The United Nations on Wednesday denied Israeli army allegations that militants were inside a school in Gaza that was hit the previous day by an Israeli strike, killing at least 42 people.
The Israeli army said that its investigation into the deadliest strike, on a school in Jabaliya where hundreds of people were taking refuge, found that militants had fired at Israeli forces from within the school and that Hamas "terror operatives" were among those killed.
The U.N. denied Israeli army claims that militants were in the U.N.-run schools.
"Following an initial investigation, we are 99.9 percent sure that there were no militants or militant activities in the school and the school compound," Christopher Gunness, spokesman for the U.N. refugee agency for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA, told AFP.
"We are calling for an independent investigation to establish the facts," he said. "If the rules of war had been broken those found guilty must be brought to justice."
Israeli strikes in Gaza on Tuesday hit near three U.N.-run schools that killed at least 48 people, prompting calls for an investigation from the U.N. and escalating calls for an immediate ceasefire.
U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon said he was "deeply dismayed" by the strikes on the schools and called them "totally unacceptable."
Israel accused Hamas of using civilians as "human shields" and said troops had been returning mortar fire from the school.
An aide to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, a bitter foe of Hamas, said the PM had ordered officials to look into taking Israel to international courts over the incident.
The school killings could intensify pressure on Israel for a ceasefire. During Israel’s 2006 war against Hezbollah, the deaths of 28 unarmed Lebanese in shelling at the village of Qana intensified world pressure on Israel to negotiate a truce.
The deaths in the school prompted U.S president-elect Barack Obama to break his silence on the Gaza offensive and to say the loss of life among civilians was "a source of deep concern" for him.
Since Israel unleashed its Operation Cast Lead against Hamas in Gaza on Dec. 27, at least 666 Palestinians have been killed, including 215 children, and more than 2,950 wounded, according to Gaza medics.