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Israeli military plunges deeper into Gaza City

A Palestinian boy carries food aid from the United Nations Relief and Works Agency in al-Shati refugee camp on Tuesday in Gaza City. The Israeli offensive in the Gaza Strip started Dec. 27.

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A Palestinian boy carries food aid from the United Nations Relief and Works Agency in al-Shati refugee camp on Tuesday in Gaza City. The Israeli offensive in the Gaza Strip started Dec. 27.

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip — Terrified residents ran for cover Tuesday in a densely populated neighborhood of Gaza City as Israeli troops backed by tanks thrust deeper into the city and sought Hamas fighters in alleyways and cellars.

On the diplomatic front, Egyptian mediators pushed Hamas to accept a truce proposal and, in a hopeful sign, Israel sent its lead negotiator to Cairo for "decisive" talks on a cease-fire. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon also headed for the region to join diplomatic efforts.

Israeli military officials say that depending on what happens with what they described as "decisive" talks in Cairo, Israel will move closer to a cease-fire or widen its offensive. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were discussing sensitive policy matters.

Asked if Israel's war aims had been achieved, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said: "Most of them, probably not all of them."

Israeli troops now have the coastal city of 400,000 virtually surrounded as part of an offensive launched Dec. 27 to end years of Palestinian rocket attacks on its southern towns.

Palestinian medical officials reported at least 42 deaths from the conflict on Tuesday.

The army said three soldiers were wounded, including an officer who was searching a northern Gaza house when a bomb exploded.

Palestinian hospital officials say more than 940 Palestinians, half of them civilians, have been killed in the fighting. Thirteen Israelis, 10 of them soldiers, have died.

Palestinian rocket fire has dropped significantly since the offensive was launched.

Americans back Israel, poll finds

American people are squarely behind Israel and overwhelmingly say using force against Hamas is appropriate, according to a new McClatchy/Ipsos poll. Forty-four percent of Americans support Israel's use of force, while only 18 percent considered Hamas' use of force appropriate. Forty-four percent blamed Hamas for the fighting, 14 percent blamed Israel and 29 percent said they weren't sure. Nine percent said both, and 4 percent said neither.

Olmert boast 'untrue': A boast by Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert that he convinced President Bush to reverse a U.S. vote on a Gaza cease-fire at the United Nations is "just 100 percent totally, completely not true," the U.S. State Department said Tuesday. Spokesman Sean McCormack said that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice had decided to abstain long before the vote and that Olmert's views had not changed her position.

No illegal use of weapons: The International Committee of the Red Cross said Tuesday that Israel has fired white phosphorus shells in its offensive in the Gaza Strip but that it has no evidence it is being used illegally. The comments came after Human Rights Watch accused Israel of using the incendiary agent, which ignites when it strikes the skin and burns straight through or until it is cut off from oxygen. The military said its use of weapons complies with international law.

Times wires

Israeli military plunges deeper into Gaza City 01/13/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, January 13, 2009 9:30pm]
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