UN backtracks on claim that deadly IDF strike hit Gaza school
43 people died in January 6 IDF strike in Gaza refugee camp; UN previously said that mortars had hit school.
The United Nations has reversed its stance on one of the most contentious and bloody incidents of the recent Israel Defense Forces operation in Gaza, saying that an IDF mortar strike that killed 43 people on January 6 did not hit one of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency schools after all.
It seems that the UN has been under pressure to put the record straight after doubts arose that the school had actually been targeted. Maxwell Gaylord, the UN humanitarian coordinator in Jerusalem, said Monday that the IDF mortar shells fell in the street near the compound, and not on the compound itself.
Gaylord said that the UN "would like to clarify that the shelling and all of the fatalities took place outside and not inside the school."
UNRWA, an agency whose sole purpose is to work with Palestinian refugees, said in response Tuesday that it had maintained from the day of attack that the wounded were outside of the school compound. UNRWA said that the source of the mistake in recent weeks had originated with a separate branch of the United Nations.
Senior IDF officials had previously expressed skepticism that the school had been struck, saying that two mortar shells could not kill 43 people and wound dozens more.
Questions about the veracity of the claims that the school had been hit by the IDF were also raised last week by the Canadian newspaper The Globe and Mail. The newspaper said that a teacher in the UNRWA compound at the time of the strike "was adamant" that no people had been killed inside the compound.
The newspaper quoted the teacher as saying that, "I could see some of the people had been injured... But when I got outside, it was crazy hell. There were bodies everywhere, people dead, injured, flesh everywhere."
The newspaper said that the teacher had been told by the UN not to speak to the media. "Three of my students were killed," he said. "But they were all outside."