GAZA CITY, Palestinian Territories - The UN expressed outrage after another deadly strike on one of its schools Sunday as Israel began pulling some troops back from Gaza in a step towards unilateral withdrawal.
The strike killed 10 people at a school in the southern city of Rafah where around 3,000 Palestinians made homeless by the violence had been sheltering, in the third such incident in 10 days.
Washington said it was "appalled" and called for a "full and prompt" investigation.
"Israel must do more to meet its own standards and avoid civilian casualties," US State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said.
Israel's military, hours after the attack, confirmed it had targeted three Islamic Jihad militants on a motorbike "in vicinity of an UNRWA school in Rafah. The IDF is reviewing the consequences of this strike." And its Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu issued a statement early Monday saying that contrary to Gaza's de facto Islamist rulers Hamas, who have targeted Israeli citizens with thousands of rockets they have fired at the Jewish state over the past weeks, Israel attempts to refrain from killing uninvolved Palestinians.
"Israel does not aim its fire at civilians and is sorry for any attack that unintentionally hits civilians," he said without directly addressing the attack on the school.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon called the attack "a moral outrage and a criminal act".
"This madness must stop," he said.
The strike came as Palestinian factions gathered for truce talks with Egypt in Cairo and world powers voiced increasingly urgent calls for both sides to cease fire.
"The bloodshed needs to stop," said a statement signed by the European Union and the European Commission presidents on behalf of the bloc's 28 members.
"We deplore the terrible loss of lives, including innocent women and children," it said, condemning the "intolerable violence" in Gaza as Israel presses its assault aimed at halting Hamas rocket fire.
French President Francois Hollande said the bombing of the school was "unacceptable", backing calls by Ban "to ask that those responsible for this violation of international law answer for their actions", without saying who he considered responsible.
But there was little respite on the ground, where more than 71 people were killed in Rafah alone as more bloodshed sent the death toll soaring over 1,800.
In Israel, 108 rockets and mortars fired from Gaza struck throughout the country Sunday, a military spokeswoman said, with another eight rockets intercepted by the Iron Dome defence system.