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Sunday, 3 August 2014

Gaza school attack denounced as 'criminal act' by UN chief | World news | theguardian.com

Gaza school attack denounced as 'criminal act' by UN chief | World news | theguardian.com




Gaza school attack denounced as 'criminal act' by UN chief




Ban Ki-moon calls on those responsible to be held accountable after 10 killed and dozens injured outside school gates






Link to video: Seven dead as Israel hit UN school in Rafah, Gaza


A deadly attack on a school in the city of Rafah in the south of Gaza has been denounced as a "moral outrage" and "criminal act" by the UN secretary general, Ban Ki-moon.

At
least 10 people were killed and dozens more wounded after a projectile
struck a street outside the school gates on Sunday morning.


The
school was sheltering more than 3,000 people displaced by fighting in
the area. It has been the scene of heavy bombardment by the Israeli
military and fierce clashes following the suspected capture by Hamas
fighters of an Israeli soldier, later declared killed in action.


In
a statement, Ban called on those responsible for the "gross violation
of international humanitarian law" to be held accountable. He said the "Israel Defence Forces (IDF) have been repeatedly informed of the location of these sites."


At
the time of the strike – about 10.50am local time – dozens of children
and adults were clustered around the gates buying biscuits and sweets
from stalls set up by locals.


The missile struck the ground eight
to 10 metres from the open gates. Witnesses at the scene less than an
hour after the explosion claimed it had been fired from one of the many
unmanned Israeli drones in the air above Rafah.


United Nations officials in Gaza described a "shelling incident" or an air strike.

It
was impossible to determine the exact provenance of the projectile, but
it was the third time in 10 days that a UN school had been hit. Earlier
this week, Israeli tank shells lstruck a school in the northern town of
Jabaliya, killing 16 in an attack denounced by the UN secretary
general, Ban Ki-moon, as "reprehensible".


In all, seven UN schools have been attacked during the conflict.

Israeli spokesmen have previously blamed poorly aimed or malfunctioning Hamas mortar fire or rockets for several such incidents.

Elsewhere
in Rafah, more than 30 people were killed in bombing and shelling on
Sunday morning, bringing the total number of dead in the city in the
past 48 hours to more than 100.


The school – the Rafah Preparatory
A Boys school – is one of more than 90 shelters run by the UN in Gaza
to provide a safe haven to Palestinians fleeing the fighting. Air
strikes and shelling continued across much of Gaza on Saturday despite
the Israeli military operation "changing gear", according to spokesmen.


Amid
scenes of chaos, wounded from the school were taken to the two small
hospital facilities still open in Rafah. With no mortuary facilities
available, families collected the bodies of the dead almost immediately.
In the corridors of the Kuwaiti hospital, stunned casualties lay on
beds or slumped in chairs.


Mohammed Abu Adwan, 15, described how he and his friend, Moaz Abu Rus had been sitting outside the school gates.

"It
was just like normal. Some of the kids were buying sweets and that sort
of thing. Suddenly there was an explosion. I was hit by shrapnel and
they brought me here," he said. His friend, also 15, was killed.


Fatih Firdbari, 30, was outside the school when the explosion occurred.

"I
was just talking to my friend and leaning against his tuk-tuk
[motorised rickshaw]. There was a big bang. I felt nothing at first and
then I fell down. I looked around and saw people lying on the ground. I
was wounded in the calf," Firdbari, a farmer who had fled his lands
close to the border crossing with Egypt, said.


An hour after the blast, people sheltering in the school washed blood from around the gates and pavement outside.

The dead included a 13-year-old and a 10-year old who live near to the school and had been selling biscuits.

The
body of Yusef Iskaafi, 10, was carried into his home by midday, borne
by relatives and wrapped in a white shroud. "He was just a normal kid,
from a good family. He had no idea what was going on," a neighbour said.


Adnan
Abu Hasna, spokesman for the UN Relief and Works Agency in Gaza, said:
"It is believed that there was an air strike that hit outside the gate
of an UNRWA school, a designated shelter for at least 3,000 displaced
residents."


"There were multiple dead and injuries inside and outside the school, including an UNRWA staffer."

