Just International

Israeli strike on UN school kills dozens in Gaza

By Nidal Al-Mughrabi and James Mackenzie


CAIRO/JERUSALEM, June 6 (Reuters) – Israel hit a Gaza school on Thursday with what it described as a targeted airstrike on up to 30 Hamas and Islamic Jihad fighters inside, and a Hamas official said 40 people were killed including women and children sheltering at the U.N. site.

Video footage showed Palestinians hauling away bodies and scores of injured in a hospital after the attack, which took place at a sensitive moment in mediated talks on a ceasefire that would involve releasing hostages held by Hamas and some of the Palestinians held in Israeli jails.

At the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Hospital in Deir al-Balah, a Palestinian boy, Imad al-Maqadmeh, lay on the floor, his swollen face badly bruised and bleeding. He said he lost his father in the strike.

“What did we do? There are no armed people in the school. The ones there are children, playing. We play together… Why did they bomb us?” he said in the video obtained by Reuters.

In images of the dead laid out at the hospital surrounded by wailing mourners, bodies were mostly wrapped in shrouds or carpets, making it impossible to determine their identities from the video.

The U.S. issued a joint statement with other countries calling on Israel and Hamas to compromise to finalise a deal after eight months of war in the Gaza Strip.

Qatar’s foreign ministry spokesperson Majed Al-Ansari said Hamas had not yet responded to the latest ceasefire proposal and was still studying it, adding that Qatar, Egypt and the U.S. mediation efforts are still ongoing.

Hamas sources said there was nothing new to respond to, adding the Israeli proposal was old and the group rejected it because it did not speak of an end to the war or a complete pull out from Gaza.

Ismail Al-Thawabta, the director of the Hamas-run government media office, rejected Israel’s assertion that the U.N. school in Nuseirat, in central Gaza, had hidden a Hamas command post.

“The occupation uses … false fabricated stories to justify the brutal crime it conducted against dozens of displaced people,” Thawabta told Reuters.

Israel’s military said its fighter jets had carried out a “precise strike”, and circulated satellite photos highlighting two parts of a building where it said the fighters were based.

“We’re very confident in the intelligence,” military spokesperson Lt Col. Peter Lerner said, accusing Hamas and Islamic Jihad fighters of deliberately using U.N. facilities as operational bases.

He said 20 to 30 fighters were located in the compound, and many of them had been killed. “I’m not aware of any civilian casualties and I’d be very, very cautious of accepting anything that Hamas puts out,” he said.

Later Israel’s chief military spokesperson Daniel Hagari said the military had so far identified nine of 30 Hamas and Islamic Jihad fighters targeted in the pre-dawn strike.

As people at the school cleared rubble from bloodstained classrooms, survivor Huda Abu Dhaher described waking up to the sound of rockets.

“People’s remains were scattered inside the yard and outside. The gas canister exploded,” she told Reuters.

“My nephew was martyred (killed), he lost his leg and arm, he was a 10-year-old.”

Washington said it expected Israel to be fully transparent in making information about the strike public.

“As a general matter, and as we’ve said before, Israel has a right to go after Hamas. But we’ve also been clear that Israel must take every precaution possible and do more to protect civilians,” a White House National Security Council spokesperson said.

Late on Thursday, Hamas media said an Israeli airstrike on the house of the mayor of Al-Nuseirat camp in central Gaza Strip killed the mayor, Eyad Al-Mghari, and some members of his family.

In a separate Israeli airstrike on a house in Deir Al-Balah in central Gaza Strip, three Palestinians were killed and several others were wounded, medics said.

There was no immediate response from Israeli military on the two latest accounts.

The school, run by the U.N. Palestinian refugee agency (UNRWA), was sheltering 6,000 displaced people at the time, UNRWA chief Philippe Lazzarini said.

“At least 35 people were killed and many more injured,” he wrote on X. “Claims that armed groups may have been inside the shelter are shocking. We are however unable to verify these claims. Attacking, targeting or using UN buildings for military purposes are a blatant disregard of International Humanitarian law.”

Thawabta and a medical source said 40 had been killed, including 14 children and nine women.

The United Nations condemned the attack.

“It’s just another horrific example of the price that civilians are paying, that Palestinian men, women and children who are just trying to survive, who are being forced to move around in sort of a death circle around Gaza, trying to find safety, are paying,” said spokesperson Stephane Dujarric.

The building was once used as a school, but with no schools now operating in Gaza it was being used as a shelter, he added.


The bombing took place in a central part of Gaza where Israel announced a new military campaign on Wednesday as it battles fighters relying on hit-and-run insurgency tactics. It said it would not halt fighting during ceasefire talks, which have intensified since U.S. President Joe Biden outlined a truce proposal on Friday.

Hamas seeks a permanent end to the war. Israel says it must destroy the Islamist militant group first.

In another sensitive development, the Israeli military reported a rare attack near the Israel-Gaza border, saying a squad of Palestinian fighters killed a soldier and three of them were killed in return fire.

A statement by the Hamas armed wing, the Al-Qassam Brigades, said its fighters had conducted an operation behind enemy lines in the Rafah area of southern Gaza, corresponding to the location in the Israeli military’s account.

Hamas precipitated the war by attacking Israeli territory last Oct. 7, killing around 1,200 people and capturing more than 250 hostages, according to Israeli tallies. About half the hostages were freed in the November truce.

Israel’s military assault on Gaza has killed more than 36,000 people, according to health officials in the territory, who say thousands more dead are feared buried under the rubble.

U.S. and Israeli officials have told Reuters about half of Hamas’s forces have been killed in the conflict. Hamas does not disclose fatalities among its fighters and some officials say Israel exaggerated the figures. Israel’s own military death toll is almost 300.

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Additional reporting by Dan Williams, Clauda Tanios, Henriette Chacar, Mrinmay Dey and Reuters bureaux; Writing by Michael Perry, Philippa Fletcher, Alexandra Hudson and Diane Craft; Editing by Gerry Doyle, Timothy Heritage, Peter Graff

7 June 2024

Source: reuters.com

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