On July 24, a UN school in Beit Lahiya where Gaza Strip residents were sheltering was shelled by Israeli tanks, which killed 16 and wounded hundreds. Israel denies responsibility for the attack. Israel also denies the severity of the alleged attack, although there are reports indicating that the school had been bombed and nearby journalists witnessed the bombing.
Currently parts of the Gaza Strip are in ruins. There are reports of factories and other buildings burning without any one attempting to extinguish the blaze. On–site journalists report that the streets are empty save for a few people. At a nearby hospital where victims were being treated a young man was in tears, shouting that he had lost three siblings and his mother in the attack. Witnesses and victims recall the Red Cross arriving at the UN school warning the refugees to evacuate the building. Within a few minutes of the warning the refugees were bombarded by falling shellfire. The Red Cross denies this report. This was not an isolated incident, according to the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA). Two all girl schools were bombed on July 21 and 23. One school was bombed for a second time during a UNRWA staff investigation that had been recognized and approved by Israeli authorities.
Although Israel denies responsibility for the bombing and killing of Gaza Strip refugees sheltering at this UN school, the current Gaza Strip death toll has exceeded 1000. Israel claims most of the dead were Hamas fighters. In comparison, 48 Israeli soldiers and three Israeli civilians have been killed, due to the Iron Dome defense system providing protection from even greater Israeli casualties. In spite of diplomatic efforts by the UN and the U.S., no ceasefire agreement has suited either Israel or Palestine, and today Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu indicated this conflict would not end in the immediate future due in part to Palestinian forces crossing the border into Israel.
A UNRWA spokesperson stated the team had informed Israel’s army 12 times that they intended to coordinate relocation of the refugees, but received no response from the Israeli army. UNRWA found 20 rockets hiding in a vacant school in Gaza which was directly in violation of international law. They informed those who had been involved and submitted an official report of the shelling to Israel. Yesterday a spokesman for the Israeli military admitted that a mortar had detonated in the courtyard of the UN school but had not killed anyone. He provided drone footage that showed a bombing of a vacated area; however the specifics of what and where the particular incident occurred were not clearly shown in the video.
Netanyahu addressed Israel today, stating the conflict would not end quickly and the Israeli people should be prepared for a “protracted campaign.” He stated this campaign would not end until the entire network of tunnels built by Hamas are found and destroyed. Israel, who denies responsibility for the UNRWA school attack issued a warning to Palestinian residents sheltering at nearby UN schools to evacuate areas adjacent to Gaza City. His statements were a clear signal of major strikes on the way.
By Adrianne Hill