decide Whether to End Gaza Offensive


Israel's security Cabinet is set to vote Saturday on whether to end the country's three-week offensive against the Palestinian militant group Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

Media reports from the region say Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert approves of an Egyptian-brokered unilateral cease-fire that calls for a 10-day truce. Israeli forces would remain in Gaza during that time.

Hamas says it will fight on unless its demands are met. Hamas wants a total Israeli pullout from Gaza within a week and a re-opening of all Gaza border crossings, including the one with Egypt.

Earlier Saturday, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak urged Israel to immediately end its Gaza offensive and to withdraw from the territory. He said it was in Israel's best interest to accept an unconditional cease-fire.

Israeli officials have said they are close to reaching the goals of their offensive, which they say is aimed at stopping militant rocket fire into Israel. About 10 rockets were launched toward Israel Saturday.

Israel says it carried out overnight air strikes on 50 Hamas targets, including suspected rocket-launching sites and arms smuggling tunnels.

United Nations officials say two boys were killed in the northern Gaza town of Beit Lahiya when Israeli shelling hit a U.N.-run school. At least 14 people were wounded in the incident.

The Israeli military has shelled several U.N. facilities since its offensive began. Israel says it has targeted structures where it believes Palestinian militants are present.

The Israeli military says four soldiers were wounded Saturday, possibly by friendly fire.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon reiterated his call for an immediate cease-fire during a stop in Lebanon today.

Palestinian medics say nearly 1,200 Gazans, including 300 children, have been killed in Israel's military campaign. Thirteen Israelis, three of them civilians, have died in the conflict.

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

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