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Press Release No. HQ/G/10/2002
7 March, 2002

Gaza – March 7, 2002

At 09:00 hrs this morning an Israeli F16 dropped a large bomb on the Palestinian Police Headquarters compound in Gaza City. The bomb exploded within 200 metres of 3,100 refugee children, aged between six and 15 years old, who were attending three schools run by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees.

The sound of the explosion and the blast wave that followed caused widespread panic and terror among an already vulnerable school population. All three schools, the Zeitun Boys’ Preparatory, Rimal Girls’ Preparatory and Gaza Elementary School B, have already been extensively damaged by previous air raids on the police compound. Only good fortune meant there were no injuries among the children this morning. The schools have now been closed and the children sent home for the day.

The raid came just a day after the United Nations protested in the strongest possible terms to the Israeli Authorities at the extensive damage done to the UNRWA-run Al Nour Centre for the Visually Impaired. The school for the blind, which also sits adjacent to the police compound, luckily was closed today at the time of the bombing while a clean-up operation is in progress.

Mr Peter Hansen, UNRWA’s Commissioner General said today: “The police headquarters targeted today has been bombed five times already and is little more than an empty shell. It is difficult to fathom just what military or strategic purpose is being served by bombing it for a sixth time. What is clear is that by bombing a crowded city centre at 9am on a weekday morning the innocent children at our schools have been severely traumatised. I have been told that young children started screaming and crying at the sound of the explosion. It is horrifying to think what would have happened if the bomb had gone astray, as indeed one did on February 20th when it landed on the roof of one of the schools but thankfully did not explode.” Mr Hansen called on the Israeli Government to urgently cease bombing buildings adjacent to UNRWA installations.

This morning the IDF also entered one UNRWA school in Tulkarm Camp and two schools in Nur Shams camp and used them as operational bases. Mr Hansen has reminded the Israeli authorities of his protests at their entry last week into Agency schools in Balata and Jenin camps and called on the IDF to withdraw immediately. He said: “I am appalled at what appears to be an emerging pattern of IDF tactics that use UNRWA schools as military positions inside camps.”
For Information Only
Not an Official Document
For more information contact:
Paul McCann on (972) 059 428 008 or 972 (0)8 677 7526
Sami Mshasha on (972) 050 317 094

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