Israeli fire on Gaza town raises war crimes claim

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Israeli fire on Gaza town raises war crimes claim
A Palestinian boy holds an umbrella as he rests in front of the damaged Nada Towers residential neighborhood in the town of Beit Lahiya, northern Gaza Strip, Monday, Aug. 11, 2014. An Egyptian-brokered cease-fire halting the Gaza war held into Monday morning, allowing Palestinians to leave homes and shelters as negotiators agreed to resume talks in Cairo. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)
Palestinians inspect the rubble and salvage items from the Al-Zafer apartment tower following Israeli airstrikes Saturday that collapsed the 12-story building, in Gaza City, Sunday, Aug. 24, 2014. The army said the Gaza City apartment tower was targeted because a Hamas command center operated from there. The weekend strikes by Israel marked the first time large buildings were toppled signaling a new escalation in seven weeks of fighting with Hamas. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)
Palestinians walk near the damaged Italian Complex high-rise following several late night Israeli airstrikes in Gaza City, Tuesday, Aug. 26, 2014. Israel bombed two Gaza City high-rises with dozens of homes and shops Tuesday, collapsing the 15-story Basha Tower and severely damaging the Italian Complex in a further escalation in seven weeks of cross-border fighting with Hamas. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)
Palestinians inspect the damage of a Rafah commercial center after an Israeli strike in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, Sunday, Aug. 24, 2014. The Gaza police operation room reported three airstrikes on a Rafah commercial center, which consists of two floors and includes 100 shops. The building almost collapsed and a huge fire erupted in the shops. (AP Photo/Eyad Baba)
Palestinians look at the rubble of the 15-story Basha Tower that was destroyed in early morning Israeli airstrikes in Gaza City, Tuesday, Aug. 26, 2014. Israel bombed two Gaza City high-rises with dozens of homes and shops Tuesday, collapsing the 15-story Basha Tower and severely damaging the Italian Complex in a further escalation in seven weeks of cross-border fighting with Hamas. Both buildings were evacuated after receiving warnings of impending strikes. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)
A Palestinian family looks from a window to the rubble of the collapsed 15-story Basha Tower following early morning Israeli airstrikes in Gaza City, Tuesday, Aug. 26, 2014. Israel bombed two Gaza City high-rises with dozens of homes and shops Tuesday, collapsing the 15-story Basha Tower and severely damaging the Italian Complex in a further escalation in seven weeks of cross-border fighting with Hamas. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)
A ball of fire rises from an explosion following an Israeli air strike on the house of Nafez Azzam, a leader for Islamic Jihad leader, one hour before the announcement of the cease-fire between Palestinians and Israelis, in Rafah refugee camp, in the southern Gaza Strip, Tuesday, Aug. 26, 2014. (AP Photo/Hatem Ali)
A ball of fire rises from an explosion following an Israeli air strike on the house of Nafez Azzam, a leader for Islamic Jihad leader, one hour before the announcement of the cease-fire between Palestinians and Israelis, in Rafah refugee camp, in the southern Gaza Strip, Tuesday, Aug. 26, 2014. (AP Photo/Hatem Ali)
Palestinians inspect the damage to the Italian Complex following several late night Israeli airstrikes in Gaza City, Tuesday, Aug. 26, 2014. Israel bombed two Gaza City high-rises with dozens of homes and shops Tuesday, collapsing the 15-story Basha Tower and severely damaging the Italian Complex in a further escalation in seven weeks of cross-border fighting with Hamas. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)
Palestinians have a coffee next to the rubble of the 15-story Basha Tower that collapsed from early morning Israeli airstrikes in Gaza City, Tuesday, Aug. 26, 2014. Tuesday's strikes leveled the Basha Tower with apartments and offices and severely damaged another high-rise, the Italian Complex, built in the 1990s by an Italian businessman, with dozens of shops and offices. Both buildings were evacuated after receiving warnings of impending strikes. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)
