The United Nations says all indicators are that Israeli artillery hit a U.N. school in the northern Gaza Strip early Wednesday, killing at least 16 people who were sheltering there, including children.
U.N. Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson was emotional as he spoke about the attack which also injured more than 100 people.
“Sometimes you run out of words,” he said before explaining that U.N. officials received news of the attack with “shock and dismay.”
The elementary school in Jabaliya is the fifth U.N. school sheltering Palestinian families to be attacked since hostilities began.
"They were there under U.N. protection — under our protection — and after warnings from the Israeli Defense Forces who had numerous times been informed about the presence of over 3,000 civilians at this location.”
Eliasson said the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, which operates in Gaza, had communicated the school’s coordinates to the Israeli military authorities 17 times — as recently as last night, just a few hours before the attack. That agency also informs Hamas of U.N. locations.
“UNRWA’s initial assessment and all indicators are that it was Israeli artillery that hit the school," he said. "An Israeli spokesperson has confirmed that mortar fire had been coming from militants in the vicinity of the school and that Israeli troops had fired back in response.”
Speaking in Costa Rica on Wednesday, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon strongly condemned the attack, saying it demands accountability and justice, adding, “Nothing is more shameful than attacking sleeping children.”
The U.N. is sheltering some 200,000 people at its facilities, including schools, in Gaza. John Ging, U.N. humanitarian operations chief, said that nearly 6,000 homes and 23 medical facilities have been destroyed. Six U.N. staff have also been killed during the conflict.
The United Nations has repeatedly called for an immediate cease-fire.