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UN declares Israeli attack on UN school ‘a criminal act’

Israel-Gaza conflict:

United Nations calls for those responsible for the ‘moral outrage’ to be bought to account


An Israeli attack on a UN school in Gaza which killed 10 people today was “a moral outrage and a criminal act”, according to the United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, who called for those responsible for the “gross violation of international law” to be brought to account.

It was the seventh time a UN shelter has been hit in the 27 days of the Gaza conflict. The victims had all taken shelter in the schools after being instructed by the Israeli military to leave their homes.

The latest deaths took place in Rafah, which has been subjected to a ferocious assault after Israel accused Hamas of kidnapping a soldier and killing two others in an ambush. The dead were among 118 reported killed today by the Palestinian ministry of health, bring the number of Palestinians killed to more than 1,800.

On Saturday evening, the Israeli military confirmed that Lieutenant Hadar Goldin was killed in action. But there was no respite in the attacks and this morning’s blast, at the entrance of the Rafah Preparatory A Boys School, came as a group of boys and girls were gathered around a stall selling sweets and crisps.

Of the 10 dead, four were children aged between five and 12. Their bodies, wrapped in blankets, were laid on the pavement outside before being moved to a local hospital. Some of the adults were in a food queue just inside when the blast took place. The missile had left a shallow indentation where it had hit the road, spraying shrapnel.

The deaths came as some Israeli forces began to withdraw from the northern parts of Gaza. Residents were told they could return to those areas. However, some who did do so came under fire; among them were the Sobah family, four of whom were injured in a drone strike minutes after arriving in Beit Lahiya.

The attacks on the schools had led to bitter international recriminations, with the UN Secretary-General and foreign governments criticising the Israeli military. The shelling of a shelter at Jabaliya, in the north, killing 19, was condemned by Mr Ban as “unjustifiable and shameful”  and drew an unusually severe rebuke from the Obama administration.

The Israeli military had been informed no less than 17 times about the location of the Jabaliya school, the UN revealed. An attack the previous week in Beit Lahiya, resulting in 16 deaths, led to the UN and the Israeli military trading accusations over who was to blame for a failure to evacuate the building.The funeral of Lt Hadar Goldin, who was said to have been captured, but was later declared to have been killed in action

After the Rafah attack, the director of operations for the UN’s agency for Palestinian refugees in Gaza, Robert Turner, once again insisted that there was no excuse for not knowing the school was being used for refugees. “The locations of these installations have been passed on to the Israeli military multiple times” he said. “They know where these shelters are; how this continued to happen, I have no idea. I have no words for it, I don’t understand it.”

Although most of the Israeli military action had been around the east of Rafah, there had been steady firing during the night around the school in the Nijma district in the centre of the city.

Salah al-Malal, 24, was using the washing facilities near the main gate in preparation for going to the funeral of a friend, killed by tank fire the previous day, when he was blown off his feet by a blast. “I heard a whistling sound and then a huge crash. I could feel pain  along my legs,” he said. “There were lots of children with blood on them, I tried to go towards them to help, then I fell.”

Fifteen-year-old Mohammed Nazmi Olwan had already received leg injuries when his home was hit by an air strike 20 days ago. “After that my father decided that we must move and we went to the school,” he said at the Kuwaiti Hospital in Rafah. “Of course we had heard about other schools being attacked, but then, where else can one go to? But I did not think I would be injured again. I did not think I would be so unlucky.”

Mohammed was lying on a stretcher in a corridor as nurses stitched the wounds on his stomach and thighs. The main hospital in the city, al-Najjar, was badly damaged by an artillery strike and this is the smallest of three hospitals to which casualties have been sent.

About 58 bodies had to be abandoned when al-Najjar was evacuated. They were brought this morning to the Kuwaiti Hospital and, wrapped in shrouds, were packed into a room. Some of the ambulance crews said they had been shot at as they travelled through the streets.

Dr Mohammed Al-Hams, who had arrived at the Kuwaiti Hospital from Al-Najjar, said: “ We had to get the bodies. They would have decomposed if we had left them there in the heat. As you can see there are families here and they will take the bodies for burial. Some, however, have severe injuries, and it may be difficult to identify them.

“This is a private hospital and takes only ten beds.”

A house close to the hospital was bombed on Saturday, killing four members of the Taha family, including a two-month-old baby. This afternoon there was another bombing, even nearer. “It is getting more and more dangerous” said Dr Hams. “ We may have to evacuate, which will mean there’ll be really no immediate medical care for people here.”

The death toll in Gaza has also become an issue in British politics. Ed Miliband, the Labour leader, has accused David Cameron of staying silent to appease potential critics within in his own party. He accused Mr Cameron of “silence on the killing of hundreds of Palestinian civilians”.

Israel-Gaza conflict: Israel calls ceasefire as world condemns Rafah UN school shelling

But Israel said ‘humanitarian window’ did not apply to areas where troops were still operating – including Rafah itself

The missile strike that killed 10 in Rafah yesterday was the seventh time a UN shelter had been struck since the conflict began on 8 July, and was described as a “moral outrage and a criminal act” by the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

The military said its “humanitarian window”, which was set to start at 10am (8am BST) this morning and last for seven hours, would be enforced in all parts of Gaza except where troops were already operating – in other words, Rafah.

The Obama administration was also quick to issue an unusually strong response to the Rafah school attack, saying the US was “appalled” by the “disgraceful shelling”. The US Department of State called upon Israel, a long-term ally, to do more to prevent harm to civilians.

Israel has withdrawn most of its soldiers from northern and central Gaza, and officials said that it was close to the completion of its efforts to destroy Hamas’s network of cross-border tunnels throughout the Strip.


A military spokesperson said that, as with other truces, the military “will return fire” if rockets continue to be used by militants.

Hamas currently has envoys deployed to Egypt for negotiations on a longer-term peace deal, which Israel has now shunned in a show of anger at the suicide bomb ambush that killed three soldiers in Rafah on Friday.

The militant group confirmed that it did not recognise the latest ceasefire called by Israel, accusing the military of trying “to divert attention away from the Israeli massacres”. Its spokesperson, Sami Abu Zuhri, said: “We do not trust such a calm and we urge our people to exercise caution.”

Meanwhile, a militant leader has been killed by an Israeli airstrike launched just before dawn in northern Gaza. Daniel Mansour, the northern commander of key Hamas allies the Islamic Jihad, died when a missile hit his home.

Gazan officials said almost 1,800 Palestinians, most of them civilians, have been killed and more than a quarter of its 1.8 million residents displaced. Israel has lost 64 soldiers in combat and three civilians to Palestinian cross-border shelling.

Many of those evacuated from their homes in Gaza have taken shelter in UN-run facilities, the latest strike on which Mr Ban called a “gross violation of international humanitarian law”.


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