UN Chief Condemns 'Shameful' Shelling of School in Gaza

White House also condemns shelling, does not mention Israel in announcement; 16 people were killed overnight in the shelling in the Jabalya refugee camp; UNRWA says it had told IDF exact location a number of times.

ברק רביד - צרובה
Barak Ravid
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A Palestinian man pictured through a damaged classroom carries a boy as he walks at a United Nations-run school sheltering Palestinians displaced by an Israeli ground offensive.
A Palestinian man pictured through a damaged classroom carries a boy as he walks at a United Nations-run school sheltering Palestinians displaced by an Israeli ground offensive.Credit: Reuters
ברק רביד - צרובה
Barak Ravid

The United Nations and the White House on Wednesday condemned the shelling of a United Nations school in the Jabalya refugee camp in the Gaza Strip overnight, which killed 16 people.

The U.S. condemnation did not clarify "Israeli" shelling, but rather the attack itself. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon also did not condemn Israel by name in the attack, but said all available evidence points to Israeli artillery as the cause."

The United States condemns the shelling of a UNRWA school in Gaza, which reportedly killed and injured innocent Palestinians – including children – and UN humanitarian workers," the White House said.

"We are extremely concerned that thousands of internally displaced Palestinians who have been called on by the Israeli military to evacuate their homes are not safe in UN designated shelters in Gaza. We also condemn those responsible for hiding weapons in United Nations facilities in Gaza. All of these actions, and similar ones earlier in the conflict, are inconsistent with the UN’s neutrality. This violence underscores the need to achieve a cease-fire as soon as possible.”

The United Nations Work and Relief Agency, which runs the Abu Haseen school, issued a condemnation earlier, saying that the school was attacked three times, despite that its exact location in a heavily populated residential area was clarified to the IDF on number of occasions.

Thousands of Gazans have sought refuge in the UN schools as their homes have been leveled in the IDF strikes of the last three weeks. The number of refugees across the Gaza Strip is close to 400,000, possibly even higher.

UNWRA late Tuesday reported that it had found a cache of rockets at one of its schools in the Gaza Strip and condemned those who had put them there.

Secretary-General Ban condemned the attack as "outrageous" and "unjustifiable," and demanded an immediate humanitarian cease-fire in the war between Israel and Hamas.

"Nothing is more shameful than attacking sleeping children," Ban said on his arrival in San Jose, Costa Rica. "I condemn this attack in the strongest possible terms."

Ban said "all available evidence points to Israeli artillery as the cause" of the pre-dawn attack, and he pointedly noted that Israeli military authorities had received the coordinates of the school from the United Nations 17 times, including on Tuesday night.

At UN headquarters in New York, Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson expressed "shock and dismay" at the attack that also injured more than 100. He stressed that more than 3,000 civilians had sought shelter at the elementary girls' school in the Jabalia refugee camp.

Israeli's military said it fired back after soldiers were targeted by mortar rounds launched from the vicinity of the school.

John Ging, the director of UN humanitarian operations, said it was the fifth attack on a United Nations school sheltering civilians since fighting between Israel and Hamas began on July 8.

Ban said almost 1,300 people have been killed in Gaza since then, almost 6,000 have been wounded, and the United Nations has taken in 140,000 people who have fled the fighting at its facilities in Gaza, including many schools.

The UN Security Council scheduled a briefing Thursday morning on the dire humanitarian situation in Gaza at the request of Jordan, the Arab representative on the council.

Eliasson asked the world to remember the human beings at the center of the war.
He took a copy of the UN Charter out of his pocket and read the first few words, "We the peoples..." to stress that "this organization is about people in the end."

"We've just seen this morning a horrifying example of the price paid," Eliasson said. "When you get that vicious circle of violence, first of all you get increased suffering, and secondly you get hatred and mistrust that is there as a poison in the societies and makes a peaceful future less probable."

Eliasson and Ban urged both sides to agree to an immediate, unconditional humanitarian cease-fire and talks to resolve outstanding issues peacefully.

UNRWA, meanwhile, informed Israel that if its attacks on Gaza continue to spur more waves of refugees it will be unable to accommodate them and that it expects Israel as an occupying power, to provide them with the necessary humanitarian aid, Robert Turner, the Gaza-based director of UNRWA told Haaretz.

According to Turner, this message was transmitted to Israel a number of times over the past two days. Of the 400,000 people who fled from neighborhoods and towns Israel shelled and is shelling, 220,000 were housed in UNWRA schools.

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