Gaza school missile strike ‘criminal act’ says UN

Ten killed and at least 30 injured; Israel says it targeted ‘terrorists on a motorbike’

Palestinians carry a wounded man following what witnesses said was an Israeli air strike at a United Nations-run school. REUTERS/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa

Palestinians carry a wounded man following what witnesses said was an Israeli air strike at a United Nations-run school. REUTERS/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa

Mon, Aug 4, 2014, 01:01

It was, for the 28th day of a war, a very normal scene. Outside the Anas Ibn Malik boys’ preparatory school in the centre of the southern Gaza city of Rafah a group of children were buying sweets and biscuits from local hawkers. Adults were discussing “the situation”. The school caretaker was standing talking to a friend.

Then, some time after 10.30am, something struck the metalled road directly opposite the open gates and exploded, hurling shards of red-hot shrapnel and concrete.

Fatih Firdbari (30) was leaning against a friend’s battered tuk-tuk. “There was a big bang. I felt nothing at first and then I fell down. I looked around and saw people lying on the ground. I saw I was wounded in the calf,” said the farmer, who had fled his land close to the nearby border crossing with Egypt.

Silence and then screaming There was a moment of silence and then screaming, witnesses said. Just inside the school, where more than 3,000 people had been sheltering under the protection of United Nations flags during intense bombardment and clashes in recent days, 20-year-old Mohammed Bahabsa writhed on the ground, hit in the back and arm.

Though wounded himself, the father of seven-year-old Sabir Kershif picked up his unconscious son, who was bleeding from a head wound.

An hour later, the extent of the carnage became clear. As casualties from a second incident elsewhere in Rafah started arriving at the tiny 20-bed Kuwaiti clinic to be treated in a makeshift emergency ward in its car park, relatives began coming to collect their dead. Ten people had been killed and at least 30 injured.

They included Ahmed Abu Harba (13) and Yusef Iskaafia (10) who lived near the school and had been selling biscuits.

Yusef was carried into his home before midday, borne by relatives down the deserted street, wrapped in a white shroud, his pale, unscarred face visible between folds in the white, blood-flecked cloth. He would be buried within hours.

“He was just a normal kid, from a good family. He had no idea what was going on,” a neighbour said.

Quite where the projectile had come from is impossible to say without detailed ballistic analysis. The hole it left, between eight and 10 metres from the school gates, was narrow and deep.

The air strike was the third time in 10 days that a UN school had been hit and came four days after Israeli tank shells hit a school in the northern Gaza town of Jabaliya, killing 16 people. Seven UN facilities have been struck during the conflict.

An Israeli military spokesman said the incident was under review, but “we were targeting terrorists on a motorbike near the school and did identify a successful hit on a motorbike”.

Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary general, condemned a “criminal act and moral outrage”.

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