6 January 2009 – More than 30 people have been killed in two separate Israeli strikes on clearly-marked United Nations schools where civilians were seeking refuge from the ongoing violence in Gaza, an official with the world body said today, calling for an independent inquiry into the incidents.
John Ging, Director of Operations in Gaza of the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), said that 30 people died and 55 others were injured when three artillery shells landed at the perimeter of a UN school in the Jabaliya refugee camp.
UNRWA’s education programme has been suspended since the start of Israeli air attacks on Gaza, which the Jewish State says it launched in response to rocket attacks by Hamas militants, on 27 December.
“Those who were in the school were all families seeking refuge,” Mr. Ging said of the school that was hit in Jabaliya, which usually serves as a girls’ preparatory school.
Another artillery shell struck an empty boys’ school in Jabaliya, he said.
In a separate attack last night, three Palestinians, who had sought refuge in a small co-educational UN school in Gaza City, died when a missile hit the building’s toilet facilities.
The three men who were killed were “Gazans who had fled their home earlier that day,” the UNRWA official said, adding that they thought “they would be safe in a UN school in Gaza City.”
He underscored that all UN schools in Gaza are clearly marked, flying the UN flag, and that the Organization has provided the GPS coordinates of all of its installations in the area to Israel.
These attacks reinforce the urgent need for a ceasefire to end the mounting casualties, Mr. Ging said. “I sincerely hope that for the sake of those that have died, that it would not have been in vain.”
Demanding an independent investigation into the attacks on the UN schools, he stressed that “there has been too little accountability for actions on all sides” and that “we must uphold the rule of law even during times of conflict.”