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Numerous fatalities in attack on school building

According to the Israeli army, numerous Hamas terrorists were killed in an attack on a school in the Gaza Strip. UNRWA reports at least 35 deaths. Hospitals said that most of the dead were women and children.

The Israeli army has attacked a school building in the Gaza Strip where, according to the army, 20 to 30 members of the militant Islamist terrorist group Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) had sought shelter and misused the school for their activities.

The members of the terrorist groups were in three different classrooms at the school in the refugee district of Nuseirat. Initial findings indicate that many of them were killed in the attack, said military spokesman Peter Lerner – including terrorists who were involved in the attacks on Israel on October 7.

Palestinians mourn in front of a hospital for relatives who, according to Palestinian sources, were killed in the Israeli attack on the school.

UNRWA: At least 35 fatalities

The school is run by the UN Palestinian relief agency UNRWA. There are different reports on the number of dead. The Hamas-controlled health authority stated that at least 30 people were killed in the attack. Hamas spoke of 40 deaths. The Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Hospital in the city of Deir el-Balah stated that at least 37 people were killed.

A UNRWA spokeswoman told the Reuters news agency that there were 35 to 45 fatalities, but the exact number had not been confirmed. Hospital sources in the Gaza Strip also said that most of the victims were women, children and young people. More than 50 other people were injured. According to Palestinian sources, displaced people had also sought shelter in the bombed building.

Israel: No knowledge of possible civilian casualties

The Israeli army said that the school had been under surveillance for the past few days. The attack was postponed twice to avoid civilian casualties, military spokesman Lerner explained. There were no internally displaced persons in the attacked area and the military currently has no knowledge of possible civilian casualties as a result of the attack, he said. The conflicting statements of the warring parties cannot be independently verified.

This is the fifth known case within a month in which terrorists from Hamas and PIJ have misused UNRWA facilities for their own purposes, according to the Israeli army. “They use these facilities because they feel relatively safe,” said Lerner. “For us, this is extremely worrying.” But this does not stop the military from taking action against Hamas and PIJ.

UNRWA chief: Attack came “without warning”

UNRWA chief Philippe Lazzarini said on Platform X that the school had been attacked “without warning.” Like other buildings of the UN Palestinian relief agency, the school was also used as a shelter for civilians displaced by the fighting in the Gaza Strip.

At the time of the attack, 6,000 people were seeking shelter in the school, said Lazzarini. “Another terrible day in Gaza.” The accusations that armed groups were in the emergency shelter were shocking. “However, we cannot verify these claims.”

Since the beginning of the Gaza war, more than 180 UNRWA buildings have been hit and more than 450 displaced people have been killed, Lazzarini continued. “Attacking, targeting or using UN buildings for military purposes is a blatant disregard for international humanitarian law.” This cannot become the new norm.

EU foreign policy chief calls for investigation

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell called for an investigation into the attack. “This terrible news must be independently investigated,” he said on X. Reports from the Gaza Strip show “again and again that violence and suffering remain the only reality for hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians.”

Since the beginning of the war, school buildings belonging to the UN Palestinian relief agency have often served as a place of refuge for internally displaced persons – also in the hope that Israel will not deliberately attack the UN buildings. Israel, in turn, repeatedly accuses Hamas of operating from civilian facilities and thereby endangering civilians or deliberately using them as a human shield.

The US government also demanded clarification of the background. If Israel tries to deliberately kill 20 to 30 extremists, but children are also killed in the process, something has gone wrong, said US State Department spokesman Matthew Miller. Israel is obliged to do everything it can to ensure that no civilians are harmed.

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