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Article: Dozens reported killed in Israeli strike on UN school in Gaza

Dozens reported killed in Israeli strike on UN school in Gaza

Dozens reported killed in Israeli strike on UN school in Gaza

PHOTO CAPTION: Smoke rises over the Gaza Strip, following an Israeli air strike, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas, near the Israel-Gaza border, as seen from Israel, June 5, 2024. REUTERS/Amir Cohen



By Nidal al-Mughrabi and James Mackenzie

CAIRO/JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israel hit a Gaza school on Thursday with what it described as a targeted airstrike on up to 30 Hamas fighters inside, and a Hamas official said 40 people including women and children were killed as they sheltered in the U.N. site.

Video footage showed Palestinians hauling away bodies after the attack, which took place at a sensitive moment in mediated talks on a ceasefire that would involve releasing hostages held by Hamas and some of the Palestinians held in Israeli jails.

The United States issued a joint statement with other countries on Thursday calling on Israel and Hamas to make whatever compromises were necessary to finalise a deal after eight months of war in the Gaza Strip.

Ismail Al-Thawabta, the director of the Hamas-run government media office, rejected Israel's assertion that the U.N. school in Nuseirat, in central Gaza, had hidden a Hamas command post.

"The occupation uses ... false fabricated stories to justify the brutal crime it conducted against dozens of displaced people," Thawabta told Reuters.

Israel's military said its fighter jets had carried out a "precise strike" and circulated satellite photos highlighting two parts of a building where it said the fighters were based.

"We're very confident in the intelligence," military spokesperson Lt Col. Peter Lerner said, accusing Hamas and Islamic Jihad fighters of deliberately using U.N. facilities as operational bases.

He said 20-30 fighters were located in the compound, and many of them had been killed, but had no precise details as intelligence assessments were being carried out. "I'm not aware of any civilian casualties and I'd be very, very cautious of accepting anything that Hamas puts out," he said.

As people at the school cleared rubble from bloodstained classrooms, survivor Huda Abu Dhaher described waking up to the sound of rockets.

"People's remains were scattered inside the yard and outside. The gas canister exploded," she told Reuters.

"My nephew was martyred (killed), he lost his leg and arm, he was a 10-year-old ... This woman's leg got a fragment in it, her son bled from his mouth and leg, her mother-in-law sustained three injuries."

The school, run by the U.N. Palestinian refugee agency (UNRWA), was sheltering 6,000 displaced people at the time, UNRWA chief Philippe Lazzarini said.

"At least 35 people were killed and many more injured," he wrote on X. "Claims that armed groups may have been inside the shelter are shocking. We are however unable to verify these claims. Attacking, targeting or using UN buildings for military purposes are a blatant disregard of International Humanitarian law."

Thawabta and a medical source said 40 had been killed, including 14 children and nine women.


Israel announced a new military campaign in central Gaza on Wednesday as it battles fighters relying on hit-and-run insurgency tactics. It says there will be no halt to fighting during the ceasefire talks, which have intensified since U.S. President Joe Biden outlined a proposal on Friday.

"At this decisive moment, we call on the leaders of Israel as well as Hamas to make whatever final compromises are necessary to close this deal," said the statement issued by the White House jointly with Argentina, Austria, Brazil, Britain, Canada and others.

Hamas seeks a permanent end to the war. Israel says it must destroy the Islamist militant group first.

In another sensitive development, the Israeli military reported a rare attack near the Israel-Gaza border, saying a squad of Palestinian fighters killed a soldier and three of them were killed in return fire.

A statement by Hamas armed wing, the Al-Qassam Brigades, said its fighters had conducted an operation behind enemy lines in the Rafah area of southern Gaza, a location corresponding to the Israeli military's account.

The incident was likely to challenge efforts to restore a sense of security in Israeli border communities that were overrun by Hamas-led gunmen on Oct. 7 last year.

CIA director William Burns met senior officials from mediators Qatar and Egypt on Wednesday in Doha to discuss the ceasefire plan. Two Egyptian security sources said talks continued on Thursday but had shown no sign of breakthrough.

Biden has repeatedly declared that ceasefires were close over the past several months, but there has been only one, week-long truce, in November.

Last week's announcement coincides with intense domestic political pressure on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to chart a path to end the eight-month-old war and negotiate the release of hostages held by Hamas.

A centrist party in his emergency coalition government has threatened to quit by Saturday if he does not commit to a post-war plan for Gaza. Far-right members have pledged to quit if he agrees to a peace deal that leaves Hamas in place.

Hamas precipitated the war by attacking Israeli territory last Oct. 7, killing around 1,200 people and capturing more than 250 hostages, according to Israeli tallies. About half the hostages were freed in the November truce.

Israel's military assault on Gaza has killed more than 36,000 people, according to health officials in the territory, who say thousands more dead are feared buried under the rubble.

U.S. and Israeli officials have told Reuters about half of Hamas's forces have been killed in the conflict. Hamas does not disclose fatalities among its fighters and some officials say Israel exaggerated the figures.

Israel's own military death toll is almost 300.

(Additional reporting by Dan Williams, Clauda Tanios, Henriette Chacar, Mrinmay Dey and Reuters bureaux; Writing by Michael Perry and Philippa Fletcher; Editing by Gerry Doyle and Timothy Heritage)



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