News / Middle East

    Explosion Hits UN-run School in Gaza

    • Palestinian children wounded after the shelling of a compound housing a U.N. school in Beit Hanoun in the Gaza Strip lay on the floor of an emergency room in Beit Lahiya, July 24, 2014.
    • A crater from an Israeli strike is seen in the yard of the U.N. school in Beit Hanoun, in the northern Gaza Strip, July 24, 2014.
    • Palestinians evacuate a man medics said was wounded by Israeli shelling during an Israeli ground offensive east of Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip, July 24, 2014.
    • Palestinians search for victims under the rubble of a house that witnesses said was destroyed by an Israeli air strike east of Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip, July 24, 2014.
    • A Palestinian man looks through a window scarred with shrapnel from a neighbouring building that police said was hit by an overnight Israeli air strike, in Jabaliya in the northern Gaza Strip, July 24, 2014.
    • Palestinians ride in a truck as they flee from Israeli shelling during an Israeli ground offensive east of Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip, July 24, 2014.
    • An Israeli tank moves through the morning mist near the Israel and Gaza border, July 24, 2014.
    • Israeli soldiers carry a wounded soldier to a helicopter near the Israel and Gaza border, July 24, 2014.
    • A general view of a mosque and a house that witnesses said were damaged by an Israeli air strike that killed two children, is seen in the northern Gaza Strip, July 24, 2014.
    • Israeli soldiers carry the coffin of Sgt. Max Steinberg, during his funeral at the Mount Herzel military cemetery in Jerusalem, July 23, 2014.
    VOA News

    United Nations officials say they are outraged after an apparent Israeli shell slammed into a U.N.-run school in Gaza being used as a shelter from violence.

    Fifteen people were killed, including children and U.N. staffers.

    U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says he is "appalled."  U.N. officials cannot yet verify it was an Israeli shell that hit the school. But they say Israel had been given the "precise coordinates" of the location of the building.

    Israel's army admits that its forces were fighting Hamas militants near the school. But the Israelis did not say if it was one of their shells that hit the building. They again accused Hamas militants of using women and children as human shields.

    U.N. spokesman Chris Gunness of the agency providing aid to Palestinians says civilians have suffered quite enough in what he calls an "appalling conflict."

    The U.N. secretary-general said he was “appalled” by the carnage at a U.N. school in the northern Gaza Strip, where explosions killed and injured many women and children.  

    Ban Ki-moon was in the northern Iraqi city of Irbil on Thursday - part of his shuttle diplomacy efforts in the region to reach a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas militants - when he spoke of the attack.

    Ban strongly condemned the shelling, which also killed U.N. staff members. He said circumstances of the attack were still unclear.

    "I'm telling to the parties - all the Israelis and Hamas and Palestinians - that it's morally wrong to kill your own people," he said. "The whole world has been watching, is watching with great concern. You must stop fighting and enter into dialogue. Whatever grievances you may have, this is wrong. Why are you continuing to kill people? There are many other ways to resolve this issue without killing each other. I'm angry about what they are doing."

    Various reports

    In New York, the secretary-general's deputy spokesman, Farhan Haq, said all the facts were not available in the immediate aftermath of the attack. “At this stage, we do not know - and I cannot verify - who attacked the compound.”

    The school served as a shelter for hundreds of Palestinians fleeing the Israeli military's Gaza offensive.

    A spokesman for the U.N. relief agency said it had tried in vain to arrange an evacuation of civilians from the school with the Israeli army, and noted reports of Hamas rockets falling in the area at the same time.

    Gaza police said the school was hit by an Israeli shelling.

    The Israeli military said its troops were fighting gunmen from Hamas, which runs Gaza, in the area and that it was investigating the incident.

    The United Nations Relief and Works agency spokesman serving the Palestinian territories, Chris Gunness, said via Twitter that his agency had given the Israeli army "precise coordinates" of the shelter.

    The Israeli Defense Forces released a statement saying "the Hamas terrorists in the area of Beit Hanoun" were "using civilian infrastructure and international symbols as human shields."

    Watch related video report by VOA's Scott Bobb

    Death Toll From Israel-Gaza Conflict Surpasses 700i
    X
    Scott Bobb
    July 24, 2014 8:58 PM
    Gaza officials say a shelling hit a compound housing a United Nations-run school in the Gaza Strip, killing more than a dozen people, during an Israeli offensive in the area. Heavy fighting between the Israeli military and Hamas militants continued on Thursday, pushing up the death toll. So far, more than 730 Palestinians and 35 Israelis have been killed in the conflict. VOA's Scott Bobb has the latest from Jerusalem.


