Sunday 21 December 2014

Gaza blame game after 15 die in shelling of school as death toll in Israeli offensive hits 750

David Blair

Published 25/07/2014 | 02:30

Jobs Minister Richard Bruton
Jobs Minister Richard Bruton
A Palestinian baby boy is carried after being evacuated from a UN-run school sheltering Palestinian refugees, which witnesses said was hit by Israeli shelling, at a hospital in the northern Gaza Strip. Reuters
A Palestinian man holds a girl, whom medics said was injured in an Israeli shelling at a UN-run school sheltering Palestinian refugees, at a hospital in the northern Gaza Strip. Reuters
Palestinians search for victims under the rubble of a house which witnesses said was destroyed by an Israeli air strike during an Israeli ground offensive east of Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip. Reuters
A Palestinian man looks through a window scarred with shrapnel from a neighbouring building that police said was hit by an overnight Israeli air strike, in Jabaliya in the northern Gaza Strip. Reuters
Palestinians ride in a truck as they flee their houses from Israeli shelling during an Israeli ground offensive east of Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip. Reuters
Palestinian rescue workers search for victims under the rubble of a house which witnesses said was destroyed by an Israeli air strike during an Israeli ground offensive east of Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip. Reuters
Palestinians walk past a fire following what witnesses said was an Israeli air strike on a building in Gaza City. Reuters
Smoke and flames from an Israeli strike rises over Gaza City. Israeli tanks and warplanes bombarded the Gaza Strip on Thursday, as Hamas militants stuck to their demand for the lifting of an Israeli and Egyptian blockade in the face of US efforts to reach a cease-fire. AP
Smoke from an Israeli strike rises over Gaza City. AP
Smoke from an Israeli strike rises over Gaza City. AP
Israeli soldiers guard Palestinians captured during a military offensive in the Gaza Strip. Israel said on Thursday it had detained scores of Palestinians during fighting in the Gaza Strip. Photo: Reuters / Walla News
An Israeli soldier shoots tear gas towards Palestinian protesters against the Israeli military action in Gaza, during a demonstration at Hawara checkpoint near the West Bank city of Nablus. AP
An Israeli soldier carries a tank shell near the Israel and Gaza border. AP
Blood and and discarded belongings are left behind at a U.N. school in Beit Hanoun, in the northern Gaza Strip. AP
A Palestinian girl, whom medics said was wounded in Israeli shelling at a U.N-run school sheltering Palestinian refugees, is treated at a hospital in the northern Gaza Strip. Reuters
A crater marks the centre of a courtyard at a United Nations-run school sheltering Palestinians displaced by an Israeli ground offensive, that police said was hit by an Israeli shell, in Beit Hanoun in the northern Gaza Strip. Reuters
A smoke trail is seen as a rocket is launched from the northern Gaza Strip towards Israel. Reuters
A Palestinian runs in an area damaged in an Israeli airstrike in Gaza City in the Gaza Strip. AP

Israeli forces shelled a UN-run school sheltering Palestinians in the northern Gaza strip, killing at least 15 people and raising the conflict's death toll to almost 750.

Most of the dead were said to be children. The shelling lead to a round of bitter recriminations between Israel and the United Nation last night.

The tank shells exploded inside a Gaza school crowded with Palestinian refugees, killing at least 15 people.

The bombardment, in the town of Beit Hanoun, was the first time that Palestinians sheltering in UN facilities have been killed since Israel's offensive began.

The incident coincided with Benjamin Netanyahu, the prime minister, comparing Israel's experience of rocket fire from Hamas to the Blitz.

"There's only been one other instance where a democracy has been rocketed and pelleted with these projectiles of death, and that's Britain during World War Two," he said." "Israel is undergoing a similar bombardment now."

The UN school, packed with hundreds of Palestinians, came under fire yesterday afternoon. Beit Hanoun is an area where Israeli troops and tanks have been fighting Hamas gunmen for eight days.

Palestinian officials said that Israeli tanks shells hit the school. But the UN did not say who was responsible.

Major Arye Shalicar, of the Israel Defence Forces (IDF), called the incident a "tragedy", adding:"We cannot confirm if this tragedy took place because of our answer to the terrorists who targeted us in this area – or from Hamas fire." But Chris Gunness, the spokesman for the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), stressed that "precise coordinates of the UNRWA shelter had been formally given to the Israeli army". He said the agency had tried to "coordinate a window for civilians to leave with the Israeli army, but it was never granted".

The IDF disputed this, saying that over the past three days, UNRWA had been asked to evacuate the refugees and a "humanitarian window" had been provided between 10am and 2pm yesterday.

Ban Ki-moon, the UN Secretary-General, said he was "appalled" by the attack and that the dead included UN staff.

The bloodshed brought the Palestinian death toll to 751 since July 8. Israel has lost 32 soldiers and three civilians.

Elsewhere, Israel carried out more air strikes across Gaza, including one on a home in the southern town of Abasan, which killed five people.

At a press conference in Cairo, Mr Hammond called for Hamas to agree an unconditional ceasefire, but told Israeli leaders that Western public opinion was becoming less sympathetic as civilian deaths mounted, a rare public rebuke.

He said the comparison to the Blitz was not one of scale but that "no one has to tolerate their civilians being under attack without having the right to try to defend them".

Khaled Meshaal, the Hamas leader, insisted on an end to the "siege" of Gaza before any ceasefire could be agreed.

Palestinians said residents of two southern villages were trapped by days of tank shelling, with medics unable to evacuate wounded. Hamas fired rockets at Tel Aviv and said its gunmen carried out a lethal ambush on Israeli soldiers in north Gaza.

Israel earlier won a partial reprieve from the economic pain of its Gaza war with the lifting of a US ban on commercial flights to Tel Aviv. With Washington's encouragement, and the involvement of Turkey and Hamas ally Qatar, Egypt has been trying to broker a limited humanitarian ceasefire for the battered enclave.

One Cairo official said on Wednesday it could take effect by the weekend, in time for the Eid al-Fitr festival next Monday or Tuesday, Islam's biggest annual celebration at the end of the fasting month of Ramadan. But a US official described any truce by the weekend as unlikely (© Daily Telegraph London)

Irish Independent

Promoted articles

Read More

Promoted articles

Editors Choice

Also in World News