Israeli tank shells Gaza school; UN staff among 15 dead
JERUSALEM: At least 15 people have been killed,
including a baby, after an Israeli shell struck a UN-run school in northern
An official from the UN’s Palestinian refugee agency
UNRWA, confirmed there were “multiple dead and injured” in the attack on a
school in the city of Beit Hanoun. UN staff are also thought to be among the
The facility was being used as a shelter by hundreds
of Palestinians who had fled their homes since Israel began airstrikes two
weeks ago, saying they were in retaliation for rocket attacks by Hamas
At least 150 people were injured in the blast - the
fourth time a UN facility has been hit during the start of the recent conflict.
The Israel Defence Forces (IDF), posting on its official Twitter feed, said
Hamas had prevented people evacuating the area.
It wrote: “In recent days, Hamas has fired rockets
from an area of Beit Hanoun where an UNRWA shelter is located. Last night, we
told Red Cross to evacuate civilians from UNRWA’s shelter in Beit Hanoun btw
10am & 2pm. UNRWA & Red Cross got the message. Hamas prevented
civilians from evacuating the area during the window that we gave them.
“Today Hamas continued firing from Beit Hanoun. The
IDF responded by targeting the source of the fire. Also today, several rockets
launched from Gaza toward Israel fell short and hit Beit Hanoun.”
But Chris Gunness, a spokesman for UNRWA, said a
window to allow civilians to leave was never granted. He told the AFP news
agency, “We’ve spent much of the day trying to negotiate or to co-ordinate a
window so that civilians, including our staff, could leave. That was never
granted... and the consequences of that appear to be tragic.”
He added on his Twitter account that the precise co-ordinates
of the school had been given to the Israeli military. Another UN official told
AFP news agency they had tried to get people to leave the school shortly before
the attack, fearing it might be a target.
He said, “We were talking to the shelter asking them
to leave, as we feared it was a potential target.” Israel’s military said it
had acted “against a terrorist target located in a populated area.”
Gaza Division Commander General Micky Edelstein said, “We
use various technology, like radio or messaging to ask the population to leave.
We need to investigate what happened here.” British Foreign Secretary Philip
Hammond, speaking in Cairo after meeting Egyptian president Abdel Fattah al
Sisi, called on Hamas to accept a humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called on Israel and
Hamas to abide by international humanitarian law. He said, “Today’s attack
underscores the imperative for the killing to stop - and to stop now. Many have
been killed - including women and children, as well as UN staff.”
A spokesman for US Secretary of State John Kerry said,
“We again urge all parties to redouble their efforts to protect civilians.”
Last week, the UN’s Palestinian refugee agency - the UNRWA - slammed militants
after it discovered around 20 rockets were being kept in one of its schools.
Nearly 750 Palestinians have been killed in 17 days of
fighting in Gaza. More than 140,000 people have fled the conflict. Some 32
Israeli soldiers have also been killed, and three civilians have died in Israel
from rocket fire.