Palestinians rest amid the rubble of the 15-story Basha Tower that was leveled in early morning Israeli airstrikes, in Gaza City, Tuesday, Aug. 26, 2014. Israel bombed two Gaza City high-rises with dozens of homes and shops Tuesday, collapsing the 15-story Basha Tower and severely damaging the Italian Complex in a further escalation in seven weeks of cross-border fighting with Hamas. Both buildings were evacuated after receiving warnings of impending strikes. The wall painting depicts the pilgrimage to Mecca or Haj. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)
Palestinian firefighters extinguish a fire in the rubble of the destroyed 15-story Basha Tower that was leveled in early morning Israeli airstrikes in Gaza City, Tuesday, Aug. 26, 2014. Israel bombed two Gaza City high-rises with dozens of homes and shops Tuesday, collapsing the 15-story Basha Tower and severely damaging the Italian Complex in a further escalation in seven weeks of cross-border fighting with Hamas. Both buildings were evacuated after receiving warnings of impending strikes. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)
Palestinians salvage items from the rubble of the destroyed 15-story Basha Tower, following early morning Israeli airstrikes in Gaza City, Tuesday, Aug. 26, 2014. Israel bombed two Gaza City high-rises with dozens of homes and shops Tuesday, collapsing the 15-story Basha Tower and severely damaging the Italian Complex in a further escalation in seven weeks of cross-border fighting with Hamas. Both buildings were evacuated after receiving warnings of impending strikes. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)
Palestinian doctor treats an injured child, following an Israeli airstrike on a building, at the treatment room of al Najar hospital in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, Thursday, Aug. 21, 2014. (AP Photo/Hatem Ali)
Palestinians inspect the rubble of the destroyed 15-story Basha Tower following early morning Israeli airstrikes in Gaza City, Tuesday, Aug. 26, 2014. Israel bombed two Gaza City high-rises with dozens of homes and shops Tuesday, collapsing the 15-story Basha Tower and severely damaging the Italian Complex in a further escalation in seven weeks of cross-border fighting with Hamas. Both buildings were evacuated after receiving warnings of impending strikes. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)
A Palestinian family watch from a window as people below inspect the rubble of the 15-story Basha Tower that collapsed following early morning Israeli airstrikes, in Gaza City, Tuesday, Aug. 26, 2014. Tuesday's strikes leveled the Basha Tower with apartments and offices and severely damaged another high-rise, the Italian Complex, built in the 1990s by an Italian businessman, with dozens of shops and offices. Both buildings were evacuated after receiving warnings of impending strikes. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)
Smoke rises from the rubble of the 15-story Basha Tower following early morning Israeli airstrikes in Gaza City, Tuesday, Aug. 26, 2014. Israel bombed two Gaza City high-rises with dozens of homes and shops Tuesday, collapsing the 15-story Basha Tower and severely damaging the Italian Complex in a further escalation in seven weeks of cross-border fighting with Hamas. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)
Palestinian relatives cry after they saw the body of Ahmad Jarboua, 25, who was killed in an Israeli strike with other two people, at Najar hospital in Rafah refugee camp, in the southern Gaza Strip, Tuesday, Aug. 26, 2014. Three men were killed and five were wounded in a strike on a group of men east of Rafah near the waste water treatment plant, according to Gaza health official Ashraf al-Kidra. (AP Photo/Eyad Baba)
A Palestinian boy sits next to the destroyed 15-story Basha Tower following early morning Israeli airstrikes in Gaza City, Tuesday, Aug. 26, 2014. Israel bombed two Gaza City high-rises with dozens of homes and shops Tuesday, collapsing the 15-story Basha Tower and severely damaging the Italian Complex in a further escalation in seven weeks of cross-border fighting with Hamas. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)
