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Deadly Israeli shelling hits UN school as Hamas mulls truce

As the conflict between Israel and Hamas entered its 23rd day, international efforts to bring an end to the bloodshed that has killed more than 1,260 people continued apace, and concern grew over the high civilian death toll, especially among children.

Since the war began on July 8, when Israel launched a campaign to stop rocket fire from Gaza and destroy attack tunnels, a series of concerted international efforts to bring a truce have fallen flat.

On Wednesday morning, an Israeli shell slammed into a UN school being used as a shelter for those displaced by fighting, killing 20 people, emergency services spokesman Ashraf al-Qudra said.

The shell hit the Palestinian refugee agency (UNRWA) girls' school in Jabalia refugee camp.

A UN official confirmed the shelling, saying it hit a bathroom and two classrooms in the school, but gave a lower initial death toll of 13 to 15.

The incident occurred after 5:30 am (0230 GMT), and a couple of hours after Israeli tanks had begun heavy shelling in the area, an AFP correspondent said.

It came as a Palestinian delegation prepared for a trip to Cairo to discuss a temporary humanitarian ceasefire.

The West Bank-headquartered Palestine Liberation Organisation, which has been at odds with Hamas for years, said it had garnered the Islamist movement's support for a 24-hour truce, but did not say when that was due to start.

Israel's government had no comment on the proposal.

Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas "was in touch with (Hamas chief Khaled) Meshaal yesterday and today. He proposed the 24 hour truce, Meshaal and Hamas agreed", senior Palestinian official Nabil Shaath told AFP on Tuesday.

International efforts have focused on getting Israel and Hamas to agree to a temporary humanitarian ceasefire, and then extending that truce for a longer period while they intensify efforts to end hostilities altogether.

But apart from a fragile halt on Saturday after which hostilities picked up with renewed vigour, efforts have failed.

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With displaced Palestinians still inside a youth walks by the debris in a classroom at the Abu Hussein U.N. school in Jebaliya refugee camp, northern Gaza Strip, hit by an Israeli strike earlier, on Wednesday, July 30.

(AP)

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