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Israeli Strikes on Gaza Strip Continue as Expectations of Cease-Fire Grow

  • Luis Ramirez

Israeli air strikes continue over the Gaza Strip even as expectations for a ceasefire grow. The Israeli security cabinet is due to meet late Saturday to discuss proposals to end the assault on Gaza.

Residents of Gaza had another night of bombardment. The Israeli military says it carried out scores of air strikes into the early hours of Saturday. Medical officials in Gaza say nearly 1,200 people have died.

The latest victims include two boys who were killed when Israeli tank fire hit a United Nations school where they and hundreds of other people had taken refuge in the northern Gaza town of Beit Lahiya.

U.N. officials are calling for a war crimes investigation.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon was in Lebanon Saturday as part of a visit to the region. He has been calling for Israel to declare a unilateral ceasefire now.

"The number of casualties and wounded people, destruction in Gaza City has reached an unbearable point," he said. "I have been urging the parties to stop the fighting. No more fighting. They must stop the fighting immediately, to establish a cease-fire."

The Israeli security Cabinet is due to meet after the Jewish Sabbath ends on Saturday to discuss a possible cease-fire. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is scheduled to make an announcement after the meeting late Saturday.

Israeli officials say they are close to reaching the goals of their offensive, which are to destroy Hamas' ability to fire rockets at civilians in Israel and to prevent the militant Islamist group from rearming.

Hamas has remained defiant. Osama Hamdan, the Hamas representative in Lebanon, said that even if Israel declares a unilateral cease-fire, the group will continue to fight if its demands are not met. He repeated Hamas' calls on Arab nations to cut ties to Israel.

On Israel's discussions about stopping its offensive, the Hamas leader said he has one basic point to make: All Arab nations that help Israel with diplomatic efforts will end their leadership roles in the region.

Hamas wants a total Israeli pullout from Gaza within a week and a reopening of all of Gaza's border crossings, including the one with Egypt.

Israel sealed off the Strip in its efforts to stop the flow of weapons into the enclave.

Militants on Saturday continued to fire rockets from Gaza into southern Israel.

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