Palestinians inspect the damage to the Italian Complex high-rise following several late night Israeli airstrikes in Gaza City, Tuesday, Aug. 26, 2014. Israel bombed two Gaza City high-rises with dozens of homes and shops Tuesday, collapsing the 15-story Basha Tower and severely damaging the Italian Complex in a further escalation in seven weeks of cross-border fighting with Hamas. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)
Palestinian relatives weep during the funeral of Ibrahim Hamad, an Islamic Jihad militant, at his family house during his funeral in Rafah refugee Rafah refugee camp in the southern Gaza Strip on Friday, Aug. 22, 2014. Hamad was killed in an Israeli strike while riding a motorcycle Thursday night in Rafah, according to Gaza health official Ashraf al-Kidra. (AP Photo/Hatem Ali)
Palestinian firefighters extinguish a fire in the rubble of the destroyed 15-story Basha Tower, following early morning Israeli airstrikes in Gaza City, Tuesday, Aug. 26, 2014. Tuesday's strikes leveled the 15-story Basha Tower with apartments and offices and severely damaged another high-rise, the Italian Complex, built in the 1990s by an Italian businessman, with dozens of shops and offices. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)
Mohamed al-Remawi (2R) is helped by his friend Mohamed Labbad (R) as they come off a pile of rubble after looking in vain for important documents from Remawi's family at a high rise apartment building in Gaza City on August 26, 2014 after is was targeted by Israeli air strikes overnight. The residents of the tower were warned to leave the building before the bombing took place. An Israeli air raid in Gaza killed two Palestinians as Israel pursued its campaign to stop rocket fire by Hamas militants from the enclave, medics said. AFP PHOTO/ROBERTO SCHMIDT (Photo credit should read ROBERTO SCHMIDT/AFP/Getty Images)
Palestinian men watch as the rubble left from a collapsed building, that was targeted by Israeli airstrikes overnight, is cleared off a street in Gaza City on August 26, 2014. Israeli air strikes on Gaza City killed two Palestinians early Tuesday, while scores more were wounded when warplanes bombed two high-rise residential blocks, medics and witnesses said. The raids came as Israel stepped up the pressure on Hamas on day 50 of a bloody confrontation which began on July 8 and has claimed the lives of more than 2,100 Palestinians and 68 on the Israeli side. AFP PHOTO/ROBERTO SCHMIDT (Photo credit should read ROBERTO SCHMIDT/AFP/Getty Images)
Palestinian men watch as the rubble left from a collapsed building that was targeted by Israeli air strikes overnight is cleared off a street in Gaza City on August 26, 2014. Israeli air raids on Gaza City killed two Palestinians early in the morning while scores more were wounded when warplanes bombed two high-rise residential blocks, medics and witnesses said. The raids came as Israel stepped up the pressure on Hamas on day 50 of a bloody confrontation which began on July 8 and has claimed the lives of more than 2,100 Palestinians and 68 on the Israeli side. AFP PHOTO/ROBERTO SCHMIDT (Photo credit should read ROBERTO SCHMIDT/AFP/Getty Images)
A Palestinian man walks past the toppled remains of a government school that was targeted by overnight Israeli air strikes on Gaza City on August 26, 2014. Israeli air raids on Gaza City killed two Palestinians while scores more were wounded when warplanes bombed two high-rise residential blocks, medics and witnesses said. The raids came as Israel stepped up the pressure on Hamas on day 50 of a bloody confrontation which began on July 8 and has claimed the lives of more than 2,100 Palestinians and 68 on the Israeli side. AFP PHOTO/ROBERTO SCHMIDT (Photo credit should read ROBERTO SCHMIDT/AFP/Getty Images)
Palestinian children sit on a sidewalk as they wait for their parents to retrieve some of their family's belongings from a partially destroyed house across the street from a high rise apartment building in Gaza City (R) that was targeted by Israeli airstrikes overnight on August 26, 2014. The UN estimates that about a quarter of the 1.8 million inhabitants of Gaza have been displaced by fighting between Hamas militants and Israel since fighting started on July 8. AFP PHOTO/ROBERTO SCHMIDT (Photo credit should read ROBERTO SCHMIDT/AFP/Getty Images)
