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Palestinians inspect damages after an Israeli airstrike on a school for displaced people run by UNRWA in Nuseirat refugee camp. Alamy Stock Photo

'Why bomb us?': At least 40 people killed in Israeli airstrike on UN school in Gaza

Osama Hamdan, a Hamas official based in Beirut, said: “There is no (ceasefire) proposal – they are just words said by Biden in a speech.”


AN ISRAELI AIRSTRIKE on a school in the Nuseirat refugee camp in central Gaza has killed at 40 people, according to Hamas’ al-Aqsa television broadcaster.

The Israeli military said its fighter jets struck the school run by the United Nations agency providing aid to the Palestinians, UNRWA. 

UNRWA’s commissioner general Philippe Lazzarini said that Israel had bombed the school “without prior warning” given to the 6,000 displaced Palestinians sheltering there. “Another horrific day in Gaza.”

The Israeli military (IDF) said it had killed several “terrorists” in a “precision strike on a Hamas compound embedded inside a UNRWA school”.

Al Jazeera reported that officials from the Gaza Health Ministry confirmed the toll of 40 dead – with 14 children and 9 women among them – and 70 injured.

“Another UNRWA school turned shelter attacked,” Lazzarini wrote on X. “Attacking, targeting or using UN buildings for military purposes are a blatant disregard of International Humanitarian law.”

He added that UNRWA “shares the coordinates of all its facilities (including this school) with the Israeli army and other parties in the conflict”.

“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 (are paying),” UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’s spokesman Stephane Dujarric said.

“Of course he condemns this attack. There will need to be accountability for everything that has happened in Gaza.”

deir-el-balah-palestinian-territories-06th-june-2024-relatives-mourn-over-the-bodies-of-people-killed-after-an-israeli-airstrike-on-a-un-school-housing-displaced-palestinians-in-nuseirat-at-a-hos Relatives mourn over the bodies of people killed after an Israeli airstrike on a UN school housing displaced Palestinians in Nuseirat, at a hospital ground in Deir el-Balah. Alamy Stock Photo Alamy Stock Photo

“This horrible massacre committed by the Israeli occupation is clear evidence of genocide, ethnic cleansing against civilians, including women and children and displaced people in the Gaza Strip,” Hamas spokesperson Ismail al-Thawabta told reporters.

The Israeli military claimed, without immediately offering evidence, that Hamas and the Islamic Jihad used the school as cover for their operations.

“Before the strike, a number of steps were taken to reduce the risk of harming uninvolved civilians during the strike, including conducting aerial surveillance, and additional intelligence information,” the IDF claimed.

US  State Department spokesman Matthew Miller told reporters today that Israel said more information about the strike would be released.

“The government of Israel has said that they are going to release more information about this strike, including the names of those who died in it. We expect them to be fully transparent in making that information public,” he said.

Miller said the United States believed Israeli assessments that Hamas has at times hidden in civilian infrastructure, but said it was waiting for information on the latest strike.

“We’ve seen the claims that 14 children were killed in this strike, and certainly, when you see – if that is accurate – that 14 children were killed, those aren’t terrorists,” he said.

Israel has bombed refugee camps, schools, hospitals and residential buildings throughout the war on Gaza. Last week, an IDF airstrike on a camp for displaced people in a so-called “safe area” drew a fresh round of condemnation from around the world. 

That attack killed 45 people and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called it “a tragic mistake”. 

At least 36,654 people have been killed during the Israeli War on Gaza that began after the Hamas-led attack on southern Israel on 7 October. 

Tánaiste and Foreign Affairs Minister Micheál Martin said it is difficult “verify or validate” Israeli assertions regarding last night’s bombing, given that so few people are there to witness the IDF’s conduct. 

Israel has banned all foreign media from entering Gaza since the conflict began. Some exceptions were made but reporters had to submit their work for censorship by Israel.

“What we do know from the history of this war so far is that there has been indiscriminate bombing, very large bombs used on Gaza,” Martin said.

“There has been a deliberate campaign to undermine UNWRA as an organisation for quite some time.”

He said that without the organisation, humanitarian aid simply could not be distributed.

