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Israeli shelling hits UN school, kills 16 Palestinians
Published Wednesday 30/07/2014 (updated) 31/07/2014 11:58
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Displaced Palestinian children sleep on the ground on July 23, 2014
at a UN school in the northern Gaza Strip refugee camp of Jabaliya
(AFP/File Mohammed Abed)
GAZA CITY (AFP) -- An Israeli shelling on a UN school in Gaza killed 16 people early Wednesday, medics said, as Palestinian factions were to head to Cairo to discuss a temporary humanitarian ceasefire.

As the conflict between Israel and Hamas entered its 23rd day, international efforts to bring an end to the bloodshed that has killed more than 1,260 people continued apace, and concern grew over the high civilian death toll, especially among children.

Since the war began on July 8, when Israel launched a campaign to stop rocket fire from Gaza and destroy attack tunnels, a series of concerted international efforts to bring a truce have fallen flat.

On Wednesday morning, an Israeli shell slammed into a UN school in Jabaliya refugee camp that was being used as a shelter for those displaced by fighting, killing 16 people, emergency services spokesman Ashraf al-Qidra said.

Al-Qidra identified some of the dead as Issam Jaber al-Khatib, Said Abu Jalala, Taysir Hammad, Luay al-Feiri, Bassem Khalid al-Najjar, Thair Khalid al-Najjar, Usama Muhammad Suhweil, Bilal Midhat al-Amudi, Muhammad Moussa Ghabn, Adel Muhammad Abu Qamar, Abdullah Midhat al-Amudi, Ramadan Khader Salman, Alaa Khader Salman, Ali Ahmad Shahin, and Rami Barakat.

At least one more victim is yet to be identified.

The bodies were taken to Kamal Adwan hospital in Jabaliya and al-Shifa hospital in Gaza City.

A UN official confirmed the shelling, saying it hit a bathroom and two classrooms in the school.

The incident occurred after 5:30 a.m., and a couple of hours after Israeli tanks had begun heavy shelling in the area, an AFP correspondent said.

Two shells struck the Jabaliya school, one hitting a classroom on the ground floor where people had been staying and a second slamming into the top floor, hitting another classroom which was apparently empty.

Inside the school yard was a makeshift animal pen where several horses and donkeys had been killed by shrapnel, lying in pools of blood as other terrified animals cowered nearby.

Facing onto the yard was a classroom whose wall had been completely destroyed.

Inside, two young men wearing Palestinian boy scout scarves were engaged in the grisly task of collecting body parts. With no gloves, their hands were completely stained with blood as the picked up chunks of flesh and put them into thin plastic bags.

"They're bombing houses, homes, schools -- there's no protection," said Moin al-Athamna, one of those staying at the school, saying everyone had been sleeping when the first shell hit.

"They were all kids in there, young people," said Hisham al-Masri. "Why would they do this? Where can people go?"

An AFP correspondent said the army had been pounding the area with tank fire for an hour prior to the incident.

The outer wall of the complex had also been damaged and a number of dead animals including donkeys could be seen lying on the ground.

A UN official told AFP that Israeli shells had hit the building at around 5:30 am.

Those sheltering there quickly gathered their belongings and fled.

The army had been pounding the area with tank fire for an hour prior to the incident, the correspondent said.

The UN official gave a death toll of 16, while Gaza's emergency services spokesman put it at "dozens" after giving an initial count of 20.

An UNRWA spokesman said the agency condemned "in the strongest possible terms this serious violation of international law by Israeli forces."

"Tens of thousands may soon be stranded in the streets of Gaza, without food, water and shelter if attacks on these areas continue," Chris Gunness said on Twitter.

An Israeli army spokeswoman said initial reports suggested that Palestinian militants fired mortar shells at Israeli soldiers from the vicinity of the school.

The Israeli army responded by firing back at the "origins of fire," the spokeswoman said.

"The incident is still being reviewed," she added.

Reports of the school shelling came as a Palestinian delegation prepared for a trip to Cairo to discuss a temporary humanitarian ceasefire.

The West Bank-headquartered Palestine Liberation Organization, which has been at odds with Hamas for years, said it had garnered the Islamist movement's support for a 24-hour truce, but did not say when that was due to start.

Israel's government had no comment on the proposal.

President Mahmoud Abbas "was in touch with (Hamas chief Khaled) Mashaal yesterday and today. He proposed the 24 hour truce, Mashaal and Hamas agreed", senior Palestinian official Nabil Shaath told AFP on Tuesday.

International efforts have focused on getting Israel and Hamas to agree to a temporary humanitarian ceasefire, and then extending that truce for a longer period while they intensify efforts to end hostilities altogether.

But apart from a fragile halt on Saturday after which hostilities picked up with renewed vigour, efforts have failed.

Children paying the price

Heavy Israeli bombardment of Gaza overnight Monday to Tuesday killed scores of Palestinians after they marked the beginning of the Muslim Eid festival, medics said.