A Palestinian man walks on the rubble of a high rise apartment building in Gaza City that was targeted by Israeli air strikes overnight on August 26, 2014. The UN estimates that about a quarter of the 1.8 million inhabitants of Gaza have been displaced by fighting between Hamas militants and Israel since fighting started on July 8. AFP PHOTO/ROBERTO SCHMIDT (Photo credit should read ROBERTO SCHMIDT/AFP/Getty Images)
Residents of a partially destroyed house across the street from a high rise apartment building in Gaza City that was targeted by Israeli air strikes overnight on August 26, 2014 collect some of their possesions as they move elsewhere to take refuge. The UN estimates that about a quarter of the 1.8 million inhabitants of Gaza have been displaced by fighting between Hamas militants and Israel since fighting started on July 8. AFP PHOTO/ROBERTO SCHMIDT (Photo credit should read ROBERTO SCHMIDT/AFP/Getty Images)
A resident of a partially destroyed house across the street from a high rise apartment building in Gaza City that was targeted by Israeli air strikes overnight on August 26, 2014 carries a bag and a pair of shoes. The UN estimates that about a quarter of the 1.8 million inhabitants of Gaza have been displaced by fighting between Hamas militants and Israel since fighting started on July 8. AFP PHOTO/ROBERTO SCHMIDT (Photo credit should read ROBERTO SCHMIDT/AFP/Getty Images)
A Palestinian woman takes some of their belongings from her partially destroyed home across the street from where a high rise apartment building in Gaza City was targeted by Israeli air strikes overnight on August 26, 2014. The residents of the tower were warned to leave the building before the bombing took place. The UN estimates that about a quarter of the 1.8 million inhabitants of Gaza have been displaced by fighting between Hamas militants and Israel. AFP PHOTO/ROBERTO SCHMIDT (Photo credit should read ROBERTO SCHMIDT/AFP/Getty Images)
A Palestinian woman gestures as she walks away from her partially destroyed home (not shown) carrying some of her belongings across the street where a high rise apartment building in Gaza City was targeted by Israeli air strikes overnight on August 26, 2014. The residents of the tower were warned to leave the building before the bombing took place. The UN estimates that about a quarter of the 1.8 million inhabitants of Gaza have been displaced by fighting between Hamas militants and Israel. AFP PHOTO/ROBERTO SCHMIDT (Photo credit should read ROBERTO SCHMIDT/AFP/Getty Images)
Palestinians take some of their belongings from their partially destroyed home across from the street where a high rise apartment building in Gaza City was targeted by Israeli air strikes overnight on August 26, 2014. The residents of the tower were warned to leave the building before the bombing took place. The UN estimates that about a quarter of the 1.8 million inhabitants of Gaza have been displaced by fighting between Hamas militants and Israel. AFP PHOTO/ROBERTO SCHMIDT (Photo credit should read ROBERTO SCHMIDT/AFP/Getty Images)
A Palestinian woman gets help from a boy as she takes some of her belongings from her partially destroyed home across the street from where a high rise apartment building in Gaza City was targeted by Israeli air strikes overnight on August 26, 2014. The residents of the tower were warned to leave the building before the bombing took place. The UN estimates that about a quarter of the 1.8 million inhabitants of Gaza have been displaced by fighting between Hamas militants and Israel. AFP PHOTO/ROBERTO SCHMIDT (Photo credit should read ROBERTO SCHMIDT/AFP/Getty Images)
A Palestinian man looks from the door of his partially destroyed home at a high rise apartment building in Gaza City that was targeted by Israeli air strike overnight on August 26, 2014. The residents of the tower and the neighbourhood were warned to leave the area before the bombing took place. The UN estimates that about a quarter of the 1.8 million inhabitants of Gaza have been displaced by fighting between Hamas militants and Israel since fighting started on July 8. AFP PHOTO/ROBERTO SCHMIDT (Photo credit should read ROBERTO SCHMIDT/AFP/Getty Images)
Palestinians walk at the base of what used to be a high rise apartment building in Gaza City that was targeted by Israeli air strikes overnight on August 26, 2014. The residents of the tower were warned to leave the building before the bombing took place. An Israeli air raid in Gaza killed two Palestinians, as Israel pursued its campaign to stop rocket fire by Hamas militants from the enclave, medics said. AFP PHOTO/ROBERTO SCHMIDT (Photo credit should read ROBERTO SCHMIDT/AFP/Getty Images)
