July 24, 2014
At least 15 people have been killed and more than 200 injured when a UN-run school used as a shelter in Gaza was shelled, the Gaza health ministry says.
Hundreds of Palestinians were in the school in Beit Hanoun, fleeing heavy fighting in the area.
It is the fourth time that a UN school has been hit in Israel’s offensive against Hamas militants.
In the past 16 days of fighting, more than 750 Palestinians and 33 Israelis have been killed, officials say.
Israel launched its military offensive on 8 July with the declared objective of stopping Hamas firing rockets from Gaza.
UN chief Ban Ki-moon said he was “appalled” by the attack on the school in northern Gaza.
“Today’s attack underscores the imperative for the killing to stop – and to stop now,” he said in a statement.
Pools of blood
Earlier on Thursday, UN humanitarian chief Valerie Amos said that it was “vital” to have a ceasefire as more than 118,000 people were now sheltering in UN schools and people were running out of food.
Correspondents say pools of blood lay on the ground in the courtyard of the school in Beit Hanoun, and there was a large scorch mark where it appeared a shell had hit.
UN officials said that during the course of the day they had been trying to negotiate a window of time with the Israeli army for civilians to leave the area because of the heavy fighting.
But Chris Gunness, a spokesman for the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine refugees (Unrwa), said it was never granted.
He said the Israeli army had been formally given the co-ordinates of the shelter in Beit Hanoun.
The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said in a statement that it was in the midst of combat “with Hamas terrorists in the area of Beit Hanoun, who are using civilian infrastructure and international symbols as human shields”.
“In the course of the afternoon, several rockets launched by Hamas from within the Gaza Strip landed in the Beit Hanoun area. The IDF is reviewing the incident,” it said.
The BBC’s Chris Morris in Gaza says casualties from the attack have been taken to several local hospitals.
The UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (Ocha) says a 1.9 mile (3km) wide strip, encompassing 44% of Gaza, has been designated as a no-go zone by the Israeli military.
Khaled Meshaal, the leader of Islamist militant group Hamas, has said there can be no ceasefire to ease the conflict without an end to Israel’s blockade.
Israel imposed restrictions on the Gaza Strip in 2006, after Hamas abducted Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit.
The measures were tightened by Israel and Egypt in 2007, after Hamas ousted rival Fatah and forcibly took control in Gaza after winning elections the year before.
Hamas and Fatah announced a reconciliation deal in April, but the move was condemned by Israel which regards Hamas as a terrorist group.
Israel’s Science Minister Yaakov Peri told Israeli web portal Walla that he did not see a ceasefire being agreed in the coming days, as the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) needed more time to dismantle Hamas’ underground tunnel network.
There have been hundreds of rocket attacks on Israel, and Israeli air strikes on Gaza, since the Israeli offensive began.
Palestinian medical sources said the death toll in Gaza had risen to more than 750 on Thursday.
Israel says 31 soldiers and two Israeli civilians have been killed since 8 July, along with a Thai worker who was killed when a rocket fired from Gaza landed near the southern Israeli city of Ashkelon on Wednesday.