Monday, June 17, 2024

Israel bombs UN-run school in Gaza, kills dozens of displaced Palestinians

The Israeli army has targeted a United Nations-linked school in central Gaza, killing at least 40 displaced Palestinians and injuring dozens more, according to officials and local media.

The Israeli army has bombed a United Nations-linked school in central Gaza where forcibly displaced Palestinians are sheltering, killing at least 40 and wounding more than 70.

Officials from Gaza’s government media office and the Health Ministry confirmed the death toll, which included 14 children and 9 women, following Thursday’s predawn strikes which hit al-Sardi school and homes in Nuseirat camp.

Hamas, which governs the Gaza Strip, condemned the predawn attack on Thursday as a “horrible massacre” and said many women and children were among those killed and wounded.

The Palestinian Wafa news agency said that thousands of displaced Palestinians were sheltering at al-Sardi school, which is linked to the UN agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA), when it came under attack.

Ismail al-Thawabta, a spokesman for Gaza’s Government Media Office, said “huge numbers of dead and wounded” were arriving at the Al-Aqsa Hospital in central Gaza.

“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,” he told reporters.

The dead and wounded were overwhelming the hospital, “which is filled with wounded patients three times beyond its clinical capacity”, he added.

“This portends a real disaster that will lead to an even greater increase in the number of martyrs.”

Israel’s military confirmed the bombing, saying its fighter jets struck a “Hamas compound embedded inside an UNRWA school in the area of Nuseirat”. It claimed the bombing “eliminated terrorists who were planning to carry out attacks” against its forces.

Hamas rejected the Israeli statement.

“The occupation uses lying to the public opinion through false, fabricated stories to justify the brutal crime it conducted against dozens of displaced people,” al-Thawabta told the Reuters news agency.

The attack on al-Sardi came as Israeli forces stepped up their bombardment of Gaza even as the United States and mediators continued to press ahead with an effort to secure a ceasefire deal.

At least 36,600 Palestinians have been killed and 83,074 have been wounded in Israel’s eight-month war on Gaza. The brutal assault, which some countries and UN experts say amounts to genocide, began after Hamas fighters launched attacks inside Israel on October 7 of last year, killing nearly 1,200 people and taking dozens of others captive.

Efforts to end the war have so far made little headway, however.

William Burns, the director of the CIA, was in Qatar’s capital, Doha, on Wednesday to discuss a three-phase truce proposal touted last week by US President Joe Biden. The first phase calls for a six-week ceasefire, during which Hamas would free some of the captives and Israeli forces would withdraw from Gaza’s population centres and negotiations would continue for a permanent truce.

Regional and international powers have backed the proposal, but sticking points remain. Hamas has insisted on a permanent ceasefire and full withdrawal of Israeli troops.

Israel, however, has rejected those demands, saying it is prepared to discuss only temporary pauses until Hamas is defeated.

Ismail Haniyeh, the leader of Hamas, on Wednesday reiterated the group’s stance.

“The movement and factions of the resistance will deal seriously and positively with any agreement that is based on a comprehensive ending of the aggression and the complete withdrawal and prisoners swap,” he said.

Meanwhile, Israel’s Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said there would be no halt to the fighting.

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