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UN decries ‘horrific’ Israeli attack on school

UNRWA says at least 35 people have been killed in an Israeli attack on a school in Nusseirat.

UNRWA says at least 35 people have been killed in an Israeli attack on a school in Nusseirat. Photo: AAP

Israel has hit a Gaza school with what it described as a targeted air strike on up to 30 Hamas and Islamic Jihad fighters inside

A Hamas official says 40 people were killed including women and children sheltering at the United Nations site.

Video footage showed Palestinians hauling away bodies and scores of injured in a local 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 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 from the video if they included non-combatants.

The United States issued a joint statement with other countries calling on Israel and Hamas to make whatever compromises were necessary to finalise a deal after eight months of war in the Gaza Strip.

Hamas denies hidden command post

Ismail Al-Thawabta, the director of the Hamas-run government media office, rejected Israel’s assertion that the UN 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,” Mr 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 spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Peter Lerner said, accusing Hamas and Islamic Jihad fighters of deliberately using UN facilities as operational bases.

He said 20-30 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 spokesman Daniel Hagari said the military had so far identified nine of 30 Hamas and Islamic Jihad fighters targeted in the pre-dawn strike.

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

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.”

The school, run by the UN Palestinian refugee agency UNRWA, was sheltering 6000 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.”

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

‘Civilians are paying’: UN

The United Nations condemned the “horrific, tragic” 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,” spokesman Stephane Dujarric said.

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.

—AAP

Topics: Israel
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