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Witnesses: Israeli Airstrike Kills 8 Palestinians at Gaza Aid Center

Photo : Reuters

Rafah, Gaza Strip: Witnesses reported that eight Palestinians were killed on Sunday in an Israeli airstrike targeting a vocational college used by the UN Palestinian refugee agency UNRWA to distribute aid to displaced families near Gaza City.

"Some people were here to receive aid coupons, while others were sheltering after being displaced from their homes. Some were fetching water when suddenly we heard something falling. We ran away, those carrying water spilled it," said Mohammed Tafesh, one of the witnesses.

A Reuters photographer saw a low-rise building completely destroyed, with bodies wrapped in blankets laid out beside the road awaiting transport.

"We retrieved martyrs from under the rubble, including a vendor of cold drinks, a pastry seller, and others involved in distributing or receiving aid coupons. About four or five were killed, with 10 others injured. Fortunately, the injured are in stable condition," Tafesh added.

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The Israeli military stated that the site, previously used as a UNRWA headquarters, was utilized by Hamas and Islamic Jihad operatives. They emphasized taking precautions before the strike to minimize civilian casualties.

"This morning, IAF fighter jets targeted terrorist infrastructure housing Hamas and Islamic Jihad operatives, highlighting Hamas' systematic use of civilian infrastructure and populations as human shields," the military explained.

Hamas denies Israeli allegations of using civilians as shields or military facilities.

Juliette Touma, UNRWA's Director of Communications, expressed concerns over the incident and indicated that nearly 190 UNRWA buildings had been hit since the conflict began, resulting in significant casualties among their staff.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu mentioned that the current phase of intense fighting against Hamas would conclude soon, but emphasized that the conflict would not end until Hamas no longer controlled Gaza.

In Rafah, Israeli forces advanced toward the Mawasi displaced persons' camp, engaging in fierce combat with Hamas fighters. The military reported discovering weapons depots, tunnel entrances, and eliminating Palestinian combatants in the area.

In retaliation, Hamas and Islamic Jihad fighters launched anti-tank rockets, mortar shells, and explosives at Israeli forces in Rafah. Additionally, another strike in Nuseirat claimed two lives.

Health officials at Kamal Adwan Hospital in Beit Lahiya reported the deaths of two infants due to malnutrition, bringing the total number of children who have died from malnutrition or dehydration since the conflict's onset to at least 31, which health authorities say likely underestimates the true toll.

The ongoing conflict has resulted in devastating consequences for Gaza's population, with widespread destruction and mounting casualties on both sides amid international calls for a ceasefire and humanitarian aid.

June 24, 2024 11:13 a.m. 439

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