    Murky situation

    The U.N. chief has called repeatedly on both sides to avoid attacking U.N. premises. More than 110,000 Palestinians have sought shelter in U.N. schools and other facilities since the fighting began.

    Israel accuses Hamas militants of deliberately positioning their rocket launchers in Gaza’s densely populated residential areas, raising the risk of civilian casualties when Israel fires back.

    In the last few days, the U.N. Relief and Works Agency [UNRWA] has found two separate weapons caches in facilities that it operates -- one in a vacant school and the other in a school where the rockets subsequently disappeared before authorities could seize them.

    The U.N. condemned the incidents, saying they are unacceptable and that those responsible are turning the schools into potential military targets and endangering the lives of innocent persons seeking shelter there.

    State Department concern

    In Washington, State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki said the United States is “deeply saddened and concerned” about the incident and the rising civilian death toll. She urged both parties to intensify efforts to protect civilians, end the violence and reach a cease-fire agreement.

    "This also underscores the need to end the violence and to achieve a sustainable ceasefire and enduring resolution to the crisis in Gaza as soon as possible.

    "U.N. facilities in Gaza are sheltering more than 140,000 Palestinians, including many innocent children, and must remain safe, neutral sanctuaries for fleeing civilians," said Psaki. "We call on all parties to protect these facilities from the conflict and we have condemn those responsible for hiding weapons in United Nations facilities in Gaza. We urge all parties to respect civilian life and comply with international humanitarian law."

    • Palestinian children wounded after the shelling of a compound housing a U.N. school in Beit Hanoun in the Gaza Strip lay on the floor of an emergency room in Beit Lahiya, July 24, 2014.
    • A crater from an Israeli strike is seen in the yard of the U.N. school in Beit Hanoun, in the northern Gaza Strip, July 24, 2014.
    • Palestinians evacuate a man medics said was wounded by Israeli shelling during an Israeli ground offensive east of Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip, July 24, 2014.
    • Palestinians search for victims under the rubble of a house that witnesses said was destroyed by an Israeli air strike east of Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip, July 24, 2014.
    • A Palestinian man looks through a window scarred with shrapnel from a neighbouring building that police said was hit by an overnight Israeli air strike, in Jabaliya in the northern Gaza Strip, July 24, 2014.
    • Palestinians ride in a truck as they flee from Israeli shelling during an Israeli ground offensive east of Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip, July 24, 2014.
    • An Israeli tank moves through the morning mist near the Israel and Gaza border, July 24, 2014.
    • Israeli soldiers carry a wounded soldier to a helicopter near the Israel and Gaza border, July 24, 2014.
    • A general view of a mosque and a house that witnesses said were damaged by an Israeli air strike that killed two children, is seen in the northern Gaza Strip, July 24, 2014.
    • Israeli soldiers carry the coffin of Sgt. Max Steinberg, during his funeral at the Mount Herzel military cemetery in Jerusalem, July 23, 2014.

    Intense fighting

    As Israeli strikes in Gaza continued Thursday and rockets fired by Hamas-led fighters in the enclave landed in Israel, both sides maintained their conditions for a cease-fire.

    Palestinian health officials say more than 730 of their people have been killed since Israel began its campaign to halt Hamas rocket fire on July 8. Thirty-two Israeli soldiers and two Israeli citizens have died.

    The Israeli military reported multiple rockets fired from Gaza on Thursday, including several that were said to have been intercepted by its Iron Dome missile defense system.

    After meeting [Thursday] with British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Hamas militants are using Palestinian civilians as human shields and complained Israel is being criticized for defending itself.

    "This use of human shields is extraordinarily cynical, it is grotesque. It is inhuman. But what is equally grotesque is that Israel was condemned at the Human Rights Council," said Netanyahu.

    Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal denied Wednesday the charge of human shields. During a news conference in Qatar he said Hamas would accept a temporary humanitarian truce to allow aid to reach civilians in Gaza. But he said it would not accept any agreement that did not end the suffering of Gaza residents.

    Mashaal said, "Everyone wants us to accept a cease-fire quickly, but then what? They say we then should negotiate our demands. We reject this idea. We rejected it on the first day, and we will reject it in the future."

    Hamas said Israel must lift its blockade of Gaza and cease all aggression as part of any cease-fire.

    Israel says it wants Gaza to be de-militarized.  

    Kerry in Cairo

    Meanwhile, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is in Cairo as he continues to push for a cease-fire solution. On Wednesday he had met with Netanyahu, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and United Nations chief Ban Ki-moon. While he made no comments after those talks, he said earlier in the day that "some progress" had been made.

    A spokeswoman for U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry says the school attack underscores the need to end the violence.

