Israel strike on UN school ‘a criminal act’ - Ban Ki-moon

At least ten killed and 30 injured in building sheltering 3,000 displaced persons in Gaza

Sun, Aug 3, 2014, 19:52

UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon described a deadly attack on a UN school today as a “moral outrage and a criminal act“ and called for those responsible for the “gross violation of international humanitarian law“ to be held accountable.

In a statement, Mr Ban strongly condemned the shelling of the school in Rafah in southern Gaza that killed at least 10 civilians. The school was sheltering 3,000 displaced persons and Mr Ban said the “Israel Defense Forces have been repeatedly informed of the location of these sites.”

The Israeli air strike wounded about 30 others today and Israeli military said it was looking into the reported attack, the second to hit a school in less than a week.

Israeli media, on the 27th day of the fighting, reported that most Israeli troops had pulled out of Gaza, and Reuters TV footage showed a column of Israeli tanks and dozens of infantrymen leaving the enclave.

An Israeli military spokesman stopped short of calling the move a withdrawal, but said residents from some evacuated Palestinian neighbourhoods had been told by the army they could return.

“The troops are in the midst of a redeployment to other parts of the border,” said lieutenant-colonel Peter Lerner. “Indeed we are releasing troops from the front line but the mission is ongoing. Ground forces are operating. Air forces are operating.”

In the town of Rafah, where the military has been battling militants, a missile from an Israeli aircraft struck the entrance to the school, where Palestinians who had fled their homes were sheltering, witnesses and medics said.

Ashraf Al-Qidra, spokesman for the Gaza health ministry, said 10 people were killed and 30 wounded.

Robert Serry, UN middle east special coordinator, said the strike in the immediate vicinity of the school in Rafah sheltering 3,000 displaced persons caused multiple deaths and injuries.

“It is simply intolerable that another school has come under fire while designated to provide shelter for civilians fleeing the hostilities,” he said.

Last Wednesday, at least 15 Palestinians who sought refuge in a UN-run school in Jabalya refugee camp were killed during fighting, and the UN said it appeared that Israeli artillery had hit the building. The Israeli military said gunmen had fired mortar bombs from near the school and it shot back in response.

Pressure

Earlier today, Israeli shelling killed at least 30 people in Gaza, a day after prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed to keep up pressure on Hamas even after the army completes its core mission of destroying a tunnel network that extends into Israel.

Mr Netanyahu says Gaza’s dominant Hamas faction bears ultimate responsibility for civilian casualties, accusing gunmen and rocket-launching squads of using residents in densely populated areas as “human shields”.

In Rafah, Fatah faction leader and local resident Ashraf Goma said Israeli forces were bombarding the town from air, ground and sea and locals were unable to deal with the wounded and the dead.

“Bodies of the wounded are bleeding in the streets and other corpses are laid on the road with no one able to recover them.

“I saw a man on a donkey cart bringing seven bodies into the hospital. Bodies are being kept in ice-cream refrigerators, in flower and vegetable coolers,” Mr Goma told Reuters.