IDF strike hits UN school, killing mother, two children
The Israel Defense Forces yesterday fired on a Gaza building owned by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian refugees, killing one woman and her two children.
The facility, a school, was hit in the morning, as the IDF was bombing targets in Beit Lahia in the northern Strip. This is the third time in Operation Cast Lead that the IDF has hit UN-owned buildings.
According to Palestinian sources, bombings of UN facilities have killed nearly 50 people in Israel's three-week long offensive in the Gaza Strip.
Gaza sources told foreign media that the two children, aged 5 and 7, were killed when a tank shell slammed into the third floor of the school.
The children's mother died after having lost both her legs in the attack.
"Gaza is unique in the annals of contemporary suffering in that it is a conflict with a fence around it," said Christopher Gunness, an UNRWA spokesman.
"There is nowhere safe to flee."
Gunness said the UN would call for a war crimes investigation into the incident. The Israeli army has said it will look into all incidents involving UN schools.
About 45,000 people have sought refuge in UNRWA schools in the past three weeks. There is no accurate figure for the total number of Gazans displaced because of the fighting because most have sought shelter with relatives.
Speaking about the third UNRWA bombing, United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon condemned as "outrageous" the deadly bombing by the Israeli military of a United Nations-run school in the Gaza Strip, the third since it launched its war on Hamas three weeks ago.
On Thursday, the UN's headquarters in Gaza City was also shelled, prompting protests from Ban, who was in Lebanon yesterday for talks with leaders in his diplomatic push through the region to secure a cease-fire.
A visibly angry Ban, speaking to reporters in Beirut, demanded a "full investigation into these incidents and the punishment of those responsible for these appalling acts."
Some 80 people have been killed yesterday and on Friday, bringing the death toll above 1,200 people on the Palestinian side.
Since the operation began on December 27, more that 5,300 Palestinians have been wounded.
One Friday, a number of representatives from various international non-governmental organizations came to speak with Social Affairs Minister Isaac Herzog at the IDF's foreign-relations headquarters in northern Tel Aviv.
The army has set up a war room entrusted with coordinating the IDF's actions with those of aid organizations.
"We cannot give aid with a gun barrel pointing at our backs," one representative told Herzog.
Despite the tense atmosphere, a number of the representatives exchanged phone numbers with IDF aid coordinators for future cooperation.
Barak Ravid contributed to this article.