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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Israeli Strike Rocks School Bus

GAZA STRIP -- An Israeli aircraft fired a missile near a school bus in the northern Gaza Strip on Monday, killing a 16-year-old Palestinian and wounding four other people, witnesses and hospital officials said.

An Israeli military spokesman said the airstrike in the town of Beit Lahiya targeted Palestinians who had come to retrieve launchers used to fire rockets into the Jewish state.

On the Palestinian political front, some officials announced an agreement in principle between Hamas and President Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah faction on forming a unity government that will not be headed by current Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas.

Other officials said no final deal had been reached and more talks were needed between Abbas and Haniyeh.

Witnesses to the attack in Beit Lahiya said the missile landed near a school bus, killing the teenage boy. Among the wounded was a teacher, who was in critical condition. The identities of the other casualties were not immediately known.

Israeli forces have been operating in Beit Lahiya and nearby Beit Hanoun since last week in a bid to beat back Palestinian rocket crews and gunmen.

At least 49 Palestinians, more than half of them gunmen, and an Israeli soldier have been killed in six days of fighting.

Russia called Sunday for a cease-fire, urging an end to Palestinian rocket attacks and Israeli incursions into Palestinian territory.

"Despite the calls of the international community, a halt to the violence in the Palestinian territories has not been achieved," the Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

President Vladimir Putin has sought to enlarge Russia's role in peace efforts with the Middle East, strengthening ties with the Palestinians while also improving relations with Israel.

The Foreign Ministry hailed the proposed agreement of the formation of a unity government on Monday, saying: "In Moscow the decision has met with approval. It testifies to the development of the intra-Palestinian conciliation process. It is in line with what we spoke about earlier, supporting the aspirations of the head of the Palestinian national administration Mahmoud Abbas, and all who are inclined to the strengthening of Palestinian power on the foundation of a realistic program of political regulation and the establishment of peace with Israel," a ministry spokesman said, Interfax reported.

Hoping to end a crippling international aid boycott imposed when Hamas came to power in March, the agreement in principle would see the Hamas Cabinet and prime minister stepping down to be replaced by a team of experts.

But top Hamas leaders have yet to decide whether to accept the plan, and negotiations have broken down in the past. At one stage, Abbas and Haniyeh of Hamas had reached an agreement, but Hamas then withdrew its support, balking at key points in the government platform, including an implicit recognition of Israel.

Wasfi Khabaha, a Hamas Cabinet minister, said he expected a key meeting between Abbas and Haniyeh to take place by Wednesday. "We can say we have reached an agreement with the brothers in Fatah, but there are some points that need to be finalized between the president and the prime minister," he said.

(Reuters, AP, MT)