The Israeli military killed up to 40 Palestinians seeking refuge in a United Nations school in the Gaza Strip on Tuesday less than an hour after a family of at least 12 people, including seven children, were killed in an air strike on their house.
As the dead bodies piled up in Gaza, al-Qaeda's second-in-command, in an Internet message, called on Muslims to strike Western and Israeli targets around the world to retaliate for the events in Gaza.
"Hit the interests of the Zionists and crusaders wherever and in whichever way you can," Ayman al-Zawahri said in an audio tape posted on Islamist websites.
In a tense day of fighting two Israeli tank shells exploded outside the school for refugees, spraying shrapnel on people inside and outside the building, where hundreds of Palestinians had sought refuge from Israel's deadly assault on the strip.
In addition to the dead, several dozen people were wounded, officials said, adding all the dead were either people sheltering in the school or local residents. The attack was the third involving UN schools on the same day.
Meanwhile, less than an hour earlier an Israeli airstrike wiped out a family of 12 people and turned their home into rubble, medics at the scene said, as the bodies of the Daya family—seven children aged one to 12 years, three women and two men—were pulled from the ruins.
The death toll hit 635, a number expected to rise, as Israeli tanks and helicopter gunships went blazing into towns across Gaza in day eleven of 'Operation Cast Lead.'
Israeli tanks firing cannons and backed by helicopter gunships rolled into the southern city of Khan Yunis in the pre-dawn hours, to be met by return fire from Hamas and other forces, witnesses said.
The incursion came as Israeli infantry and Hamas fighters exchanged fire inside Gaza City and on the outskirts of Deir al-Balah and al-Bureij in the center of the territory, witnesses and medics said.
As the bombardment continued Hamas forces attempted to retaliate and fired at least five rockets into Israel, including one that hit the town of Gadera, 28 km (17 miles) from Tel Aviv, police said. A three-year-old girl was wounded.
Warplanes over Lebanon
In related news, six Israeli warplanes violated Lebanese airspace as they flew over several regions, breaching a U.N. Security Council resolution, the Lebanese army said.
"At 9:00 a.m. (0700 GMT) two warplanes violated our airspace in the region of Kfar Kila (in the south) and flew over several other parts of the country before leaving at 11:20 a.m.," a statement said.
A drone meanwhile flew over Lebanon for much of the night Monday to Tuesday, the statement added.
Tension has increased in Lebanon since Israel's assault of Gaza began with some residents fearing a repeat of the 34-day summer war in 2006 between Israel and Lebanon's Shiite Hezbollah group which devastated the south of the country.