At Least 40 Killed in Israeli Strike on UNRWA School

According to the UN and Gazan health officials, at least 40 people, approximately half of which were women and children, were killed early Thursday morning in an Israeli strike on a UNRWA school in the Nuseirat camp in Gaza. In contrast, Israel has claimed that approximately 30 militants were targeted in the strike, though they gave no figure as to how many militants they claim died in the strike.

Footage of portraying some of those killed in the strike may be viewed here.

Differing Claims

Analysis of the strike on the UNRWA school shows that two US-made GBU-39 small diameter bombs were used in order to strike the school, as well as at least one more missile with local journalists reporting that “at least three missiles” were used. The nose cones of the munition are visible in documentation of the aftermath taken by locals and journalists, and the five digit cage code, ‘81873’, links the munitions to Woodward HRT, a weapon components manufacturer that is based in California.

However the target, and those killed in the strike, is disputed between Israel, the UN, and Gazan health authorities.

Philippe Lazzarini, the Commissioner General of the UNRWA, released a statement condemning the strike and claiming the school was attacked “without prior warning to the displaced,” who number approximately 6,000. Lazzarini in his statement said that “at least 35” were killed in the strike.

Acknowledging Israel’s claims that Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) militants had been using the school as a base, Lazzarini stated that the “claims that armed groups may have been inside the shelter are shocking,” though he continued to say that the UN was “unable to verify these claims.”

According to the Gaza Government Media office, which is Hamas run, at least 40 people were killed in the strike, with an additional 74 injured. The office stated that of those 40, 14 are children and nine are women. The office also refuted the Israeli claim that militants were killed, claiming those killed to have been “displaced people.”

Documentation of some of those injured in the strike arriving at hospitals may be viewed here.

The Gaza Government Media office further added that Iyad Al-Maghari, the Mayor of Nuseirat, was also killed in the strike, referring to his death as an “assassination,” and a war crime. They further referred to the strike itself as a war crime as well.

In contrast, however, Israel has claimed the strike targeted Hamas and PIJ militants who were operating out of the school. Their initial statement on the matter may be read below:

“In a joint operation by the IDF and Shin Bet, we attacked tonight a compound where Hamas and Islamic Jihad terrorists were hiding, inside a UNRWA school in Nuzirat, in the center of the Gaza Strip.

The terrorists operated from the school, and from there they planned and carried out terrorist activity, some of them participated in the brutal massacre on the seventh of October. Fighter jets attacked with precision weapons three classrooms where about 30 terrorists were hiding. So far the identity of nine terrorists in the attack has been verified, we are currently busy verifying the identity of additional terrorists who were attacked. Some of these terrorists participated in the massacre on the Seventh of October, we will persecute everyone who took part in the Seventh of October”

In response to the accusations of civilian deaths, IDF Spokesman, Lt. Col. Peter Lerner, stated that Israel was “confident that our activities were effective in limiting and reducing the harm to civilians in the area,” further adding that he was “not aware of any civilian casualties and I’d be very, very cautious of accepting anything that Hamas puts out.”

Notably, Lerner also stated that the strike had been called off twice before due to the prospect of civilian casualties.

Lead IDF Spokesman, Daniel Hagari, issued a statement similar to Lerner’s, stating that “we conducted the strike once our intelligence and surveillance indicated there were no women or children inside the Hamas compound inside those classrooms.”

In order to support their claim, the IDF released the names and photos of a number of Hamas militants they claim to have been killed in the strike. The validity of these claims that the individuals shown are Hamas militants has not been verified, though the IDF’s publication showing the individuals, and their association/role, may be viewed here.

Escalations Amidst Negotiations

IDF strikes throughout the Gaza Strip, including in the north and central Gaza Strip, have been escalating significantly in recent days.

Many of the areas being struck in the north and central Gaza are areas which the IDF had previously declared to hold control of, where combat against Hamas militants has resumed.

Simultaneously, efforts to negotiate a ceasefire are again taking place.

American, Egyptian, and Qatari officials are meeting in Doha, Qatar, in order to attempt to negotiate a ceasefire.

These talks come approximately a week after US President Joe Biden showcased a three phase ceasefire; a ceasefire he said was Israeli proposed. This ceasefire, while the first phase was only to last six weeks, had the capacity to become permanent in the second phase, witness a full release of hostages, and the withdrawal of Israeli troops from Gaza.

However, Israel’s response to the ceasefire has indicated that the proposal outlined by Biden was not an Israeli initiative.

Israeli officials, including Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, rejected both the prospect of a withdrawal, as well as a permanent ceasefire, unless Hamas is first destroyed. The Israeli goal for the destruction of Hamas has been a stated war goal since the beginning of the war, and has been recurrent in any ceasefire negotiations, where Israel has repeatedly rejected the prospect of a permanent ceasefire.

In contrast, Hamas demands a permanent ceasefire, and the complete withdrawal of Israeli troops from Gaza, representing a very large impasse that negotiations have reached.

Regardless, ceasefire negotiations have resumed after Biden’s ceasefire proposal, with Hamas stating they viewed the proposal “positively,” and Israeli officials saying that, while they had issues with a number of aspects of Biden’s outline, that they had agreed to a “framework” of a ceasefire proposal that needed further negotiation in order to close in on a deal.

Despite these negotiations being ongoing, strikes have intensified in the last week.

Israel’s Defence Minister Yoav Gallant, who is also a member of Netanyahu’s ‘War Cabinet’, addressed this particular issue on Wednesday, stating that Israel would not slow it’s offensive for any ongoing negotiations.

“We are in a process of continuous engagement to wear down the enemy. Any negotiations with the terrorist organization Hamas will only be conducted under fire” -Israeli Minister of Defence, Yoav Gallant

It is unclear if the strike on the UNRWA school will have any effect upon negotiations. When at least 45 people were killed in late May by an Israeli strike upon an Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camp in Rafah, Hamas stated they were suspending their participation in ceasefire negotiations due to the strike.

Sébastien Gray
Sébastien Gray
Sébastien Gray is a published journalist and historicist with over 5 years experience in writing. His primary focus is on East and West African affairs.


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