Israeli airstrike on Gaza school kills 30 - GulfToday

Israeli airstrike on Gaza school kills 30


Palestinians mourn their relatives killed in an Israeli bombardment of a UNRWA school at Nusseirat refugee camp on Thursday. AP

An Israeli strike early on Thursday on a school-turned-shelter in central Gaza that the military claimed was being used as a Hamas compound killed at least 30 people, including five children, according to local health officials.

The strike came after the military said it was launching new air and ground operations in central Gaza in an apparent widening of its nearly eight-month offensive, launched after Hamas' Oct. 7 attack. An international medical charity had reported soaring casualties even before Thursday's strike.

The Al-Aqsa Martyrs Hospital in Deir al-Balah received at least 30 bodies from the strike on the school run by the United Nations agency for Palestinian refugees — known by the acronym UNRWA — and another six from a separate strike on a home, according to hospital records and an Associated Press reporter at the hospital. Hamas-run TV had earlier reported a higher toll.

Mohammed al-Kareem, a displaced Palestinian sheltering near the hospital, described chaotic scenes outside the facility. He said vehicles arrived one after the other, as distressed people rushed wounded people into the emergency department. Videos circulating online appeared to show several wounded people being treated on the floor of the hospital, a common scene in Gaza's overwhelmed medical wards.

Later, he saw people searching for their loved ones among bodies wrapped in white shrouds in the hospital courtyard. He said one woman kept asking medical workers to open them up to see if her son was inside.

"The situation is tragic," he said.

The Israeli military said its fighter jets struck the school that it claimed, without immediately offering evidence, that Hamas and the Islamic Jihad used as cover for their operations.

Smoke rises over the Gaza Strip, following an Israeli airstrike near the Israel-Gaza border on Wednesday. Reuters

UNRWA schools across Gaza have functioned as shelters since the start of the war, which has displaced most of the territory's population of 2.3 million Palestinians.

"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 Israeli military said.

Both strikes occurred in Nuseirat, one of several built-up refugee camps in Gaza dating back to the 1948 war surrounding Israel's creation, when hundreds of thousands of Palestinians fled or were driven from their homes in what became the new state.

Israel says it takes measures to avoid harming civilians and blames their deaths on Hamas because it positions fighters, tunnels and rocket launchers in residential areas. The military rarely comments on individual strikes, which often kill women and children.

The United States has thrown its weight behind a phased ceasefire and hostage release outlined by President Joe Biden last week. But Israel says it won’t end the war without destroying Hamas, while the group is demanding a lasting cease-fire and the full withdrawal of Israeli forces.

The military said on Wednesday that forces were operating "both above and below ground” in eastern parts of Deir al-Balah and the Bureij refugee camp in central Gaza. It said the operation began with airstrikes on infrastructure, after which troops began a "targeted daylight operation” in both areas.

Doctors Without Borders said at least 70 bodies and 300 wounded people, mostly women and children, were brought to a hospital in central Gaza on Tuesday and Wednesday after a wave of Israeli strikes.

Palestinians bring people killed in the Israeli bombardment of a hospital in Deir al Ballah, Gaza, on Wednesday. AP

The international charity said on Wednesday in a post on X that Al-Aqsa Martyrs Hospital is struggling to treat "a huge influx of patients, many of them arriving with severe burns, shrapnel wounds, fractures, and other traumatic injuries.”

Gaza’s health system has nearly collapsed through almost eight months of war. The hospital, which was treating some 700 wounded and sick people before the latest strikes, said on Wednesday that one of its two electrical generators had stopped working, threatening its ability to keep operating ventilators and incubators for premature babies.

Israel has routinely launched airstrikes in all parts of Gaza since the start of the war and has carried out massive ground operations in the territory’s two largest cities, Gaza City and Khan Younis, that left much of them in ruins.

The military waged an offensive earlier this year for several weeks in Bureij and several other nearby refugee camps in central Gaza.

Troops pulled out of the Jabaliya camp in northern Gaza last Friday after weeks of fighting caused widespread destruction. First responders have recovered the bodies of 360 people, mostly women and children, killed during the battles.

Israel sent troops into Rafah in May in what it said was a limited incursion, but those forces are now operating in central parts of Gaza’s southernmost city. More than 1 million people have fled Rafah since the start of the operation, with many heading toward central Gaza.

Associated Press




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