    Kerry will stay in Cairo into Friday trying to broker a cease-fire. But a State Department official says the secretary is not in the Mideast indefinitely, and will determine if there is a willingness to stop the fighting.

    Hamas leaders say they will not agree to a cease-fire unless Israel and Egypt end their blockades of Gaza.

    Israel wants the rocket fire to stop and to destroy a network of cross-border tunnels used by militants.

    Airlines Resume Flights to Tel Aviv

    U.S. airlines resumed flights in and out of Israel's Ben Gurion International Airport on Thursday, after two days of cancellations brought on by the conflict in Israel and Gaza.

    Delta, United and U.S. Airways all announced the decision to carry out scheduled flights Thursday.

    The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration removed restrictions into Israel late Wednesday, and the European Aviation Safety Agency lifted its restrictions into Israel on Thursday.

    Some European airlines, including Lufthansa and Swiss Air, are suspending flights into Israel for another 24 hours.

    The FAA says it carefully reviewed new information along with the measures Israel is taking to mitigate potential aviation risks.

    The bans went into effect Tuesday after rocket fire from Gaza hit near the airport outside Tel Aviv.

    VOA's Scott Bobb contributed to this report from Jerusalem, and Margaret Besheer contributed to this report from the United Nations headquarters in New York.

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    Comment Sorting
    Comments page of 2
        Next 
    by: Paul from: USA
    July 26, 2014 2:44 PM
    Grew up in the Middle East, facts are Israel use terror and force to keep Arabs in fear. By no means are either side innocent here, BUT know for certain that Israel kill many innocent people and civilians all the time, while their death tolls remain mainly military personal
    This recent mess shows the numbers and if this was any other scenario/country other than Israel the civilian deaths would be unacceptable.

    God did not give Israel some right to kill whomever at will. Every person regardless of race is Gods People and it is time Israel stops claiming some divine right or Zionist Christains being okay with civilian deaths.

    Israel you are at fault as is Palestine and human death regardless of race is tragic and not looked on by God as okay. Both sides you are receiving what you sow.

    by: Anonymous
    July 25, 2014 10:46 AM
    Just confirmed by the UNRWA that rockets fired by Hamas within Gaza struck that area (multiple). And that only one errant shell from Israel is even being investigated. This one was from Hamas, wait for all the facts before jumping on sides.

    by: Godwin from: Nigeria
    July 25, 2014 6:53 AM
    This is a crime against humanity, the most heinous crime to be ever witnessed in the wars. It has motive behind it, and it is the duty of the UN agency to find out what this motive is and make appropriate recommendation to the UNSC. The UN human rights commission should stop pointing accusing fingers and get down to business, and do the right thing, and tell the world who has the motive to destroy others' image even at the cost of children of school age. Time has come when we should stop being hoodwinked with every little-minded behavior because we have become over-sympathetic to causes and effects.

    With the use of children and women as human shield overlooked previously, a step further of shooting the school where school children learn, where people - civilians - have run for refuge, is, to say the least, inhuman. Israel should definitely be above such publicity stunt. Hamas or its cronies is the only group in the conflict capable of doing this evil just so that it will look like Israel has shot at school children. I think the sympathy to Hamas and its Islamist agenda has been over estimated and over bloated. It is time the world sees Hamas and the Islamist agenda of every jihadi project for what they are - anti human.

    by: Bola from: ilorin,Nigeria
    July 25, 2014 3:52 AM
    so self aclaimed military superiority of israel is fake and propaganda.The conflict with Hesbolah and now Hamas show their weakness.Hamas killed 32 isrealy army.isreal killed unarmed civilians.

    by: Anthonybellchambers from: London
    July 25, 2014 3:22 AM

    International Criminal Court and the Israeli government
    The International Criminal Court is a permanent international tribunal to prosecute individuals for genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, and the crime of aggression. The United Nations Security Council can refer cases to the Court.

    It is to be hoped that human rights lawyers in every EU member state will press their governments to demand that the UNSC issue indictments against any Israeli government minister travelling in future to or through any EU state and that any such individual be apprehended and brought before the Court to answer charges of procuring a war crime in Gaza.

