In a rare display of frustration, the US has stopped just a bit short of directly condemning Israel for yet another deadly shelling of a UN-run school in Gaza, and urged Israel to “do more to meet its own standards” of avoiding civilian casualties.
“The United States is appalled by today's disgraceful shelling outside an UNRWA school in Rafah sheltering some 3,000 displaced persons, in which at least ten more Palestinian civilians were tragically killed,” State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki said in a statement. “The suspicion that militants are operating nearby does not justify strikes that put at risk the lives of so many innocent civilians.”
“We once again stress that Israel must do more to meet its own standards and avoid civilian casualties,” Psaki added.
“The coordinates of the school, like all UN facilities in Gaza, have been repeatedly communicated to the Israel Defense Forces,” Psaki pointed out, adding to the UN’s outrage which stated earlier that the Israeli Army had been notified about “this particular installation” on “33 separate occasions”, the last time only an hour before the tragedy.
Earlier in the day, the IDF confirmed that it was shelling the neighborhood where the UN school is located.
“The IDF targeted three PIJ (Islamic Jihad) terrorists on board a motorcycle in the vicinity of an UNRWA school in Rafah,” the Israeli army said. “The IDF is reviewing the consequences of this strike.”
A Military source told Haaretz that an Israeli Air Force strike targeted three militants on a motorcycle near the school. It not evident that the damage to the school was due to the strike, the publication reports, citing preliminary investigation by the IDF. The IDF intends to examine video footage from the event, based on surveillance at the area.
Health ministry spokesman Ashraf al-Qidra, told Ma’an that the 10 victims of the UNRWA school strike have been identified t as Muhammad Abu Rajal, Sami Abdullah Qashta, Sami Ismail Abu Shalouf, Ahmad Khaled Abu Harba, Muhammad Musaid Qashta, Hazem Abd al-Basit Halal, Omar Tariq Abu al-Roos, Ahmad Kamal al-Nahal, Yousef Akram Sakafi, and Tariq Said Abu al-Roos. At least 35 people were wounded.
The school is sheltering more than 3,000 people that were forced to flee their home in the Israeli bombardment, from land, sea and air. Rafah Preparatory Boys School is one of more than 90 shelters run by the UN.
At the time of the strike, witnesses reported dozens of people including children gathered around the gate trading with street vendors, when a missile struck some 8-10 meters from the gate. Witnesses also claim that the missile was fired from one of the IDF's unmanned drones.
Earlier, the United States neglected to directly blame Israel by name for civilian casualties in IDF attacks, including those on at least 7 UN installations in Gaza.
Just hours after an attack on a United Nations-operated school took the lives of 20 civilians last week, the US announced it would resupply Israeli military with new ammunition to further their campaign on the war-ravaged city. Only several days later, the US Congress overwhelmingly approved an emergency measure to grant Israel $225 million in additional funding to boost the country’s missile defense capabilities.
On Sunday the death toll on the 27th day of Israel's offensive on Gaza hit at least 120 as health officials reported that over 70 bodies had been recovered in Rafah, a day after the city came under fierce, prolonged bombardment by the IDF, Ma’an reports. The continuing attacks brought the total death toll in the assault to 1,810 with nearly 10,000 injured.