Text size

Israel is considering submitting a complaint to the United Nations of Hamas' use of the world body's facilities for terror purposes, after 30 people were killed when an Israeli army artillery shell struck a UN school in Gaza. Israeli troops say that they were fired on from the building.

The Israel Defense Forces soldiers attacked the UN-run girl's school near the Jabalya refugee camp in self-defense, saying militants barricaded inside began firing mortar rounds at them.

"Initial checks ... show that from inside the school mortars were fired at Israeli forces," an IDF spokesman said. "In response, the forces fired a number of mortar rounds into the area."

The army also said that the bodies of Hamas militants were found inside the school following the attack. Troops identified two of the casualties at the site as Imad and Hassan Abu Askhar, who served as heads of the Hamas mortar units in Gaza.

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni met Tuesday evening to discuss how the incident at the Jabalya school would be investigated.

"Hamas is making every effort to cover up the details of the incident," defense establishment officials said.

A spokesman of the Israeli Embassy in the U.S. said that it was clear that the site was not operating as a school at the time of the attack.

Hamas has once again cynically chosen to use civilian sites from which to operate, thus endangering the safety of innocent civilians," he said.

"This is not the first time that Hamas has fired mortars and rockets from schools, which deliberately uses civilians as human shields in their acts of terror," he added, citing footage from an unmanned plane showing rockets and mortars being fired from the yard of an UNRWA school.

Meanwhile, the UNRWA is demanding an independent investigation and the indictment of anyone found to have violated international law.

The attack brought the Palestinian death toll to nearly 600 in Israel's 11-day offensive on the Hamas-ruled coastal territory.

Also on Tuesday, Israel Air Force warplanes struck a building in Gaza in which the head of Hamas' rocket division was staying. It was not immediately clear whether Ayman Sayam was hit in the attack, which occurred in the Jabalya refugee camp in the northern Gaza Strip.