33 killed as Israeli army strikes ’Hamas compound’ inside UN school in Gaza

Gaza war update: The Israeli military said that Hamas militants were operating from within the school. It further claimed that the terrorists belonged to the Nukhba Forces and participated in the October 7 massacre. It added that several terrorists were “eliminated” in the strike.

Livemint
Updated6 Jun 2024, 08:05 PM IST
Gaza war update: This handout picture released by the Israeli army on June 6, 2024 shows an Israeli soldier taking aim through a window during operations in the Gaza Strip amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian militant group Hamas.
Gaza war update: This handout picture released by the Israeli army on June 6, 2024 shows an Israeli soldier taking aim through a window during operations in the Gaza Strip amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian militant group Hamas. (AFP)

At least 33 people were killed after the Israeli army said it had carried out a deadly strike on a UN school in central Gaza on Thursday. The army claimed that the school housed a "Hamas compound".

The Israel Defense Forces posted on X, "several Hamas and Islamic Jihad terrorists who embedded themselves inside of an @UNRWA school." It said, “IAF fighter jets conducted a precise strike on a Hamas compound embedded inside the school in the area of Nuseirat."

The Israeli military said that Hamas militants were operating from within the school. It further claimed that the terrorists belonged to the Nukhba Forces and participated in the October 7 massacre. It added that several terrorists were "eliminated" in the strike.

The IDF also clarified that 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."

33 dead in Israeli strike

At least 33 were reported dead from the strike, including 14 children and nine women, news agency the Associated Press reported while citing the hospital records. Another strike on a house overnight killed six people, according to the records. 

Both strikes occurred in Nuseirat, one of several built-up refugee camps in Gaza dating 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.

Witnesses and hospital officials said the predawn strike hit the al-Sardi School, run by the United Nations agency for Palestinian refugees known by the acronym UNRWA. The school was filled with Palestinians who had fled Israeli offensives and bombardment in northern Gaza, they said.

Ayman Rashed, a man displaced from Gaza City who was sheltering at the school, said the missiles hit classrooms on the second and third floor where families were sheltering. 

He said he helped carry out five dead, including an old man and two children, one with his head shattered open. “It was dark, with no electricity, and we struggled to get out the victims,” Rashed was quoted by the Associated Press as saying.

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Casualties from school strike arrived at the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Hospital in nearby Deir al-Balah, which had already been overwhelmed by a stream of constant ambulances since the central Gaza incursion began 24 hours earlier, said Omar al-Derawi, a photographer working for the hospital.

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. Electricity in much of the hospital is out because staff are rationing fuel supplies for the generator.

'Israeli army wasn't aware of any civilian casualties'

An Israeli military spokesman, Lt Col Peter Lerner, said that the army wasn't aware of any civilian casualties in the strike. He said that intelligence indicated that militants had used the school compound to orchestrate some of the attacks on October 7 and that at least 20 militants there were using it currently as a “staging realm” to launch attacks on Israeli soldiers.

The military gave no evidence for its claims and released a photo of the school, pointing to classrooms on the second and third floor where it claimed militants were located.

The military said it took steps before the strike "to reduce the risk of harming uninvolved civilians ... including conducting aerial surveillance, and additional intelligence information.”

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

Israeli attacks in Rafah

Israel sent troops into Rafah in early May in what it said was a limited incursion, but those forces are now operating in central parts of the city. More than 1 million people have fled Rafah since the start of the operation, scattering across southern and central Gaza into new tent camps or crowding into schools and homes.

Israel launched its campaign in Gaza after Hamas' October 7 attack into Israel, in which militants killed some 1,200 people and took another 250 hostage. Israel's offensive has killed at least 36,000 Palestinians, according to Gaza's Health Ministry, which does not distinguish between fighters and civilians in its figures.

Israel blames civilian deaths on Hamas because it positions fighters, tunnels and rocket launchers in residential areas.

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. 

(With inputs from AP)

 

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First Published:6 Jun 2024, 08:05 PM IST
HomeNewsworld33 killed as Israeli army strikes ’Hamas compound’ inside UN school in Gaza

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