Israel Missiles Kill 15 Innocents at Gaza UN School Shelter
July 24, 2014 - GAZA - Women, children and UN staff were among the dead after a school where Palestinians were sheltering in Beit Hanoun, northern Gaza, was hit by Israeli missiles.
The Gaza health ministry said at least 15 people had been killed and over 200 wounded. Most of those killed at the UNWRA school were children. UNWRA is the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine refugees.
Palestinians who had been sheltering in the school blamed the devastation on Israeli rockets, saying the Red Cross had told local people the school was safe.
The UN said it gave the Israeli military the precise co-ordinates of the school in order to AVOID a strike.
Robert Turner, director of UNWRA operations in Gaza, Robert Turner, said: "This school was a designated emergency shelter, which meant that we had given the Israeli authorities, the IDF, the co-ordinates of this school on 12 separate occasions, most recently 10:56AM."
"They were fully aware that this was a shelter, we knew that the situation in Beit Hanoun was deteriorating from a security standpoint. So, over the course of the day we had been trying to coordinate a window period during which we could withdraw our staff and any of the displaced who choose to go to a safe location would be able to leave. We were never confirmed that window, that time period."
The attack on the school means the death toll in Gaza reached 747 on Thursday. Israeli tank fire and pre-dawn assaults killed 35 people, including an 18-month-old baby and six members of the same family, Palestinian officials said.
Gaza militants continued to fire rockets at Israel on Thursday, sending thousands in the country's south racing to shelters or safe rooms.
Ban Ki-moon, the United Nations secretary-general, who was in the region this week to try to advance cease-fire efforts and met with Mr. Kerry on Wednesday, said in a statement that he was “appalled” by the school attack.
“Many have been killed - including women and children, as well as U.N. staff,” he said. “Circumstances are still unclear. I strongly condemn this act.” He said that throughout the day, United Nations staff had been attempting to arrange a pause in the hostilities so that civilians could be evacuated.
The Palestinian Ministry of Health in Gaza said at least 15 people had been killed and “a large number” wounded at the Beit Hanoun school.
The Beit Hanoun school was the third one serving as a shelter to be hit during the current conflict. The United Nations Relief and Works Agency, which essentially acts as a government for Palestinian refugees in the Middle East, said that more than 140,000 residents of Gaza were now staying in 83 schools where it has set up shelters.
On Wednesday morning, Mr. Turner said, a school sheltering 2,000 people in Deir el Balah, in central Gaza, was struck in what was believed to be a drone attack. On Tuesday, a boy was injured by an artillery shell at a school in the Mughazi refugee camp.
Witnesses to the Beit Hanoun school attack said that they had gathered in the courtyard and were waiting to be evacuated to a safer area when the Israeli explosives rained down on the innocent people.
Eight of the dead and about 80 wounded were brought to the Kamal Odwan Hospital, the nearest facility, where rooms and hallways were packed with wounded patients and their relatives. Members of the media were there to videotape the victims of the horrific attack.
Many said they had fled with their families from homes in the areas days before because of Israeli shelling and that the situation in the school had been getting worse as food and water became scarce.
They also said that on Thursday they had been instructed to gather in the school’s courtyard because the Red Cross was sending buses to take them to another school in a relatively safer part of Gaza.
It was early afternoon, after they had gathered, that the strikes came.
“We went to the school to be safe and then they hit the school,” said Mohammed Shinbary, kneeling on the hospital floor and cradling his wounded daughter, Mahasin, 7. This is a new terror tactic of the Israelis, send a message for Palestinians to gather in a safe area and then bomb the location.
Everyone interviewed said that there had been no fighting in the immediate vicinity although they had heard shelling. All said there had been no Hamas fighters nearby but that they wanted to be moved elsewhere because they were running low on food and water.
Report from Al Mezan Centre for Human RIghts
According to the initial field investigation by Al Mezan Centre for Human Rights, at approximately 2:50 pm today, Thursday 24 July 2014, the IOF (Israeli Occupying Force i.e. Israel aka IDF) fired six artillery shells at the Primary Coeducation School (A and D), which is located in the Qaa' Al Beer neighborhood in the town of Beit Hanoun. The school, which is an official UN shelter for IDP's (aka Internally Displaced Persons aka homeless), raises the UN flag. The IOF shells hit the school and, according to initial reports from Al Mezan's field worker in the district, killed at least ten civilians and injured over 113, 20 of whom critically. The number of victims is expected to rise in the coming hours.
Al Mezan had reported that this same shelter had been attacked three times by the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) during the past days. In one of these attacks on 21 July 2014, as the IDF opened fire with guns and fired artillery shells in its vicinity, a women (38-year-old Mahdiya Nafez Jarad) was wounded from a bullet to her right hand.
Al Mezan Centre for Human Rights strongly condemns this war crime with the strongest terms. This attack reflects IOF's flagrant disregard to the rules of international law as well as its moral bankruptcy. There is no acceptable justification for continuous military attacks that are directed to civilians and civilian targets such as hospitals, houses, and IDP shelters which are open in coordination with the IOF, and enjoy the protection of international law. The laws and norms of war cannot condone this type of attack by any army in the world.
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