Palestinians search through rubble of a destroyed house in Rafah's district of Shawkah in the southern Gaza Strip, Tuesday, Aug. 5, 2014. The attack at the Shawkah district east of the Gaza town of Rafah drew what was by far the heaviest shelling by the Israeli military in the Gaza war, killing nearly 100 people that day alone and instantly unraveling a three-day ceasefire shortly after it came into force. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)
A Palestinian woman gets emotional as she stands on the rubble of a house belong to al Akhras family after it was hit by an Israeli strike in Rafah refugee camp, in the southern Gaza Strip, early Tuesday, Aug. 26, 2014. Two people were wounded in the airstrke on a house at the Rafah refugee camp, according Gaza health official Ashraf al-Kidra. (AP Photo/Eyad Baba)
Palestinians walk amid the rubble of a house belonging to the al-Dakhani family after it was hit by Israeli strike in Rafah refugee camp, in the southern Gaza Strip, Tuesday, Aug. 26, 2014. Two people were wounded in the airstrike on the house according Gaza health official Ashraf al-Kidra. (AP Photo/Eyad Baba)
A Palestinian man stands on the balcony of his destroyed house as he waits for the visit of Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah to Gaza's neighborhood of Shijaeyih, Thursday, Oct. 9, 2014. Members of the new Palestinian unity government assembled in Gaza on Thursday for their first Cabinet session in the war-battered territory - a largely symbolic meeting meant to mark the end of absolute Hamas control of the coastal strip. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)
A members of the Palestinian security walks on the rubble before Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah tours the destroyed houses in an area east of Beit Hanoun in the northern Gaza Strip, Thursday, Oct. 9, 2014. Members of the new Palestinian unity government assembled in Gaza on Thursday for their first Cabinet session in the war-battered territory - a largely symbolic meeting meant to mark the end of absolute Hamas control of the coastal strip. (AP Photo/Adel Hana)
A Palestinian walks on the rubble of Omar Ibn Abed Al-Aziz mosque, which was hit by an Israeli strikes in Beit Hanoun, in the northern Gaza Strip, Wednesday, Aug. 27, 2014. The third Gaza War in six years appears to have ended in another sort of tie, with both Israel and Hamas claiming the upper hand. Their questionable achievements have come at a big price, especially to long-suffering Palestinians in Gaza. (AP Photo/Adel Hana)
A Palestinian boy looks through the damage of Omar Ibn Abed Al-Aziz mosque, which was hit by an Israeli strikes in Beit Hanoun, in the northern Gaza Strip, Wednesday, Aug. 27, 2014. The third Gaza War in six years appears to have ended in another sort of tie, with both Israel and Hamas claiming the upper hand. Their questionable achievements have come at a big price, especially to long-suffering Palestinians in Gaza. (AP Photo/Adel Hana)
Palestinians attend a victory rally organized by masked militant of Izzedine al-Qassam Brigades, military wing of Hamas, at the debris of destroyed houses in Shijaiyah, neighborhood of Gaza City, in the northern Gaza Strip, Wednesday, Aug. 27, 2014. An open-ended cease-fire between Israel and Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip was holding Wednesday. (AP Photo/Adel Hana)
Smoke, dust and debris rise from an explosion following an Israeli air strike on the house of Nafez Azzam, a leader for Islamic Jihad leader, one hour before the announcement of the cease-fire between Palestinians and Israelis, in Rafah refugee camp, in the southern Gaza Strip, Tuesday, Aug. 26, 2014. (AP Photo/Hatem Ali)
Palestinian firefighters extinguish a fire at the rubble of a five-storey building of the Sheikh Zaid housing project following an Israeli strike, thirteen minutes before the announcment of the cease-fire between Palestinians and Israelis, in Beit Lahiya, in the northern Gaza Strip, Tuesday, Aug. 26, 2014. (AP Photo/Adel Hana)
