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UN Agency Suspends Aid Deliveries in Gaza Because of Violence

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The U.N. relief agency has suspended operations in Gaza because of the danger posed by Israeli military action.  The decision was made as Israel pressed its air and ground offensive amid a rising civilian death toll and international efforts to halt the violence. 

A local U.N. driver was killed as he was loading humanitarian supplies onto trucks at a border crossing.  In another incident a clearly marked U.N. convoy in Beit Hanoun came under fire in what U.N. officials described as deliberate targeting.

Two days ago Israeli forces fired on several U.N. run schools in Gaza, in one instance killing more than 30 people.

U.N. spokesman, Christopher Gunness said the organization had no choice but to suspend operations in Gaza.

"And, they are suspended until the Israeli army can guarantee the safety and security of our personnel, of our convoys and of our installations," he said.

Israel also came in for heavy criticism from the International Red Cross and stands accused of hampering ambulance access to civilians.

ICRC Deputy Director for Operations, Dominique Stillhart described an instance of ICRC and Palestinian Red Crescent Society workers having to wait four days to reach a group of bombed houses.

"We reached it and finally found in one house four children still alive next to their dead mothers, in another house 15 survivors, many of them wounded and yet in another house more corpses that we finally managed to evacuate," said Stillhart.

Israel's military offensive is nearing the end of its second week amid daily air, ground and naval bombardments against what Israel says are Hamas related targets.

The aim, Israel says is to stop Hamas rocket fire into Israel and in the longer-term keep Hamas from being able to rearm.  

Hamas has continued to fire rockets into southern Israel.  And at least three rockets were fired from southern Lebanon into northern Israel, raising initial fears that Lebanon's Shiite militant group Hezbollah may be trying to open up a second front of fighting.  

But, Hezbollah says it had nothing to do with the attack and the general view now is that it was an isolated incident, likely the work of a splinter Palestinian group in Lebanon.

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