Home News Dozens killed in Israeli attack on Gaza civilian shelter

Dozens killed in Israeli attack on Gaza civilian shelter

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Israeli airstrikes on Thursday hit a United Nations school in central Gaza that has become a refuge for thousands of displaced Palestinians and what Israel says are Hamas militants, killing dozens of people, including women and children, Gaza health officials said.

The attack was the latest deadly outbreak of fighting in central Gaza as Israeli forces announced an offensive against what they called a new Hamas insurgency.

Gaza’s health ministry said the attack killed 40 people, including 14 children and nine women, but the exact death toll could not be independently verified. Crowds gathered at the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Hospital in the central Gaza city of Deir al-Balah to cry and pray for the dead. A local Palestinian photographer uploaded a video showing a young woman holding the body of her son.

The attack took place at a complex run by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), the main UN aid agency for Palestinians in Gaza. About 6,000 displaced Palestinians were taking shelter at the complex in the central Gaza area of ​​Nusserat when the attack took place, said Juliet Touma, a spokeswoman for UNRWA.

The Israeli military said its fighter jets targeted three classrooms inside the school building, which were holding 20 to 30 Palestinian militants affiliated with Hamas and the smaller Palestinian Islamic Jihad group, which like Hamas is backed by Iran. The Israeli military said it twice postponed the attack to reduce civilian casualties.

Israeli military spokesman Lt. Col. Peter Lerner said he had “not heard of any civilian casualties from the attack.” “We carried out a precision strike where the terrorists were located,” he said. He said the militants had used the compound to plan attacks on Israeli troops, but he did not provide specific examples.

Another Israeli military spokesman, Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari, said Israeli forces had been tracking the militants for three days before opening fire.

“They locked down three classrooms and waited for three days before shooting them dead,” he added.

Admiral Hajari said Israeli security agencies have so far verified the identities of nine militants killed in the attack, “some of whom” took part in the Hamas-led attack on October 7.

“We are currently busy confirming the identities of the other terrorists who were killed,” he said.

State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said Israel had informed the United States that it was using precision weapons against Hamas militants. But he added that if reports that children had been killed in the attack were true, “then these were not terrorists.” He said the United States hoped Israel would release more information with “full transparency.”

Khalil Daklan, spokesman for the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Hospital, said that in recent days, the Israeli offensive in central Gaza has killed at least 140 Palestinians and injured hundreds, severely taxing the hospital’s already depleted resources.

“Injured patients are lying on the floor of the corridors and in tents outside,” he said. “Our ability to treat them is extremely limited at the moment.”

A man named Haitham Abu Ammar searched the rubble of the school for hours Thursday morning as he struggled to collect the remains of his friends who were killed in the blast at dawn.

“The most painful thing I’ve ever experienced was picking up those pieces of meat with my hands,” said construction worker Abu Amar, 27. “I never thought I would do something like this.”

In the crowded, chaotic corridors of the hospital – the last functioning medical centre in Gaza – men wept over their dead children as doctors had to crowd into operating theatres. One man, lying in a pool of his own blood, had waited in vain for hours for surgery, said a relative accompanying him.

A reporter at the hospital morgue on Thursday was greeted by the stench of dozens of bodies as relatives stood screaming and crying over them.

The EU’s top diplomat, Josep Borrell Fontelles, called for an independent investigation into the Israeli attack.

B’Tselem, a leading Israeli human rights group, said Israel’s attack on the school-turned-shelter could amount to a war crime. It said that if Hamas did use the complex for military purposes, as the Israeli military claims, then that was also illegal. “But this cannot justify the massive harm to civilians who have fled there due to the ongoing fighting,” B’Tselem said in a statement.

At least one of the bombs Israel used in Thursday’s attack on the school appeared to be American-made, according to weapons experts and videos reviewed by The New York Times. It was identified as a GBU-39, a relatively small precision-guided bomb made by Boeing that has become an increasingly important weapon as Israel moves toward more limited and targeted attacks.

As Israel resumes its offensive in central Gaza, ceasefire talks between Israel and Hamas remain deadlocked, with senior officials from both sides expressing concerns about Proposal approved by President Biden A phased ceasefire agreement was reached to release Gaza hostages in exchange for Palestinian prisoners.

The Biden administration this week sent senior officials to Egypt and Qatar, which have been mediating the talks. But Israeli officials, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, say they are not ready to end the eight-month war in Gaza, which has killed more than 36,000 people in the Strip, according to Palestinian health officials in the Strip.

The agency said at least 450 people have died since the start of the war while taking shelter in schools and other facilities run by UNRWA.

UNRWA said Israeli forces attacked the same compound in Nusserat that was attacked three weeks ago on Thursday, killing at least six people and injuring many more.

The number of Gazans in central Gaza has swelled in recent weeks as they flee Israel’s offensive on the southern city of Rafah, which has been a major refuge for civilians displaced by fighting elsewhere. With the Israeli offensive on Rafah, hundreds of thousands of Gazans are now pouring into makeshift camps in the area, where finding enough food and clean drinking water has become a daily struggle.

UNRWA, which ran a boys’ school at the complex in Nusserat before the war, said it had shared the coordinates of all its facilities, including the one attacked on Thursday, with Israel and “other parties to the conflict” so they would not be targeted.

“Attacking, targeting or using UN buildings for military purposes is a blatant disregard for international humanitarian law,” UNRWA head Filippo Lazzarini wrote on social media on Thursday. He called Israel’s accusations that the building was used by militants “shocking” but said the agency could not verify the allegations.

In mid-April, UNRWA said in a statement Report The Israeli military was responsible for most of the “attacks and operations” that destroyed or damaged the agency’s facilities, but Palestinian armed groups were also responsible for some.

The U.N. human rights office expressed alarm in a statement Thursday at Israel’s attack on Nusserat, saying it “demonstrated a failure by the Israeli military” to strictly adhere to international humanitarian law, in particular the fundamental principles of distinction, proportionality and precaution in attacks.

Reported by Bilal Shibai, Nadir Ibrahim, Christian Tribert, Anushka Patil, Rawan Sheikh AhmedJohnatan Reiss and Lauren Leatherby.

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