Palestinians inspect the rubble of the destroyed 15-story Basha Tower following early morning Israeli airstrikes in Gaza City, Tuesday, Aug. 26, 2014. Israel bombed two Gaza City high-rises with dozens of homes and shops Tuesday, collapsing the 15-story Basha Tower and severely damaging the Italian Complex in a further escalation in seven weeks of cross-border fighting with Hamas. Both buildings were evacuated after receiving warnings of impending strikes. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)
Palestinian firefighters inspect the rubble of a five-storey building of the Sheikh Zaid housing project following an Israeli strike, thirteen minutes before the announcement of the cease-fire between Palestinians and Israelis, in Beit Lahiya, in the northern Gaza Strip, Tuesday, Aug. 26, 2014. (AP Photo/Adel Hana)
A Palestinian, who is a neighbor of a house belonging to the Abu Hamada family, inspects the damage to his house, after an Israeli strike in Jebaliya refugee camp, in the northern Gaza Strip, Monday, Aug. 25, 2014. Several people were wounded in an airstrike on houses in Jebaliya refugee camp, according toGaza health official Ashraf al-Kidra. (AP Photo/Adel Hana)
Palestinians inspect the damage of a Rafah commercial center after an Israeli strike in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, Sunday, Aug. 24, 2014. The Gaza police operation room reported three airstrikes on a Rafah commercial center, which consists of two floors and includes 100 shops. The building almost collapsed and a huge fire erupted in the shops. (AP Photo/Eyad Baba)
Palestinians run to take cover after an Israeli strike hit a three-story building belonging to the Abdul Hadi family in Gaza City in the northern Gaza Strip, Sunday, Aug. 24, 2014. (AP Photo/Adel Hana)
Palestinians inspect the rubble and salvage items from the Al-Zafer apartment tower following Israeli airstrikes Saturday that collapsed the 12-story building, in Gaza City, Sunday, Aug. 24, 2014. The Gaza City apartment tower was targeted because a Hamas command center operated from there, the army said. The weekend strikes by Israel marked the first time large buildings were toppled signaling a new escalation in seven weeks of fighting with Hamas. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)
Palestinians inspect the rubble and salvage items from the Al-Zafer apartment tower following Israeli airstrikes Saturday that collapsed the 12-story building, in Gaza City, Sunday, Aug. 24, 2014. The army said the Gaza City apartment tower was targeted because a Hamas command center operated from there. The weekend strikes by Israel marked the first time large buildings were toppled signaling a new escalation in seven weeks of fighting with Hamas. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra))
A Palestinian protester runs away from Israeli soldiers during clashes, following a protest against the Israeli military action in Gaza, in the West Bank city of Nablus on Friday, Aug. 22, 2014. (AP Photo/Nasser Ishtayeh)
A Palestinian inspects the damage of a building after an Israeli airstrike in Gaza in the northern Gaza Strip, Friday, Aug. 22, 2014. (AP Photo/Adel Hana)
In this Saturday, Aug. 9, 2014 photo, a Palestinian boy stands in front of the Hamza Ibn Abdul-Mutaleb Mosque that was destroyed by Israeli strikes in Gaza City. Israel has hit and destroyed 63 mosques in Gaza in its month-old war with Hamas, Palestinian officials say. The reason, Israel says, is that Hamas is using mosques to stockpile weapons and rocket launchers and hide tunnels. Gaza’s Hamas rulers deny the accusations. But in its determination to go after what it says are militant arsenals, Israel is throwing aside any reluctance it had in the past to hit religious sites for fear of a diplomatic backlash. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)
Palestinian Ziad Rizk, 38, sits with others in a shelter made of a blanket stretched over four boles next to one of the destroyed Nada Towers, where he lost his apartment and clothes shop, in the town of Beit Lahiya, northern Gaza Strip, Monday, Aug. 11, 2014. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)
Palestinian Ziad Rizk, 38, sits with others in a shelter made of a blanket stretched over four boles next to one of the destroyed Nada Towers, where he lost his apartment and clothes shop, in the town of Beit Lahiya, northern Gaza Strip, Monday, Aug. 11, 2014. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)
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By KARIN LAUB and IBRAHIM BARZAK