    by: Not Again from: Canada
    July 24, 2014 11:03 PM
    We are observing the worst reporting, that I have witnessed in the last 30+ years of observing/monitoring conflicts around the globe.
    There has been absolutely no mention that Israel and Egypt have offered two full ceasefires, both rejected by Hamas. There has been no mention that Israel undertook two Humanitarian ceasefires, both were broken by Hamas.
    Had Hamas accepted the first ceasefire, offered by Israel through, Egyptian mediation, two weeks ago, the conflict would have not even entered into the ground operation by Israel. The US Secretary J. Kerry has been shuttling back and forth, to no avail, people in Gaza are absolutely not aware of US mediation attempts, people in Gaza are asking were is the US....
    The extremely poor reporting, is in part fuelling the conflict's emotions around the World; people in Gaza, are not even aware that any ceasefires have been offered by Israel and all rejected by Hamas.
    In my view journalism has sunk to a new professional low, because they are contributing to an information flow that magnifies and alters the reality of the event around the conflict, and places the blame on Israel. It was Hamas that started firing on Israel well over five months ago.
    It is amazing how the information makes it appear that it was Israel that started the war 17 days ago. The reporting on this conflict is as bad as the one we see coming out of Russia on the loss of MH17.

    by: Anthonybellchambers from: London
    July 24, 2014 5:44 PM
    Is the world still going to trade with this pariah state that kills children day after day? Where is the international consensus to bring Netanyahu to trial for authorising war crime and crimes against humanity? Why is this state terrorism being accepted? I am appalled at the atrocities committed in view of an international community that remains silent.

    I never thought to see the day that the community of democratic nations would get into bed with people who kill women and children with the enthusiasm of a concentration camp commander. It is disgusting.
    In Response

    by: Igor from: Russia
    July 24, 2014 9:17 PM
    you should not dream of it because Israel's big brother - the USA, will do his best to justify any crime against humanity committed by his small brother. The USA will surely block any UN resolution agaist Israel. You will see. There is no real justice and democracy in this world! The strongest and richest rules the world and many other is barking for him!
    In Response

    by: meanbill from: USA
    July 24, 2014 9:08 PM
    The US and Israel are the only countries using killer drones to kill suspected enemies of their countries, and have killed hundreds or thousands of collateral innocent victims doing it.....

    PS; The US is a permanent member of the UN Security Council, and they have vetoed every UN Resolution condemning Israel or themselves.... of human rights violations, war crimes, or crimes against humanity...

    by: James from: Calgary
    July 24, 2014 1:51 PM
    The UN has said they don't know who was responsible for this attack. Hamas rockets were being launched from nearby and some were errant. It hasn't been determined if it was Israel or Hamas.
    In Response

    by: Igor from: Russia
    July 24, 2014 9:24 PM
    The USA satellies can find out who launched the attack. But the USA will not give out any evidence which will point to his small brother. So pls ask God!

    by: kafantaris from: Warren, Ohio
    July 24, 2014 1:11 PM
    The disproportionate attacks on Gaza are tugging at the heartstrings of the citizens of Egypt and Turkey -- two key allies the U.S. needs to keep order in the Middle East. Self-righteous Israel has thus far ignored the volatile conditions of its neighbors. The U.S. and the rest of world simply cannot. We can no longer afford to let a self-centered nation turn our fragile world topsy-turvy.

    by: meanbill from: USA
    July 24, 2014 9:04 AM
    Israel has the greatest military forces in the Middle East, (like the US has in the world), and the Israeli-Gaza war, is like the US-Vietnam war, US-Iraq war and US-Afghan war _ (wars that couldn't be won), and the US and Israel is desperately trying to get a Israeli-Hamas ceasefire..... The US, Israeli, and NATO countries future enemies, are watching this Israel-Gaza war closely.... (to learn how to fight future wars?).

    MODERN WARFARE has changed, and the battlefields have changed, with the outgunned and out-manned inferior military forces forcing the superior overwhelming military forces to fight in inner cities, using guerrilla warfare tactics, that the US, Israel and western countries haven't adapted too..... (dirty wars?). "There is no instance of a nation benefiting from a prolonged war" from the book, "The Art of War" by Sun Tzu.... (and), "He who knows when to fight and when he cannot, will be victorious." .... (With boots on the ground, warfare in the cities, makes things almost equal, doesn't it?).
    In Response

    by: Manfredi Koatz
    July 24, 2014 2:28 PM
    You are 100 percent right. Israel soldiers walking across the road from the staging area to get a cold drink versus Hamas sitting in their holes sucking on stones waiting for the well fed Israeli boys to come. Israel has never fought a war where the enemy has nothing else to loose. I feel sorry for the Israeli soldiers because by the time they learn what is waiting for them in the middle of Gaza they will wish that they had a retreat plan. America has always had a plan on when it was time to leave the battlefield. Israel has leadership that has been raised to a large degree in America and feels that fire power will solve it´s problems. When Israel has killed approx 10.000 Gaza women, men and children then the second string will come in from ISIS. I do not see any reason to cheer right now. The road is long and hard and a loser finds that his friends have left town a long time ago.
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