January 7, 2009 / 2:06 PM / in 10 years

Islamic body says Israel school attack a war crime

RIYADH, Jan 7 (Reuters) - A top world Islamic body accused Israel on Wednesday of war crimes in its Gaza offensive and said it should face an international court after tank shells killed 42 Palestinians at a U.N. school.

"This is a brutal crime and a clear war crime, along with other attacks, and its perpetrators must not escape an international trial," Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, secretary-general of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC) said in a statement.

The 57-nation OIC, based in Jeddah, represents over one billion Muslims. The body, whose charter dates back to the early 1970s when Islamic nations were divided along the lines of the Cold War, has little political power.

Israel acknowledged hitting a school run by a United Nations refugee aid agency where hundreds of people were taking refuge on Tuesday. Medics said 42 people were killed.

Israel says its offensive in Gaza since Dec. 27 aims to end rocket salvoes into Israel by Islamist militants including Hamas, a faction that rules the Gaza Strip.

More than 600 Palestinians have been killed in the fighting. According to U.N. figures more than a quarter of the Palestinian dead are civilians. Israel has lost seven soldiers and three civilians in the conflict.

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