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Israeli airstrike on Gaza school leaves at least 16 dead amid escalating tensions

Photo : AFP

At least 16 people have tragically lost their lives in an Israeli airstrike on a UN-operated school in Gaza Strip, according to Palestinian officials. The school, located at Nuseirat refugee camp in central Gaza, was serving as a shelter for thousands of displaced individuals, as reported by the Hamas-run health ministry.

Israel stated that its strike targeted several Hamas terrorists in structures near Al-Jaouni School, allegedly including a room used by Hamas police, a claim that has sparked serious concern, according to a UN agency spokeswoman. This incident occurred amid tentative hopes for a potential deal between Israel and Hamas after months of failed attempts.

Video footage from the scene showed chaotic scenes of adults and children amidst debris and smoke-filled streets, with eyewitnesses describing the attack hitting upper floors of the school near a bustling market. The school reportedly housed up to 7,000 people seeking refuge. Tragically, some children were reportedly killed while reading the Quran when the building was struck.

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Hamas has condemned the attack as a "massacre" of defenseless civilians, claiming that among the victims were five local journalists, with their families also reportedly targeted. This adds to the grim toll on journalists in Gaza, where over 100 have lost their lives since the conflict escalated in October.

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) confirmed the strike, asserting it took precautions to minimize civilian casualties, including precise aerial surveillance and intelligence. The IDF accused Hamas of using civilian structures and populations as shields for terrorist activities, a charge vehemently denied by Hamas.

This tragic incident is part of a broader pattern where schools and UN facilities have been used as shelters for the 1.7 million people displaced during the ongoing conflict, with many such facilities previously targeted. The UN agency responsible for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA, has expressed alarm over the repeated targeting of its facilities, resulting in hundreds of deaths among those seeking refuge, predominantly women and children.

This latest airstrike echoes a similar attack in June on another packed UN school in Nuseirat, which claimed the lives of at least 35 people. The international community continues to call for investigations into these incidents amidst ongoing hostilities that have exacted a heavy toll on civilian lives and infrastructure in Gaza.

July 7, 2024 4:54 p.m. 460

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