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Human Rights Watch on Monday accused Israel of killing civilians as they attempted to flee a stricken neighbourhood of Gaza, in what it said would amount to a war crime.
In a report that cited Palestinians who managed to get out of Khuza'a, HRW said the attacks on the town near the southern city of Khan Yunis occurred at the end of July.
"Israeli forces in the southern Gaza town of Khuza'a fired on and killed civilians in apparent violation of the laws of war in several incidents between July 23 and 25," said the New York-based watchdog.
"Deliberate attacks on civilians who are not participating in the fighting are war crimes."
Civilians faced "grave dangers" in Khuza'a, including repeated shelling, lack of access to medical care, and coming under attack from the Israelis as they attempt to flee to Khan Yunis.
The report pointed out that while Israeli forces had warned people to leave Khuza'a prior to July 21, "the failure of civilians to abide by warnings does not make them lawful targets of attack."
"Warning families to flee fighting doesn't make them fair targets just because they're unable to do so, and deliberately attacking them is a war crime," said HRW's Sarah Leah Whitson.
Following more than three weeks of Israeli attacks on Gaza, the Palestinian death toll is believed to have reached 1820 as more than the quarter of the 1.8 million residents have been displaced.
Israel faced growing international condemnation of its actions in Gaza on Monday after a strike on a UN school sheltering Palestinians left 10 people dead and sparked widespread outrage.
As Israel's operation in the besieged territory entered its 28th day, the international community appeared to be losing patience.
In Gaza, 1,820 Palestinians have been killed and more than 10,000 wounded since the start of the Israeli offensive on 8 July.
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius led the charge, issuing one of the most strongly worded condemnations yet from a Western official.
"How many more deaths will it take to stop... the carnage in Gaza?" Fabius said in a statement.
"Israel's right to security is total, but this right does not justify the killing of children and the slaughter of Palestinians," Fabius said.
"A political solution is essential... and should in my opinion be imposed by the international community," he said.
Fabius's statement prompted some to praise Western officials for at last taking a tougher line with Israel.
"Finally! This is very, very good. The systematic targeting of Palestinians and schools must be denounced," said Yves Aubin de la Messuziere, a retired French diplomat and expert on the Middle East.
"We should be brave enough to point the finger of blame, of course at Hamas but also at Israel," he said.
The United Nations condemned Sunday's strike at the school, where around 3,000 homeless Palestinians had been sheltering, with Secretary General Ban Ki-moon calling the attack "a moral outrage and a criminal act".
State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said Washington was also "appalled," demanding a "full and prompt" investigation into the strike -- the third time in 10 days a UN school had been hit by Israel's troop.
The Israeli army acknowledged targeting three Islamic Jihad militants on a motorbike in the "vicinity of an UNRWA school", saying it was investigating.