middle east

Israeli airstrike on Gaza school kills at least 16

At least 16 people have tragically lost their lives in an Israeli airstrike on a UN-operated school in the Gaza Strip, Palestinian officials reported.

The strike also left dozens injured, as the building was housing thousands of displaced individuals in the Nuseirat refugee camp in central Gaza, according to the Hamas-run health ministry.

Israel stated that it had targeted several Hamas militants “operating in structures located in the area of Al-Jaouni School”.

Responding to the severity of these claims, a spokesperson for the UN agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA) called for a thorough investigation into the incident.

The airstrike occurred amidst tentative hopes for a ceasefire deal between Israel and Hamas after months of stalled negotiations. Israel has announced plans to dispatch negotiators next week to discuss a potential hostage release agreement with Hamas, following indications of willingness from the group to make significant adjustments.

Eyewitness footage from the scene of the Nuseirat school strike captured harrowing scenes of adults and children amidst debris and smoke-filled streets. Witnesses recounted how the upper floors of the school, situated near a bustling market, were targeted during the attack. Up to 7,000 people were reportedly seeking refuge in the building at the time.

One witness described the tragic loss of children studying the Quran when the building was hit, noting that it was the fourth such incident targeting the school without prior warning.

In response to the attack, Hamas reported that five local journalists were among those killed in Israeli airstrikes on the same day, with family members also reportedly targeted. According to Reporters Without Borders, over 100 journalists have lost their lives in Gaza since October 7, amidst ongoing violence.

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) confirmed its airstrike on the school buildings, asserting that it had taken multiple precautions to minimize civilian casualties, including precise aerial surveillance and intelligence measures.

Hamas condemned the attack as a “massacre” of vulnerable displaced civilians, emphasizing that many of the victims were women, children, and the elderly. The group called for international intervention to address what it described as Israel’s ongoing violations of international law.

This incident is not the first time such tragedies have occurred in Gaza during the conflict. Similar strikes on UN-operated schools, serving as shelters for displaced persons, have resulted in significant loss of life and drawn condemnation from humanitarian organizations. The UNRWA has repeatedly called for investigations into these incidents and emphasized the need for protecting civilians during armed conflicts.

International responses to the latest escalation include calls for restraint and renewed efforts towards achieving a lasting ceasefire to end the suffering of civilians caught in the crossfire.

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