Gaza: 'world stands disgraced' as another UN school shelled

Palestinians walk past the wall of a UN school that was shelled in Jabalia

Israel says it will investigate and apologise if its fire was responsible for killing at least 20 refugees

LAST UPDATED AT 08:48 ON Thu 31 Jul 2014

Israel has promised to investigate the shelling of a school in Gaza yesterday morning that killed at least 20 refugees and injured more than a hundred others.

The attack on Jabaliya Elementary Girls School, which was sheltering more than 3,000 civilians, was described as a possible war crime by the UN.

In a statement, officials said: "The world stands disgraced."

Israel insists its policy is not to target civilians but acknowledged that its military had been responding to mortar rounds launched from near the school. It has repeatedly claimed that Hamas and Islamic Jihad are storing and using weapons in civilian areas.

But the UN says it told Israeli authorities no less than 17 times that the school was full of refugees, with the last warning message delivered less than eight hours before the attack on Wednesday.

Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev told BBC's Newsnight that the attack would be investigated. "If we find that it was errant fire from Israel I'm sure we will apologise," he said.

It was the sixth time a UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) site has been hit during Israel's current campaign.

One UNRWA spokesman, Chris Gunness, broke down in tears over the deaths of Palestinian children during an interview screened by Al Jazeera Arabic. Earlier in the day he tweeted that UNRWA had "reached breaking point", with its staff being killed and its shelters overflowing. The average shelter population is 2,554, he said, describing the situation as "appalling".

The White House condemned the shelling of the school and said it was "extremely concerned that thousands of internally displaced Palestinians who have been called on by the Israeli military to evacuate their homes are not safe in UN designated shelters in Gaza".

An attack on a market near Gaza City claimed the lives of 17 more people later in the day, while three Israeli soldiers were also killed. At least 1,360 Palestinians, mostly civilians, have been killed since the conflict began on 8 July.

Gaza 'ceasefire' short-lived as Israel destroys power station

30 July

Gaza has suffered its "heaviest day of bombardment yet" in the three-week conflict, with 100 Palestinians killed, a power plant destroyed and renewed hopes of a ceasefire dashed.

Yasser Abed Rabbo, secretary general of the Palestine Liberation Organisation, yesterday claimed that Hamas had agreed to a 24-hour pause in fighting.

But this was swiftly rejected by Mohammad Deif, the reclusive commander of Hamas's military wing, who said his soldiers were "eager for death".

He said: "We don't accept any condition of ceasefire. There is no ceasefire without the stop of the aggression and the end of the siege."

The short-lived hope for an end to the fighting came as much of Gaza's remaining infrastructure was "pulverised" by the Israeli military in a night of "ferocious and relentless attacks by air, sea and land", says The Independent.

At least 100 Palestinians were killed and Gaza's only power station was shut down in what The Independent calls the "heaviest day of bombardment yet".

Fuel tanks exploded, causing huge black clouds of smoke at the power station, signalling a new crisis for the population, which was already enduring power cuts of more than 20 hours a day, says The Guardian.

The power plant's facilities manager told the BBC that it could be out of action for up to a year.

At least 1,200 Palestinians and 55 Israelis have been killed since 8 July, when Israel began retaliating against intensified Hamas rocket fire.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu claims the objective of his ground offensive, Operation Protective Edge, is to destroy the tunnel networks used by Hamas to launch rockets and carry out cross-border infiltration. But the death toll in Gaza consists mostly of civilians.

David Cameron is among the international leaders calling for an "unconditional, immediate, humanitarian" ceasefire.

Gaza: UN security council calls for immediate ceasefire

28 July

The UN has called for an "immediate and unconditional humanitarian ceasefire", allowing for the delivery of "urgently needed" humanitarian assistance to the Gaza Strip.

At an emergency session in New York, the security council adopted a presidential statement - one step below a legally-binding resolution - urging Israel and Hamas "to accept and fully implement the humanitarian ceasefire into the Eid period and beyond", the BBC reports.

However, the Israeli and Palestinian envoys to the UN both criticised the presidential statement.

The Israeli ambassador Ron Prosor said: "Miraculously, it doesn't mention Hamas. It doesn't mention the firing of rockets. You don't have to have the IQ of a rocket scientist to understand that if rockets are falling on you, you are allowed to defend yourself."

Riyad Mansour, the Palestinian representative, said he was "disappointed" a formal resolution demanding Israel withdraw its forces from Gaza has not been agreed. "They should have adopted a resolution a long time ago to condemn this aggression and to call for this aggression to be stopped immediately," he said.

The UN’s statement emphasised that "civilian and humanitarian facilities, including those of the UN, must be respected and protected". It also stressed an urgent need for "immediate provision of humanitarian assistance to the Palestinian civilian population in the Gaza Strip".

Meanwhile, US President Barack Obama called for an immediate, unconditional humanitarian ceasefire during a phone call to Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu yesterday.

More than 1,030 Palestinians, mostly civilians, and 43 Israeli soldiers and three civilians in Israel have been killed in the fighting. · 

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