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UNRWA criticizes false Israeli claim that shelter used to fire mortar

Aug. 23, 2014 1:21 P.M. (Updated: Aug. 25, 2014 11:14 A.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- The UN's Palestine refugee agency UNRWA on Saturday criticized the Israeli military for publishing allegations -- that have since been retracted -- that Hamas militants fired a rocket from one of their schools in Gaza the day before.

In a statement, the organization called upon "Israeli military spokespersons and other official sources to ensure the accuracy of their facts before going public," highlighting that the organization maintained the "highest standards of neutrality."

The Israeli military said in a statement late Friday that a mortar that killed a four-year-old child in southern Israel was launched from an UNRWA school being used to shelter displaced Gazan families.

It added that it had "conveyed a severe message" to UNRWA and the Palestinian Authority regarding Hamas' supposed "exploitation of civilian and UN facilities as a human shield."

Less than two hours later, however, the military retracted the claim, saying that in fact the mortar had been launched from a school under the administration of Hamas authorities, without offering evidence.

The UNRWA statement criticized the "false" reports spread throughout the Israeli media, adding: "The same media outlets that rushed to report the incident without seeking confirmation from UNRWA are required and called upon to also report the Israeli army retraction."

Israeli forces have bombed UNRWA schools being used as shelters at least seven times in the last six weeks, killing dozens of Palestinians.

The international community has blasted Israel for the attacks, and the agency has repeatedly stressed that it has given the coordinates of all of its shelters -- currently holding around 485,000 displaced people -- to Israeli military authorities.

Israel regularly criticizes Hamas for using Palestinians as "human shields" when launching rockets, and Israel has killed hundreds of civilians in attacks targeting Hamas officials or fighters.
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