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Israel warns Gaza targets by phone and leaflet

JERUSALEM — The call came to the cellphone of his brother’s wife, Salah Kaware said Tuesday. Kaware lives in Khan Younis, in southeast Gaza, and the caller said that everyone in the house must leave within five minutes, because it was going to be bombed.

A further warning came as the occupants were leaving, he said in a telephone interview, when an Israeli drone apparently fired a flare at the roof of the three-story home. “Our neighbors came in to form a human shield,” he said, with some even going to the roof to try to prevent a bombing. Others were in the stairway when the house was bombed not long afterward.

Seven people died, Kaware said, a figure also stated by the Palestinian Health Ministry in Gaza, which also said that 25 people were wounded. The Israeli military said that targeted houses belonged to Hamas members involved in launching rockets or other military activity, and that they had been used as operations rooms.

But the events Tuesday were another example of a contentious Israeli policy in which occupants of a building about to be bombed or shelled are given a brief warning in Arabic to evacuate. The Israelis have used such telephone calls and leaflets for years now, in a stated effort to reduce civilian casualties and avoid charges of indiscriminate killings or even of crimes against the rules of war.

During Operation Cast Lead in Gaza in late 2008, the Israelis often used telephone calls and leaflets to tell occupants to leave before striking. In some cases, the Israelis fired missiles without explosive warheads onto the roof to get Palestinians who had gathered there to leave. The Israelis called it “the knock on the roof.” But often, as in Khan Younis on Tuesday, people die in any case, because they ignore or defy the warnings, or try to leave after it’s too late.

The Israelis also regularly drop leaflets over Gaza urging citizens to not cooperate with terrorism and to stay away from border zones, an injunction that has been criticized by human-rights advocates, like the Palestinian Al Haq organization.

—Steven Erlanger and Fares Akram, The New York Times

Lawmakers in Iraq will meet again to try to form a government

BAGHDAD — The Iraqi parliament Tuesday set its next meeting for Sunday as it tries again to form a new government after a failed attempt last week.

It is unclear, however, whether there will be any progress or even enough lawmakers present to form a quorum at the meeting.

The parliament’s administrative office had told lawmakers Monday that there would be no session until Aug. 12. That announcement was met with dismay by the international community, which has been urging Iraq to act quickly to form a government that reflects the country’s diverse and often hostile religious sects and ethnic groups.

Later Monday, the temporary speaker, Mehdi al-Hafith, announced that parliament would attempt to meet Sunday “in order to safeguard the public interest and continue to build democracy.”

The first step under the constitution is to elect a speaker, traditionally a Sunni, and then within a month to name a president and two vice presidents. Two weeks after that, the parliament must choose a prime minister.

The current parliament, which was elected in April, has not yet formed a government, in part because there is antagonism toward Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki despite his party receiving the largest number of votes. There now seems to be a focused attempt to remove al-Maliki and find an acceptable alternative.

There is no consensus candidate yet for prime minister.

—Alissa J. Rubin, The New York Times

Pope asks forgiveness as he meets for first time with victims of sex abuse

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis on Monday used his first meeting with victims of clerical sex abuse to offer his strongest condemnation of a crisis that has shaken the Roman Catholic Church, comparing priests who abuse minors to “a sacrilegious cult,” while begging forgiveness from victims and pledging to crack down on bishops who fail to protect children.

By meeting with six victims from three countries, Francis was trying to show resolve — and personal empathy — to address an issue on which he has faced criticism in what has otherwise been a popular papacy.

While some advocates for victims praised the meeting, others dismissed it as little more than a publicity stunt.

Francis first greeted the six victims — two people each from Ireland, Britain and Germany — Sunday after they arrived at a Vatican guesthouse. On Monday, he led them in a private Mass at a Vatican chapel, where he offered a strongly worded homily condemning an abuse scandal that began to surface decades ago. Francis also met with each victim in sessions that, in total, lasted more than three hours.

“Before God and his people, I express my sorrow for the sins and grave crimes of clerical sexual abuse committed against you,” Francis said during his homily, according to a text released by the Vatican. “And I humbly ask forgiveness. I beg your forgiveness, too, for the sins of omission on the part of church leaders who did not respond adequately to reports of abuse made by family members, as well as by abuse victims themselves.”

At least one of the victims who met with Francis left impressed. Marie Kane, 43, who endured abuse by a priest in Dublin, described the meeting as “pretty amazing,” and told The Irish Independent that the pope “listened intently” as she spoke to him.

She said she told Francis that the church needed greater accountability, and that she would not feel as though progress had been made until bishops who covered up the abuse had been removed.

Other victims advocacy groups echoed that sentiment, arguing that the Vatican still has done too little to create a strong, accountable system to prevent abuse and to stop bishops from protecting abusive priests.

—Jim Yardley, The New York Times