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Israel to Decide Whether to End Gaza Offensive བོད་སྐད།


Israel pounded the Gaza Strip with new strikes Saturday, as Israeli leaders prepared to decide whether to end their three-week offensive against the Palestinian militant group Hamas.

The Israeli security cabinet is expected to vote later today on a unilateral cease-fire. Hamas says it will fight on unless its demands are met, suggesting the group will ignore an Israeli cease-fire.

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

In an address today on state television, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak urged Israel to immediately end its Gaza offensive and to withdraw from the territory. Egyptian negotiators have been working to broker a truce between Israel and Hamas.

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 where hundreds of civilians had taken refuge. At least 14 people were wounded. U.N. officials are calling for a war crimes investigation.

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 holed up.

Hamas officials are due to continue truce talks with Egyptian negotiators in Cairo today. Israel's envoy (Amos Gilad) met with the mediators Friday.

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. Israel sealed off Gaza to stop the flow of weapons into the territory.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is also moving forward with diplomatic efforts today, holding talks on the Gaza conflict with Lebanese leaders. He reiterated his call for an immediate cease-fire.

Palestinian medics say nearly 12-hundred Gazans, including 300 children, have been killed in Israel's military campaign. Thirteen Israelis, three of them civilians, have died in the conflict.

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