THREE Palestinians were killed near midnight on Monday in an Israeli attack on a United Nations school that was housing people displaced by the violence in Gaza, the UN’s relief agency for Palestinian refugees said yesterday.
UNRWA said that Israeli forces attacked the Asma Elementary School in Gaza City, which is currently sheltering 400 people who fled their homes in the town of Beit Lahiy.
The school was clearly marked as a United Nations installation. It was flagged and well lit.
The three Palestinian victims were 24-year-old Hussein Mahmoud Abed Al Malek Al Sultan, 19-year-old Abed Samir Ali Al Sultan, and 25-year-old Rawhi Jamal Ramadan Al Sultan.
All from the same family, they were killed as they left the school toilet when the school compound took a direct hit.
The director of the UN general commissioner’s office in Gaza Adnan Abu Hasanah said that another UN facility, the Ash-Shouka School in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, was also bombarded. At this time there were no details available about the civilians who had taken shelter in the school.
UNRWA is strongly protesting about these killings to the Israeli authorities and is calling for an immediate and impartial investigation.
‘Where it is found that international humanitarian law has been violated, those responsible must be held to account,’ UNRWA said.
Well before the current fighting, UNRWA said it had given to the Israeli authorities the GPS co-ordinates of all its installations in Gaza, including Asma Elementary School.
‘This tragic incident again illustrates the most urgent need for an end to the fighting. It also underlines the sad reality facing those fleeing the violence that unless there is a lasting ceasefire, there will remain pervasive risks to civilian lives in Gaza today,’ the agency added.
Ambulances and medical workers in Gaza are facing increasing difficulty in reaching the wounded, some fifteen medics have been killed in doing so, and a ‘humanitarian breathing space’ is vital to ensure that food and medical supplies reach those in need as Israel’s offensive entered its 10th day, the top United Nations relief official in the area said.
‘Large numbers of people including many children are hungry, they are cold, they are without ready access to medical facilities, they are without access to electricity and running water, above all they are terrified.
‘That by any measure is a humanitarian crisis,’ UN Humanitarian Coordinator for the occupied Palestinian territory Maxwell Gaylard told a news briefing in Jerusalem.
‘There is an overall atmosphere of fear. More than half of the population are children.
‘The spectre of internal displacement is emerging with growing numbers seeking shelter and already there are several thousand civilians in UNRWA’s seven shelters,’ he said, referring to the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East.
UNRWA Director of Operations in Gaza John Ging told a news conference in New York by webcam: ‘It’s a shocking state of affairs. The first thing you will be struck by is just the emptiness. The streets are empty, nothing’s happening, except intermittently you see a family running with their suitcases obviously looking for safe haven somewhere. It’s really a horrible existence for the people here at all levels.’
The drones are ongoing continuously, the shellings are incessant, and now there is the major ground operation, he said, adding: ‘The people here I can only describe to be terrorised. . . they’re traumatised, they’re continuously now telling me that they feel trapped.
‘If this were another conflict people would be fleeing, but they can’t flee in Gaza, there’s nowhere to flee to.’
Ging said he worked on relief operations during the Rwandan genocide and the Balkan ethnic cleansing, but Israel’s attack on Gaza ‘is unprecedented in terms of the scale and nature’.
Ging demanded that ‘all responsible’ for breaking the Geneva Conventions by massacring Palestinians must be brought to justice.
l Israeli tank fire later killed 40 Palestinians at the Al-Fakhura school in Jabaliya refugee camp during a bombardment.
Six hundred Palestinians have been killed since the Israelis began their assault on Gaza.
GROUND ATTACK INDICATES ‘ISRAELI FAILURE’
THE Hamas prime minister of the Gaza Strip, Ismail Haniya, argued yesterday that the Israeli ground operations in the Gaza Strip signals Israel’s failure to force Palestinians to surrender.
‘It is true that our people do not have warplanes, tanks, naval squadrons or cluster bombs, yet they have strong will and insistence.
‘They are armed with steadfastness, unity and tolerance.
‘States collapse in front of such wars, but Gaza survives thanks to heavenly miracles, and holy Quran verses,’ Haniya said.
Haniya has not appeared in public or on television since Israeli forces began the intense bombing of the Gaza Strip on Saturday December 27.
Yesterday he questioned Arab and Muslim ‘silence’ towards the crisis in Gaza, saying: ‘How could the Arabs, the Muslims and the free people of the world allow such massacres and such undermining of all human life values?’
He described the slowness of the UN Security Council’s reaction as an indication that ‘certain international actors’ are interested in giving Israel more time to commit more massacres.
Haniya criticised Arab countries for counting on the UN Security Council to determine what is going on in Gaza.
‘They knew in advance that it is governed by great countries such as the US, which legitimised murder and bloodshed in Palestine, Iraq, Afghanistan, Lebanon and Somalia,’ he said.