A weekend strike on a United Nations-run school that served as shelter for thousands of displaced people in northern Gaza killed at least 24 people, a U.N. official said Sunday.
Palestinian officials said Saturday that many people were killed and injured in an Israeli attack on the Al-Fakhura school, which served as a shelter for adults and children, in the Jabaliya area, north of Gaza.
Philippe Lazzarini, head of the U.N. agency that helps Palestinian refugees, gave a death toll Sunday and said nearly 7,000 displaced people had taken shelter in the school when the strike hit. He did not give a number for the injured or suggest who was responsible.
The Israeli military said it had received reports of an incident in the Jabaliya area on Saturday and was being investigated, adding that it was “committed to international law, including in taking feasible measures to minimize harm to civilians.”
Mr Lazzarini said another school, sheltering some 4,000 displaced people in Gaza City, was “directly hit” on Friday and ambulances “were unable to reach the school to give them help.” Its agency, UNRWA, said it believed many people had been killed or injured, but did not have exact figures.
At least 176 displaced people sheltering in schools managed by UNRWA have been killed and nearly 800 injured since the start of the Israeli bombing campaign against Gaza on October 7, the UNRWA press release added. Classes were suspended and schools were turned into shelters across Gaza.
The agency said it was still verifying its death and injury figures but had confirmed that at least 17 of its facilities had been directly affected.
“The large number of UNRWA installations affected and the number of civilians killed cannot simply be ‘collateral damage,'” Lazzarini said in the statement. The agency’s facilities were clearly marked as UN buildings and their contact details were regularly shared with both sides of the conflict, he said, adding that “this is further proof that no one, nor nowhere is safe in Gaza.”
The Al-Fakhura school was also hit by a strike on November 4, killing at least 12 people and injuring 54 others, UNRWA said.
According to UNRWA, nearly 900,000 displaced people are sheltering in the agency’s facilities in the Gaza Strip. These include many people who fled northern Gaza following Israeli orders to evacuate the area amid escalating ground fighting.
Families sheltering in UNRWA schools in the south described overcrowded facilities where food and water were scarce.
Ihab Abedrabo said he had been sheltering with his mother, wife and six children at a school run by the United Nations agency in the southern town of Khan Younis since a strike damaged their home.
His family, like thousands of others, had fled to the school in the hope of safety. But Mr. Abedrabo said that when a strike hit nearby earlier this week and sent shrapnel into the school, he again feared for the lives of his loved ones.
“No place is safe,” he said. “However, I can’t think of a safer place to go.”
Abu Bakr Bashir contributed reporting from London.