Nuseirat is a built-up Palestinian refugee camp in central Gaza dating back to 1948, when hundreds of thousands of Palestinians were forced from their homes during the Nakba (Catastrophe), when Israel was founded. 

The Israeli military published a graphic of the school, which clearly had “UN” on its roof. The graphic described the strikes targeting two areas of the building on its upper floors.

‘Appalling news’

The European Union’s foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell has called for an independent investigation into the school bombing. 

“Reports coming from Gaza time and again show that violence and suffering are still the only reality for hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians. This appalling news must be independently investigated,” Borrell wrote on X.

Israeli rights group B’Tselem called the strike a “suspected war crime”.

“If, as Israel claims, Hamas used the school to plan military operations, this action is illegal, but it cannot justify the massive harm to civilians who sought shelter in the school from the horror of prolonged fighting,” the group said in a statement.

“As demonstrated throughout the war, the killing of civilians is an unavoidable result of the character of Israel’s military activity in the Gaza Strip,” it said, urging the international community to help stop the fighting.

a-palestinian-looks-at-the-aftermath-of-the-israeli-strike-on-a-u-n-run-school-that-killed-dozens-of-people-in-the-nusseirat-refugee-camp-in-the-gaza-strip-thursday-june-6-2024-ap-photoismael-a A Palestinian looks at the aftermath of the Israeli strike on a UN-run school that killed dozens of people in the Nuseirat refugee camp. Alamy Stock Photo Alamy Stock Photo

‘Why bomb us?’ 

Faisal Thari’s quest for safety led him to seek refuge in the UN school that was bombed.

Shocked, he deplored the civilian toll of the Gaza war.

“The strike landed on civilians and poor people who had nothing to do with anything,” Thari told the AFP news agency.

“Why? What have we done for them to bomb us?” he said, standing in front of concrete hanging from the classroom ceiling by a thread of rebar.

“We’ve fled from place to place. There is no safe place. No UNRWA school is safe. No tent is safe. There is no safe place,” he said, referring to the UN agency for Palestinian refugees.

deir-el-balah-palestinian-territories-06th-june-2024-palestinians-inspect-damages-after-an-israeli-airstrike-on-a-school-for-displaced-people-run-by-the-united-nations-relief-and-works-agency-for Palestinians inspect damages after an Israeli airstrike on a school sheltering displaced people in Gaza. Alamy Stock Photo Alamy Stock Photo

‘Just words’

US President Joe Biden’s announcement of what he described as an Israeli ceasefire proposal has been dismissed by Hamas as “just words”. 

Biden publicly announced a three-stage plan that would see the fighting end and captives returned on both sides but Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu almost immediately rejected it when he said his war aim of totally destroying Hamas had not changed.

He said there would only be a ceasefire after Hamas had been completely destroyed.

Some of the details in Biden’s speech also did not align with what the Israeli war cabinet had discussed, particularly the section about extensions of an initial six-week truce. 

Osama Hamdan, a Hamas official based in Beirut, Lebanon told AFP: “There is no proposal – they are just words said by Biden in a speech.”

“So far, the Americans have not presented anything documented or written that commits them to what Biden said in his speech,” he said.

Hamdan said Biden “tried to cover up the Israeli rejection” of another deal offered earlier in May, which had been approved by Hamas.

Meanwhile, Palestinian prime minister Mohammed Mustafa has said in Baghdad that the Palestinian Authority was ready to re-establish “unified” Palestinian leadership after the conflict in Gaza.

The Palestinian leadership has been split since 2007, with the PA, led by Mahmud Abbas, holding limited authority in the occupied West Bank, while the Islamist Hamas controls the Gaza Strip.

“We are ready, as Palestinians, to assume our responsibilities from the day after (the Gaza war ends) in order to help… restore the unity of the Palestinian people and leadership,” Mustafa said during a news conference with Iraqi Foreign Minister Fuad Hussein.

“We also need to be well prepared for the creation of a (Palestinian) state and the responsibilities that this entails,” he added.

With reporting from Jane Moore, AFP and Press Association.

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