Israeli forces shelled a United Nations-run school housing Palestinian refugees Tuesday, killing at least 15 people, the Gaza Health Ministry said Thursday.
Gaza health official Ashraf al-Kidra told the Associated Press that at least 150 people have been injured. The school, located in Beit Hanoun, a town in the northern Gaza Strip, was housing hundreds of mostly women and children when the clash began. Reporters have descended onto the scene to tweet observations:
UN tells us they gave coordinates of school to Israels. 800 mostly women and children using it as a shelter when rounds came in #Gaza— Dan Rivers (@danieljerivers) July 24, 2014
We were at the UN school in Beit Hanoun days ago. Already overcrowded and desperate. Now many dead. Supposed to be safe area.— Paul Adams (@BBCPaulAdams) July 24, 2014
UN school attacked in north gaza.. 13 at least killed. Bloody desks. Blood on ground. Terrified children.— Richard Engel (@RichardEngel) July 24, 2014
Chris Gunness, the spokesman for the UN Relief and Works Agency, which ran the school and various shelters for refugees, tweeted that the shelter had been targeted by the Israeli army, and that the UNRWA attempted to help civilians leave:
Precise co-ordinates of the UNRWA shelter in Beit Hanoun had been formally given to the Israeli army RT— Chris Gunness (@ChrisGunness) July 24, 2014
Over the course of the day UNRWA tried 2 coodinate with the Israeli Army a window for civilians 2 leave & it was never granted RT— Chris Gunness (@ChrisGunness) July 24, 2014
However, Israel Defense Forces Spokesman Peter Lerner says the UN had been warned to vacate the shelter in advance:
Just listened to @ChrisGunness, speaking about Bet Hanun, don't know why he missed the humanitarian window today between 1000-1400— Peter Lerner (@LTCPeterLerner) July 24, 2014
This incident comes as the fourth UN facility caught in the fighting between Israel and Palestinian militants in Gaza, which is ruled by the Islamic militant group Hamas, since the Israeli operation began July 8. More than 140,000 Palestinians have fled their homes for buildings run by the UNRWA.