RAFAH, Gaza Strip (AP) - The first of August dawned as a day of promise for the Mahmoum clan and thousands of other Palestinians stuck in United Nations shelters in Rafah - thanks to a temporary cease-fire with Israel they could go home for three days.

But the expected respite quickly turned into one of the deadliest and most controversial episodes in the recent war between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip. After just two hours, amid fear that Hamas had captured an Israeli soldier, the Israeli military sealed off the Rafah area and began shelling. By the end of the next day, 190 Palestinians were dead, according to a list of names compiled by two Gaza human rights groups, including 14 members of the Mahmoum family.

The Rafah operation is almost certain to be a focus of U.N. investigators and rights groups looking into possible war crimes because it highlights a key concern: The treatment of civilians.

A Palestinian rights group argues that the Israeli army violated the rules of war, which include giving adequate warning to civilians, using proportionate force and distinguishing between civilians and combatants. Unlike in many other Gaza battles, civilians were caught by surprise by the sudden fire and sealed exits.

"None of the rules of international humanitarian law was observed," said Mahmoud Abu Rahma of the Al Mezan rights group.

The Israeli military confirmed that Rafah residents were barred from leaving the area on Aug. 1, but declined comment on the war crime allegations. It denied firing into a densely populated area without regard for civilians, saying precise airstrikes hit targets linked to militants and artillery - though inherently inaccurate - was only aimed at open fields.

Late on Aug. 2, the suspected capture of the soldier turned out to be a false alarm, and the Rafah episode is one of several under internal military review.

"If we accidentally or mistakenly targeted a civilian situation, it was a mistake, and we are very sorry about that," an officer from the army's Southern Command said on condition of anonymity as he wasn't authorized to speak on the record.

The following account is from interviews with Palestinian survivors and the Israeli military, along with events witnessed by The Associated Press.

___

The cease-fire took effect at 8 a.m. Friday. Mustafa Mahmoum, a municipal bulldozer operator, was at work clearing rubble from previous Israeli strikes. But after weeks in a shelter, his wife Iqzayer, 34, and their seven children returned to the family home in Tannour in east Rafah, about 2 miles (3 kilometers) from the Israeli border.

A few houses down Ouroba Street, the main thoroughfare, Azizeh, 47, the wife of one of Mustafa's cousins, and her nine children also moved back home into their two-room shack with a roof of corrugated metal.

At 9 a.m., the commander of Israel's Givati Brigade, Col. Ofer Winter, had just dozed off after a sleepless night when he received an alert from the field.

Givati soldiers searching for Hamas' network of military tunnels had been ambushed by Hamas gunmen, he was told. Over the next half hour, it became apparent that Maj. Benaya Sarel, a recon officer, and Liel Gidoni, his radio operator, had been killed, and 2nd Lt. Hadar Goldin was missing.

At 9:36 a.m., Winter announced over the field radio the word nobody wanted to hear: "Hannibal."

Hannibal is the name for the military protocol to be followed if a soldier falls into enemy hands. The aim is to stop the capture, even if it means loosening open-fire regulations.

Winter ordered all forces to take territory so that the kidnappers couldn't move, he told Israel's Yediot Ahronot newspaper.

The officer in the Southern Command, which oversaw the Gaza fighting, told the AP the brigade tried to seal off an area with a radius of 2-3 kilometers (1.5 miles) around the suspected capture point, a mile from the border. Over the next eight hours, soldiers fired about 500 artillery shells, he said. The military said it also launched about 100 airstrikes against targets in Rafah on Aug. 1 and 2, but did not provide a breakdown for each day.

The priority was to rescue Goldin.

"That's why we used all this force," Winter told the newspaper. "Those who kidnap need to know they will pay a price. This was not revenge. They simply messed with the wrong brigade."

