Israeli Strike Kills Dozens at Civilian Shelter in Gaza

By John Mercury June 9, 2024

An Israeli airstrike on Thursday hit a United Nations school complex in central Gaza that had become a shelter for thousands of displaced Palestinians and, Israel said, Hamas militants. Gazan health officials said dozens of people were killed, including women and children.

The strike was the latest in a deadly surge of fighting in central Gaza, where Israeli forces have announced an offensive against what they describe as a renewed insurgency by Hamas.

The strike hit a compound that had been operated by UNRWA, the main U.N. body that aids Palestinians in Gaza. About 6,000 displaced Palestinians were sheltering in the complex, located in the central Gaza area of Nuseirat, when the strike took place, said Juliette Touma, an UNRWA spokeswoman.

The Israeli military said its fighter jets had targeted three classrooms in the school building that held 20 to 30 Palestinian militants affiliated with Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad, a smaller militia that, like Hamas, is backed by Iran. Israeli forces had twice postponed the strike to reduce civilian casualties, the military said.

The precise toll could not be verified, but the Gaza Health Ministry said that of the roughly 40 people killed in the attack, 14 were children and nine were women. Later in the day, The Associated Press reported different numbers, saying at least 33 people died, including three women and nine children, citing the hospital morgue.

Crowds gathered at the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Hospital in the central Gaza city of Deir al Balah to weep and pray over the dead. A local Palestinian videographer posted footage showing a young woman with the body of her small son.

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