Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 22 October 2014

Israel-Gaza conflict: UN accuse Israel of possible war crime after shelling of one of its schools kills 19 and injuries more than 100

Palestinian freelance photographer Motaz Al Salhy, center, accompanied by colleagues, cries as he holds the bloodied helmet of his friend, freelance cameraman Rami Rayan, who was killed while working, in an Israeli strike in Shijaiyah neighborhood outside the morgue of Gaza City's Shifa hospital, on Wednesday, July 30, 2014. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)
Palestinian freelance photographer Motaz Al Salhy, center, accompanied by colleagues, cries as he holds the bloodied helmet of his friend, freelance cameraman Rami Rayan, who was killed while working, in an Israeli strike in Shijaiyah neighborhood outside the morgue of Gaza City's Shifa hospital, on Wednesday, July 30, 2014. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)
Palestinians injured from an Israeli Strike in Shijaiyah neighborhood, wait to receive treatment, at the emergency room of Shifa Hospital, in Gaza City, Wednesday, July 30, 2014. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)
Palestinians injured from an Israeli Strike in Shijaiyah neighborhood, wait to receive treatment, at the emergency room of Shifa Hospital, in Gaza City, Wednesday, July 30, 2014. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)
Pro-Palestine demonstrators face off with pro-Israel demonstrators on July 22, 2014 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
Pro-Palestine demonstrators face off with pro-Israel demonstrators on July 22, 2014 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Faiza Al-Tanboura had not spoken for 21 days since a missile strike destroyed her home. In the early hours of this morning she found her voice: “The children. Don't let them kill the children,” she shouted as she ran out into the playground of a UN school under Israeli tank fire.

Today's attack on the Jabaliya Elementary Girls School has been described as a possible war crime by the UN. The Israeli authorities, it said, had been told no less than 17 times that it was full of refugees, the last warning message delivered on 8.50 on Tuesday evening.

But, seven and half hours later, a series of shells smashed into the building, destroying two of the classrooms, killing 19 and injuring more than a hundred others. Pierre Krahenbuhl, the commissioner for UN agency for Palestinian refugees, described the killings as “a source of universal shame”. Investigations clearly showed, he maintained, that Israeli fire was to blame, condemning “in the strongest possible terms this serious violation of international law by Israeli forces.”

The Israeli military stated that militants had been firing mortar rounds from the vicinity of the school and troops had returned fire; a spokeswoman added that an investigation was under way to ascertain what had happened. Hamas and Islamic Jihad had been accused repeatedly of storing and using weapons in civilian areas; and the Israelis have produced photographs showing, they said, rockets being stored in mosques.

This evening, after Israel had declared a four hour humanitarian ceasefire, came another attack, on a busy market in Shijaiyah, between Gaza City and the Israeli border, leaving 15 dead and 150 injured.

Earlier, Mr Krahenbuhl wanted to stress that those at the school had been placed in the line of fire after they “were instructed to leave their homes by the Israeli military. The precise location of the school and that it was housing thousands of people was communicated to the Israeli army 17 times to ensure its protection.”

The Independent met some of the families at the shelter 10 days ago. “I told you that you would come back here,” said Mohammed Abu Jarad this morning amid the destruction. “You remember me saying something like this would happen? Many of us felt this way, but we stayed on, where else could we go? There's nowhere safe”, he added as we watched UN workers gather body parts and remove fragments of ordnance.

Eight members of the Abu Jarad family had been killed in a missile strike at their home in the town of Beit Hanoun 10 days ago. Four of them were children, the youngest Moussa, a baby of seven months. At the funeral his body, and that of two and half year old Hania, with blood on their shrouds and faces, were carried by relays of men. Mahmoud Abu Jarad, an uncle had said: “We want the Israelis to see what they have done. Perhaps they will feel some pity and stop this slaughter.”

The Jabaliya shelter was already full and overflowing when 10 members of the Abu Jarad family arrived there on 19 July, to move into a classroom already hosting 30 people. One of the other families there were the Al-Tanboura, they were deeply worried about Faiza, a woman in her mid-30s, who had barely uttered a word since fleeing her burning house in the town of Al-Atrat. “We will have to take her to a doctor when all this is over, they are busy treating the wounded now”, Somaya, a cousin, had observed.

“Our capacity is around 700, now we are having to cope with more than 1,600,” the UNRWA director of the school, Nassar Al-Jadiyan had said at the time; now it stands at 3,300. The total death toll for Palestinians on the day was 340, it stands today at around 1,210.

Palestinians gather outside a classroom at the Abu Hussein UN school
Palestinians gather outside a classroom at the Abu Hussein UN school

There had been an attack on a UN school in Beit Hanoun last week in which 15 were killed with recriminations afterwards between the UN and Hamas over the failure to carry out an evacuation. “Here there was no warning from the Israelis and I am very surprised this has happened” said Mr Jadiyan. “I thought Beit Hanoun, well it was closer to the border, but I don't understand why this should happen here.

