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Fatal Attacks: 4 Gaza Schools Targeted, Dozens Killed

Photo: Reuters

At least 25 people were killed and numerous others injured in the fourth strike on or near a school in Gaza within four days, according to health officials in the enclave late Tuesday.

Footage authenticated by NBC News, released by Al Jazeera, showed a soccer game underway in the courtyard of Al-Awda school in Abasan before an explosion shook the area. Chaos ensued as screams filled the air, with people fleeing in all directions.

Following the attack, an NBC News crew documented the aftermath inside the school, where bloodied victims, including young children, filled the hallways, some lying on the ground in pain.

"I was walking, when suddenly I found myself flying," said 14-year-old Ahmed Wessam Kediah, lying on a stretcher with his leg wrapped in bandages. "I saw all the wounded. Just body parts."

Later, at the strike site, the NBC News crew captured scenes of a young boy mourning over two body bags, surrounded by others laid out on the ground. "They killed my father and my uncle," he cried repeatedly.

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) stated on Tuesday that they had targeted a Hamas fighter involved in an October 7 attack using precision munitions. They acknowledged reports of civilian casualties near Al-Awda school, emphasizing its proximity to the strike location.

Hamas denounced the attack in a statement, while efforts intensified in Doha, Qatar, to broker a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas. Hamas warned that continued Israeli assaults could jeopardize ceasefire negotiations.

If successful, the ceasefire would halt nearly nine months of conflict in Gaza, where over 38,000 people have died, according to local health officials. It would also secure the release of hostages taken during Hamas' October 7 attack, which resulted in 1,200 deaths and around 250 kidnappings.

Philippe Lazzarini, commissioner-general of the United Nations' Palestinian refugee agency UNRWA, condemned the strikes, noting that at least four schools had been hit in the past four days. He lamented the transformation of schools from places of education and hope into overcrowded shelters and, tragically, sites of death and suffering.

On Saturday, a strike hit an UNRWA-run school in Nuseirat, resulting in at least 16 deaths and dozens of injuries, as confirmed by local health officials. The school had provided temporary refuge to up to 2,000 displaced Palestinians, according to UNRWA spokesperson Juliette Touma.

In response, the IDF asserted that they had targeted "several terrorists" operating from structures near the school, which they claimed were used for directing attacks against Israeli forces.

The following day, the Holy Family school in Gaza City, owned by the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, was struck amid expanded Israeli operations. It had served as a sanctuary for hundreds of civilians during the conflict.

On Monday, another UNRWA-run school in Nuseirat was hit, according to Touma, despite its humanitarian function. The IDF defended the strike, alleging the school was used as cover by terrorists conducting attacks.

Concerns raised by the United Nations about civilian casualties prompted a general response from the IDF, emphasizing their operational focus on dismantling Hamas' military capabilities following the October 7 attacks. Israel maintained accusations that Hamas utilized schools and other public facilities for military purposes, a claim denied by Hamas.

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Philippe Lazzarini highlighted that over half of UNRWA facilities, approximately 190, had been targeted since the conflict began, resulting in numerous casualties, predominantly among women and children.

The latest strikes intensified amid warnings from independent UN human rights experts of a deepening humanitarian crisis in Gaza, marked by famine spreading across the enclave. The experts reported deaths from starvation, including children as young as six months old, in central Gaza areas since late May.

"With the death of these children from starvation despite medical treatment, famine has now spread from northern to central and southern Gaza," the experts stated, highlighting the dire humanitarian situation exacerbated by ongoing hostilities.

This comprehensive rewrite encapsulates the main events and reactions surrounding the recent strikes on schools in Gaza, emphasizing the human toll and international responses to the crisis.

July 11, 2024 1:46 p.m. 387

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