June 20, 2024

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US says Israel should be open about school strike in Gaza

US says Israel should be open about school strike in Gaza
Comment on the photo, The damaged school on Thursday

  • author, Matt Murphy
  • Role, BBC News

The United States has asked Israel to be fully “transparent” regarding an airstrike that reportedly killed at least 35 people in a central Gaza school crowded with displaced people on Thursday morning.

Local journalists told the BBC that a warplane fired two missiles at classrooms on the top floor of the school in the Nuseirat refugee camp.

The Israeli military said it carried out a “precision” strike on a “Hamas compound” at the school, but the Hamas-run government media office in Gaza denied the claim.

The United States called on Israel to publicly identify the Hamas fighters it said it had killed, just as the Israeli military named nine of them.

Israel often identifies militants it targets in air strikes, but the United States rarely urges it to do so.

“The Israelis told us that there were between 20 and 30 militants targeting them [and] US State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said: “They will announce the names of those they believe were killed, these militants.”

“This is what they said they would provide. We expect them to do that, as well as any other details that would shed light on this incident.”

In Washington, Miller said that the United States had seen reports that 14 children were killed in the raid.

“If it is true that 14 children were killed, then these are not terrorists,” he said.

He added: “Therefore, the Israeli government said that it will publish more information about this strike… and we expect them to be completely transparent in publishing this information to the public.”

These latest deaths come just one week after 45 people were killed in an Israeli raid on the city of Rafah in Gaza.

Comment on the photo, A woman cries at the site of an airstrike on Thursday

Journalists and local residents say that the latest raid occurred in the early hours of Thursday at the Sardi School, which is located in the southeastern area of ​​the densely populated, decades-old camp, where the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) is located. Services.

Video clips circulated on social media showed the destruction of several classrooms in one of the school buildings, in addition to bodies wrapped in white shrouds and blankets.

The dead and wounded were transferred to Al-Aqsa Martyrs Hospital in the nearby town of Deir al-Balah, which has been overwhelmed since the Israeli army began a new ground operation against Hamas in central Gaza this week.

The BBC is working to verify the details of the raid on the Nuseirat camp. Reports varied about the exact number of deaths.

Philippe Lazzarini, Commissioner-General of UNRWA, said that at least 35 people were killed and many more were injured. The agency’s communications director, Juliette Touma, told the BBC that these numbers came from “UNRWA colleagues on the ground.”

Eyewitnesses described the scene of devastation that followed the raid.

Uday Abu Elias, a man who lives in the school, told BBC Arabic: “I was asleep when the accident happened.”

“Suddenly we heard a strong explosion and shattered glass and debris from the building fell on us. Smoke filled the air and I could not see anything. I did not expect to be able to get out alive. I heard someone calling for the survivors to come. I got out from under the rubble with difficulty, stumbling on the bodies of the martyrs.

UNRWA said that six thousand displaced people were taking shelter in the school complex at the time. Many schools and other UN facilities were used as shelters for 1.7 million people who fled their homes during the war, which lasted nearly eight months.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres condemned the attack through a spokesman, saying UN buildings must be “fortified” and protected by “all parties” during conflicts.

The Israeli army said in a statement that the planes carried out “a precise strike on a Hamas compound inside” the school. An illustrative aerial photo highlighted classrooms on the building’s top two floors, which the Israeli military said were “terrorist sites.”

US officials continued to press for what President Joe Biden described as an Israeli ceasefire proposal.

The deal would eventually lead to a “permanent cessation of hostilities” and a major reconstruction plan in Gaza. Germany, France and Britain reiterated their support for the agreement in a joint statement with the United States on Thursday, calling for a “permanent end to the crisis.”

CIA Director William Burns met with mediators from Egypt and Qatar in Doha on Thursday to discuss the plans, but senior officials in Cairo told Reuters news agency that there was no sign of a breakthrough in the agreement.

At least 36,470 people have been killed in Gaza during nearly eight months of fighting, according to the Hamas-run Health Ministry.

Hamas killed about 1,200 people and took 251 others hostage during its October 7 attacks on southern Israel.

Additional reporting by Rushdi Abu Al-Ouf in Istanbul and David Gretten in London.