Regional
efforts to broker a diplomatic end to the fighting between Israel and
Hamas have so far proved elusive, with the conflict now in its 27th day
with more than 1,700 people killed. Israeli officials say nearly half of
these casualties are combatants. However, the UN says only a third are
fighters, while local NGOs say four-fifths are civilians.


A
Palestinian delegation was to hold truce talks on Sunday in Cairo with
senior US and Egyptian officials, but Israel has said it sees no point
in sending its negotiators to the meeting, citing what it says are Hamas
breaches of previous agreed truces.


Islamic Jihad was also expected to join the talks, along with the US's Middle East envoy, Frank Lowenstein.

Israeli
media reported that cabinet ministers have decided not to seek a
further negotiated ceasefire agreement with Hamas and were considering
ending the military operation unilaterally.


Israel's army announced on Sunday it had begun withdrawing some troops from Gaza.

"We
are removing some (forces)," Lieut Col Peter Lerner told AFP that
troops were "extremely close" to completing a mission to destroy a
network of attack tunnels.


"We are redeploying within the Gaza
Strip, taking out other positions, and relieving other forces from
within, so it won't be the same type of ground operation," he said.


"But indeed we will continue to operate … (and) have a rapid reaction force on the ground that can engage Hamas if required."

The IDF has claimed that Hamas and other groups launch rockets from close to schools.

"Yesterday
Palestinian terrorists fired 11 mortars from the vicinity of an UNRWA
school in Zeitoun, Gaza," the IDF said on Twitter about four hours
after the strike on the school in Rafah.


The UN has said it has
found caches of rockets at schools in Gaza and has criticised those who
had put them there for placing civilians at risk.


Israel's assault
on Rafah began early on Friday in the opening hours of a 72-hour
humanitarian truce, which was quickly shattered when militants ambushed a
group of soldiers, killing two.


A third was reported missing,
believed snatched in a development that drew sharp condemnation from US
and UN officials. But early on Sunday, the Israeli army formally
announced the death the soldier, 23-year-old Hadar Goldin, saying he had
been "killed in battle in the Gaza Strip on Friday".


Army radio
said no body had been recovered, rendering the decision to announce his
death "very delicate". There was no word on the whereabouts of his
remains.


Hamas's Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades acknowledged its
militants had staged an ambush in which two other Israeli soldiers were
killed, but denied holding Goldin.


His death raised to 64 the
total number of soldiers killed since the start of the operation, its
heaviest toll since the Lebanon war of 2006. Three civilians have been
killed in Israel. Hamas have fired about 3,000 rockets across the
border, Israeli defence officials say.


An Israeli army spokeswoman
said that so far on Sunday at least 13 rockets were fired from Gaza at
Israel. One was intercepted by Israel's anti-missile system and the rest
landed in open areas.


Israel began its air and naval offensive
against Gaza on 8 July following a surge of cross-border rocket salvoes
by Hamas and other guerrillas, later escalating the operation into
ground incursions.


Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister,
vowed to press on with "Operation Protective Edge", promising that
Hamas would pay "an insufferable price" for continued cross-border
rocket fire.


"We will take as much time as necessary, and will
exert as much force as needed," he said late on Saturday, saying troops
would complete their mission to destroy the tunnels after which the next
security objectives would be decided.


Netanyahu's remarks came
after the army gave a first indication it was ending operations in parts
of Gaza, informing residents of Beit Lahiya and Al-Atatra in the north
that it was safe to return home.


Witnesses in the north confirmed
seeing troops leaving the area as others were seen pulling out of
villages east of Khan Yunis in the south as commentators suggested it
was the start of a unilateral withdrawal.


Local people reported
limited shelling overnight in the northern areas though most were
reluctant to return to their homes following the breakdown of previous
ceasefires.


The IDF has dropped leaflets in parts of Gaza telling
local residents to "tell your hidden leaders the battle is over" and
that "all members and leaders of Hamas and other terrorist movements are
unsafe".


The UN has said 460,000 people had been displaced
by the fighting – nearly a quarter of Gaza's population. Doctors say
they are running short of medicine and that, after nearly four weeks of
conflict, the health system is breaking down.


"We have three or four patients to a room, with open wounds, in August," said one surgeon at the al-Shifa hospital in Gaza City.






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