The assault began sometime before 10 a.m., sending Azizeh Mahmoum and her children fleeing from their shack to Mustafa's sturdier brick home. Within minutes relatives gathered. As the fire became more intense, they no longer felt safe. So they ran across Ouroba Street in groups, trying to reach a small, narrow alley for cover. The alley lay next to a supermarket owned by the Bilbesis, a relatively wealthy family, and led toward a hospital.

As they ran, Azizeh's son Hani, 23, was struck by a projectile.

"I saw his body flying into the air in front of me," said his brother, Sami, 20.

That was just the start. His mother and three siblings - Wafa, 25, Asma, 16, and Yehiyeh, 13 - all died.

A cousin, Anam Mahmoum Hamad, had just entered the alley when the wall of a house collapsed from a drone strike. It killed Mustafa's wife, she said, and another four children - Bissan, 10, Hiba, 7, Duaa, 3 and Obada, 2.

Others kept running, including Mustafa's 24-year-old sister, Halima, barefoot over the scorching asphalt. The shells rained all over, in front of her and behind, she said.

By noon, an AP videojournalist saw at least 20 bodies along Ouroba Street.

The Bilbesis administered first aid to the wounded who made it to the basement of their building on Ouroba Street. An ambulance eventually evacuated some of them.

In the meantime, Abu Yousef al-Najar Hospital was filling up with hundreds of people running from the fire or searching for the missing. By the day's end, 63 bodies were squeezed into the morgue, said Dr. Abdullah Shehadeh, the hospital director. At one point he heard shells falling every 10 seconds, he said.

Hamad, the Mahmoum cousin, had been at the hospital for about two hours when medics brought in the lower body of her 4-year-old son, Anas. She said she recognized his clothes.

That evening, with concerns that the Israeli soldier could be smuggled out, the military warned in automated calls to residents that any vehicle trying to leave Rafah would be shot.

___

The next day, Mustafa returned to Ouroba Street to search for the bodies of his wife and four dead children. He found them near the Bilbesi supermarket amid the debris.

"It was hard," he said, struggling to keep his composure.

The heavy Israeli fire continued Saturday, including airstrikes on homes that killed several dozen people, according to the Gaza-based Palestinian Center for Human Rights.

By late that day, it had become clear that Goldin, the 23-year-old soldier, had been not captured but killed in a firefight. After forensic analysis of remains found in the tunnel, he was declared dead.

It was not until Sunday that some bodies on Ouroba Street could be retrieved.

"It was a horrible scene," said Ghassan Bilbesi, son of the supermarket owner. "People had lost their hands, their arms."

Mustafa's wife and children were buried on Monday, Aug. 4, in the sandy soil of a new cemetery on the edge of Rafah, in a row of 14 still unmarked, cinder block-lined graves. Hamad has no idea where her son's remains lie.

___

In all, 121 Palestinians were killed in Rafah on Aug. 1 and 69 on Aug. 2, according to the Palestinian Center for Human Rights and Al Mezan rights group, which compiled the names. The dead included 55 children, 36 women and five men over the age of 60.

In the Tannour and adjacent Jneineh neighborhoods alone, 37 people were killed on Aug. 1, the rights groups say. The Mahmoum clan lost seven children, six women and a young man.

The losses played into a bigger debate over the uneven death toll in the war. More than 2,140 Palestinians were killed, three-fourths civilians, according to the U.N. On the Israeli side, 72 people were killed, all but six soldiers.

Israel said it warned civilians to leave targeted areas through automated calls and leaflets, and accused Hamas of putting civilians at risk by using them as human shields in crowded neighborhoods. The military said the events in Rafah, along with others, are under review by officers who were not part of the chain of command. The conclusion will be handed to the army's advocate general.

Even if the findings of U.N. investigators are months away, Mustafa Mahmoum is determined to demand justice for his family and trial for Israeli officials who ordered the Rafah attack. Trying to rescue a soldier does not justify killing civilians, he said.

"Even in war," he said, "children are protected."

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