UN shelter for Palestinians in Gaza hit by rocket fire killing at least 10 people
Condemnations of rocket fire that hit a United Nations shelter in a Gaza school killing at least 10 civilians on Thursday were forthcoming, but who set off the explosions remained unclear. This was the third strike on U.N. shelters during the 17 day conflict.
"We're extremely concerned now that this if this trend continues we will see a mass casualty event," said Robert Turner, U.N. Relief and Works Agency Gaza operations director to news sources. However, U.N. officials were kept from conducting a full investigation at the scene due to "a hostile reception" there, he added.
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The U.N. has been operating the shelter for Gaza residents seeking respite from fighting around Beit Hanoun in the northern part of the strip about one mile from the Israeli border. U.N. officials said they formally advised the Israeli military of the presence of the school and asked for permission to move the civilians, but were denied.
The shelter director initially said the rocket strike may have been caused by Israeli missiles, but backtracked later on that statement. Israeli defense forces said the investigation was continuing and may have been a Hamas rocket gone astray.
Israeli military accuses Hamas of storing and firing rockets from schools in the area. However, UN officials have set up shelters at schools to house civilians fleeing the intense fighting in the 17-day-old conflict between Hamas and Israel. The death toll at the school could rise as Palestinian health officials said a large number of people, including women, children and the elderly, had been wounded in the attack.
Saying that Israel would own up if responsible, IDF Brig. Gen. Michael Edelstein said Israel would never bomb a UN shelter by design. Other Israeli military spokesmen said Hamas rockets aimed at Israel have misfired during the conflict. "We don't strike schools, " said Lt. Col. Peter Lerner, an Israeli military official. "We don't strike U.N. facilities."
More than 80 Gaza schools now are being operated as U.N. shelters in Gaza. As many as 150,000 of Gaza's 1.7 million residents are taking shelter at those facilities, according to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency.