27 killed in Gaza Strip as Israel pummels shelter for displaced

Published July 10, 2024
An Israeli soldier fires a mortar near the Israel-Gaza border, on Tuesday.—Reuters
An Israeli soldier fires a mortar near the Israel-Gaza border, on Tuesday.—Reuters

GAZA STRIP: A Gaza hospital source said at least 27 people were killed and dozens wounded on Tuesday in the fourth Israeli strike in four days on a school used to shelter displaced Palestinians.

The strike hit the entrance to Al-Awda school in Abasan, near the southern city of Khan Yunis, said a source at Nasser hospital in Khan Yunis where victims were taken.

The Hamas-run government media office meanwhile put the death toll as 29 — the “majority” women and children — in what it called a “terrible massacre” by Israel. Israel did not immediately comment on the strike. It has acknowledged carrying out three other strikes since Saturday on Gaza schools used as displacement shelters.

At least 20 people were killed in the earlier attacks, according to officials in the Hamas-run territory.

On Saturday, an Israeli strike hit the UN-run Al-Jawni school in Nuseirat, central Gaza, killing 16 people, according to the health ministry. The UN agency for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA, said 2,000 people were sheltering there at the time.

The following day a strike on the Holy Family school in Gaza City killed four, according to Gaza’s civil defence agency. The Latin Patriarchate, owners of the school, said hundreds of people had packed the grounds at the time.

Another UNRWA-run school in Nuseirat was hit on Monday. A local hospital said several people were taken in for treatment.

Hamas has denied Israeli claims that it uses schools, hospitals and other civilian facilities for military aims. According to UNRWA, more than 500 people have been killed in schools and other shelters it runs in Gaza.

Meanwhile, Israeli forces pushed on with a major offensive in war-ravaged Gaza City on Tuesday, as UN experts said children were dying in a “starvation campaign”.

Troops, tanks and fighter jets swooped on Gaza’s biggest urban area on the eve of new contacts in Qatar aiming for an eventual prisoner exchange and a truce in the war raging into its 10th month.

CIA director William Burns and Israel’s Mossad chief David Barnea are due to travel to Qatar on Wednesday, after Burns held talks with Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi in Cairo.

Hamas has accused Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of deliberately escalating fighting in Gaza City and Rafah, in the territory’s south, to thwart an agreement.

The group’s Qatar-based political chief Ismail Haniyeh said he had made “urgent contact” with mediators, warning that the “catastrophic consequences” of the latest battles could “reset the negotiation process to square one”.

Hamas’s armed wing, the Ezzedine Al-Qassam Brigades, described the fighting in Gaza City in recent days as “the most intense in months”.

After almost two weeks of battles in Gaza City’s eastern Shujaiya district, Israeli forces have extended the fighting into the city’s east, west and south.

Residents reported helicopter strikes, “explosions and numerous gun battles” in the city’s southwest.

Israel’s military said it was pursuing Palestinian fighters in Gaza City, six months after it said it had dismantled Hamas’s “military framework” in the territory’s north.

Aircraft struck the city as troops were engaged in “close-quarters combat”, seizing weapons and destroying tunnels, the military said, reporting “dozens” of militants killed.

‘Starvation campaign’

The United Nations said tens of thousands of civilians have been affected by the surge in fighting since the first of three evacuation orders for Gaza City was declared on June 27.

Thousands were seen marching down dusty roads past bombed-out buildings, with mothers carrying babies and others packing belongings onto donkey carts. The UN Human Rights Office said it was “appalled” at the way civilians, many of whom have been displaced multiple times, have been ordered to head to areas where “military operations are ongoing and where civilians continue to be killed and injured”.

Gaza City residents have now been told to move south to Deir al-Balah, which the UN office said “is already seriously overcrowded” with displaced Palestinians.

Separately, independent UN rights experts accused Israel of carrying out a “targeted starvation campaign” that has resulted in the deaths of Gazan children. “Israel’s intentional and targeted starvation campaign against the Palestinian people is a form of genocidal violence,” the experts said in a statement.

“Thirty-four Palestinians have died from malnutrition since October 7, the majority being children,” said the experts, who are appointed by the UN Human Rights Council but who do not speak on behalf of the United Nations.

Israel’s mission to the UN in Geneva accused the panel’s members of “spreading misinformation” and “supporting Hamas propaganda”.

Conflict with Hezbollah

Qatar and Egypt, supported by the United States, have been engaged in months of behind-the-scenes contacts to start truce talks and organise an exchange of prisoners held in Israeli jails.

Hamas has signalled that it would drop its insistence on a “complete” ceasefire — which Israel had repeatedly rejected — as a condition for starting talks.

Netanyahu’s has set out conditions for talks, including that “any deal will allow Israel to return and fight until all the goals of the war are achieved”, including the destruction of Hamas.

Hezbollah on Tuesday released a video showing aerial surveillance footage it said was taken over intelligence and military positions in the Israeli-annexed Syrian Golan Heights. The release came after an Israeli strike killed a senior Hezbollah commander last week.

Published in Dawn, July 10th, 2024



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