Israel's aerial, naval and artillery shellings have killed some 1,262 Palestinians in the bloodiest conflict in six years, and the vast majority of Palestinian dead are civilians, according to the UN.

Hamas fire, including thousands of rockets launched at Israel, has killed 53 soldiers and three civilians.

Rights groups expressed growing alarm Tuesday at the number of children victims of the conflict.

The more than 240 children who have died represent at least 29 percent of civilian casualties, the United Nations Children's Fund, UNICEF, said in a statement, adding that another six children in Israel had been wounded from Gaza rocket fire.

"We see children killed, injured, mutilated and burnt, in addition to being terrified to their core. The consequences run much deeper than previous flare-ups" in Gaza, UNICEF's Gaza field office chief Pernille Ironside said.

Diplomatic push

Meanwhile world efforts to stop the fighting continued, but with neither side apparently willing to concede.

US Secretary of State John Kerry said that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had asked for fresh help from America in trying to broker a ceasefire.

"Last night we talked, and the prime minister talked to me about an idea and a possibility of a ceasefire. He raised it with me, as he has consistently," Kerry said Tuesday.

The top US diplomat added that Netanyahu had said he "would embrace a ceasefire that permits Israel to protect itself against (Palestinian militants') tunnels and obviously not be disadvantaged for the great sacrifice they have made thus far."

There was no Israeli government comment.

PLO secretary general Yasser Abed Rabbo said after consultations with Hamas and Islamic Jihad, the two main militant groups in Gaza, that there was "willingness for a ceasefire and humanitarian truce for 24 hours."

Hamas said so far it had not agreed to any new truce and was waiting for Israel to show its hand first.

"When we have an Israeli commitment ... on a humanitarian truce, we will look into it but we will never declare a truce from our side while the occupation keeps killing our children," Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said on Facebook.

As both sides appeared more determined than ever to keep up the fighting, the hostilities have pushed more than 215,000 people to flee their homes in the overcrowded territory, according to the World Health Organization.

Ma'an staff contributed to this report.
1 ) d'Arc / USA
30/07/2014 09:50
Israeli politicians will blame Hamas and Obama, maybe in reverse order, for the deaths, because they made the IDF do it.

2 ) Carl / US
30/07/2014 09:56
Hamas is not the target for 66 yrs European Israel is killing the true decedents of past Israelites, the ethnic people of the land the Palestinians.

3 ) UN school===ARMOR / storage
30/07/2014 10:15
even UNRWA admitted this 3 times!

4 ) read unrwa / press rrelease:
30/07/2014 10:19
The United Nations Relief & Works Agency For Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) announced Tuesday that another rocket stockpile has been found at one of its schools in Gaza. This instance marks the third time since the beginning of Operation Protective Edge that a weapons arsenal has been found at an UNRWA school in Gaza.

5 ) Father Ignatius / Father Ignatius
30/07/2014 10:26
The demand for sea and air ports is not realistic because Israel fears, rightly so, that Hamas will use them to smuggle rockets and other weaponry. This could endanger the Christian priests and pilgrims arriving to visit the West Bank’s Bethlehem, if their plane is shot down arriving at Israeli airports. We must protect Christians from Islamic extremists.

6 ) Mehyar / France
30/07/2014 10:28
Shame on the world. Long Live Falestine.

7 ) Levi / USA
30/07/2014 16:51
Are we sure it is IDF that killed those 16 Palestinians and not Hamas or Islamic Jihad gangs and their rockets or mortars?

8 ) Father My A$$ / USA
30/07/2014 17:50
That's some great turning the other cheek Father Ignatius. Where does your bible say that it is ok to kill the children of muslim and CHRISTIAN arab population so that your pilgrims would be safe from your hypothetical threats?

9 ) Job / USA
30/07/2014 19:05
European Jews should stop killing Palestinian and leave Palestine now. They are the occupiers and ruthless killers of innocent people who once provided them shelter while they were proscecuted in European countries. Now they are killing their host and claiming their land and properties as their own. They are thieves and blood suckers. Where is justice.

10 ) Terry / Latvia
30/07/2014 19:43
Weapons were stored in schools that were vacant. The so called "press releases" referred to above by Zionists is mere propaganda. The latest statements of UNRWA can be read here: http://www.unrwa.org/newsroom/press-releases/unrwa-strongly-condemns-israeli-shelling-its-school-gaza-serious-violation It is stated that 6 schools with Gazans taking refuge have been targeted and the Israeli actions are condemned by UNRWA. So don't listen to these Zionists, acting as bagmen for the Israeli government.

11 ) senior citizen / USA
31/07/2014 00:13
I'm 86 years old and seem to remember that it was the Germans that killed Jews. Why are the Jews killing Palestinians?

12 ) Martin / Australia
31/07/2014 03:15
Hitler: "We are the master race"
Netanyahu: " We are God's chosen people"

Same difference ...

13 ) Konstantia Tseriotis / Cyprus
31/07/2014 22:46
This is an honest question. What can we do to stop this? I want to know. Commenting on the obvious injustice and human disgrace is useless. What can we do to stop this?
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