EU aid chief condemns shelling of UN Gaza compound

BRUSSELS, Jan 15 (Reuters) - The European Union's aid chief condemned Israel's shelling of a U.N. compound in Gaza on Thursday, calling for an independent investigation.

The U.N. Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) said its compound, where up to 700 Palestinians were sheltering, was struck twice by Israeli fire and three staff members were wounded.

"I am deeply shocked and dismayed to learn of this incident," EU Aid Commissioner Louis Michel said in a statement.

"Since the outbreak of the fighting, I have made it very clear that all sides must respect international humanitarian law. It is unacceptable that the U.N. headquarters in Gaza has been struck by Israeli artillery fire," he added.

Israeli forces pushed deeper into Gaza city on Thursday and unleashed their heaviest shelling of its crowded neighbourhoods in three weeks of war, stepping up pressure on Hamas as both sides weighed a ceasefire.

The 27-member EU has issued a series of statements denouncing violence on both sides and has been involved in international efforts to secure a ceasefire.

The European Commission says it is the largest donor to UNRWA, with a contribution of 113 million euros ($148.5 million) in 2008. (Reporting by Ingrid Melander; editing by Andrew Dobbie)