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Israel Hits Another UN School In Gaza; At Least 20 Refugees Killed

A child injured in an Israeli attack on the UNRWA shelter in Jabalia, Gaza. (Basel Yazouri/Activestills.org)

A child injured in an Israeli attack on the UNRWA shelter in Jabalia, Gaza. (Basel Yazouri/Activestills.org)

At least 20 Palestinians were killed when Israeli tank shells directly blasted a United Nations school housing thousands of refugees in Jabalia early on Wednesday.

More than 3,300 refugees from Israel’s 23-day Operation Protective Edge assault on Gaza were sleeping in the Jabalia Elementary Girls’ School when it was shelled by Israeli forces, who had been warned 17 times about the location and purpose of the shelter.

“UNRWA condemns in the strongest possible terms this serious violation of international law by Israeli forces,” UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) spokesman Chris Gunness said following the attack.

“Children sleeping next to their parents on the floor of a UN-designated safe area have been killed,” added Gunness. “It is an affront to humanity. The world should hang its head in shame.”

Survivors described a scene of bloody devastation.

“We found people torn to pieces,” Allah al-Bes, a 33-year-old who was sheltering at the school with his wife and three sons, told the Washington Post. “It was like hell.”

Al-Bes, who said his family fled to the Jabalia school after Israel attacked another UNRWA shelter in Beit Hanoun, added that “no place is safe in Gaza.”

At the nearby Kamal Adwan Hospital, medical staff were overwhelmed by scores of civilians injured in the attack. Many of the wounded were children.

Many of the people seeking refuge at the school had fled their homes after Israeli forces dropped leaflets warning them of an imminent escalation in IDF attacks. More than 180,000 Gaza residents have flocked to around 80 UN schools for protection.

Gunness said UNRWA had conducted crater analysis and shrapnel inspection and has “no doubt” that “this is Israeli artillery.”

Israeli military officials said they were investigating the incident. An IDF spokeswoman said Palestinian fighters near the school had fired mortars at invading Israeli troops, who fired back.

Israel had declared a four-hour “humanitarian window” during the time of the school attack, but IDF officials said the respite did not apply to areas where its soldiers were operating.

The Jabalia attack marked the second time in the past week that Israeli forces have attacked a UN school housing Gaza refugees. Last Thursday, artillery shells blasted the courtyard of a Beit Hanoun school, killing 17 and wounding at least 200 others.

Gunness said this was the sixth time a UNRWA school has been attacked by Israeli forces during the current war. Israel counters that rockets used to attack it have been found at two such schools. UNRWA has strongly condemned the placement of rockets in its facilities.

More than 1,300 Palestinians, the vast majority of them innocent civilians, have been killed during Israel’s 23-day war in Gaza. More than 100 Palestinians have died on Wednesday, including at least 17 people killed when Israeli forces shelled a market in the obliterated Shejaiya neighborhood, Palestine’s Maan News Agency reports.

Witnesses reported scenes of unimaginable carnage after Israeli forces shelled Jabalia.

“Rockets started falling on our houses,” one resident told Democracy Now. “Our entire area is filled with civilians… one rocket fell here… We saw people torn apart, severed heads, blood and limbs. Most of them were women.”

More than 30 civilians were also reportedly executed by Hamas for protesting against the democratically elected Islamic extremist group and for allegedly collaborating with Israel.

The latest school attack came a day after Israel bombed Gaza’s only power plant, leaving the densely populated strip without electricity or running water.

On the Israeli side, 53 IDF troops have been killed in combat and two civilians have been killed by rocket and mortar fire from Gaza. One Thai farmer has also been killed.

Meanwhile, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu asked the United States for help in brokering a ceasefire.

“Last night we talked, and the prime minister talked to me about an idea and the possibility of a ceasefire,” said US Secretary of State John Kerry.

Hamas said that any potential ceasefire must include an end to Israeli aggression and a lifting of the crippling eight-year blockade of Gaza.

“There is no ceasefire without the stop of the aggression and the end of the siege,” Hamas official Mohammed Deif said in a Wednesday television and radio address.

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