“Having an attack was always going to lead to a lot of casualties. We have had the numbers build up here, people were very frightened so they kept coming in, we couldn't turn them away.”

The pressure of numbers meant that many, all of them men, were sleeping outside in a courtyard which was used as the playground when the school was open. Among them were Talal al-Ghamayem and his three sons, five-year-old Ahmed, Younis, 15, and Mohammad, 11, a family from Beit Hanoun who had spoken in previous meetings about how eager they were to get back home and then discovered, on returning during a temporary ceasefire, that there was no home left to go back to.

When the first explosion came, demolishing a classroom at the front of the building where the majority of the deaths had taken place, Halima al-Ghamayem had run out to look for her husband and sons. The next shell landed in the courtyard, hitting her with flying shrapnel and also injuring five-year-old Ahmed.

Ghader, 17, had tried to stop her mother running out. “But I couldn't, she was so desperate. We managed to pick her up after she was injured and drag her inside. She just wanted to know about Ahmed. But, very luckily, he wasn't too badly hurt. But what will happen next time?”

Ola Abu Jarad lay on her mattress on the floor listening to the approaching sound of shells landing thinking, she said, of members of her family who had already died. At one point she heard what she thought were cries of pains and feared that an attack had already taken place on the school.

What had happened, in fact, was that paddock nearby had been hit and the screams were from injured donkeys and horses. They had been used by refugees to bring them to the shelter, fuel for cars having long run out in some of the border areas.

The school was hit minutes later; the Abu Jarads spent the next hour trying to find each other in the smoke and confusion. This afternoon Mohammed Abu Jarad was desperately trying to find somewhere else to stay. “We need to get out of here, everyone needs to get out of here. Otherwise you and the other journalists will have to come back here, they will hit this place again. But we can't find anywhere, it's impossible.”

People were rushing in and out of the classrooms, asking about the injured, anxiously wondering whether there was any place at all in Gaza which was safe. Faiza al-Tanboura was oblivious to it all, sitting in a corner, hands clasped around her knees, gently rocking to and fro. “She has stopped talking again,” said a cousin.

Source: Independent

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Further reading

Gaza: 13 killed as shells hit UN school 

China 'hacks data' from Israel's Iron Dome missile shield, says report 

Surgeons deliver baby girl by Caesarean section after mother is killed in air strike 

Israeli bombs blast Hamas media hub

Fury at Sinn Fein 'boycott Israel' call

Obama presses Netanyahu to call ‘immediate and unconditional’ Gaza ceasefire

Unionist Lord Kilclooney under fire as he attacks Israel’s blitz on Gaza  

John Prescott condemns Israel's bombardment of Gaza as a 'war crime' 

Pope Francis issues desperate plea to fighters - 'I ask you with all my heart, stop please' 

The secret report that helps Israelis to hide facts 

Gaza war rages despite truce vows

Israel-Hamas ceasefire: At least 60 bodies found in Gaza after 12-hour truce begins

Robert Fisk: What would we do if it had been 35 Palestinian dead, and 800 Israeli? 

Israeli targeting policy under scrutiny after shellfire hits a mother and child, a school full of refugees and a doctor’s home

Israel may have committed war crimes in Gaza, says UN's human rights chief Navi Pillay

Civilian casualties in Gaza tell stories of death and heartbreak 

Deadly flechette shells used by Israeli military in Gaza 

The myth of Hamas’s human shield 

Israel-Gaza conflict: UN chief Ban Ki-moon pushing for ceasefire

Gaza bloodbath claims 500 Palestinian lives in relentless Israeli onslaught

Israel-Gaza conflict: Gaza suffers its deadliest day after ‘heinous massacre’ in Shuja’iya

Scores dead in Gaza ground battle 

Gaza action 'must be proportionate'

Israel more brutal than Hitler: Turkish PM

Thousands gather for Gaza protest

What if British had treated Northern Irish like Israel treats Palestine?

Israel launches Gaza ground offensive as four more Palestinian children are killed including a five-month-old baby

Response to Gaza 'lily-livered'

Gaza children killed as they played football on the beach

Israeli government insists it does not target civilians – the day after four children are killed by shelling

Israel actions 'disproportionate'

Gaza: Four Palestinian boys killed in Israeli rocket attack on beach

The deep-lying racism fuelling the Israeli onslaught

Alexei Sayle: Israel is Jimmy Savile of nation states

'Sderot cinema’ image shows Israelis with popcorn and hookahs 'cheering as missiles strike Palestinian targets'

Gaza back-story: A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory

From the archives

Students offered grants if they make pro-Israel Facebook posts and tweets  

Cameraman in Gaza 'killed by deadly flechettes fired from Israeli tank'

Israel 'used white phosphorus deliberately and recklessly'

Kim Sengupta: Claims that Israel is using white phosphorus illegally won't go away

UN: Israelis hit our headquarters in Gaza with 'white phosphorus' shells 

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Gaza: Demolished in three weeks. Rebuilding it will take years

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