The Israeli military confirmed on Thursday that it had conducted a deadly airstrike on a United Nations school in Gaza, which it claimed was being used by Hamas as a compound. This attack resulted in the deaths of at least 35 people, according to local health officials, though the number could be higher.

Israeli Strike on UN School in Gaza Kills 35

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The school was managed by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) and was sheltering hundreds of people who had fled the fighting elsewhere in Gaza.

Local health officials reported that the strike killed at least 35 people including 23 women and children. The Al-Aqsa Martyrs Hospital suggested the death toll could be as high as 40.

The Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) stated that the school was housing a Hamas compound and that the strike was aimed at eliminating several “terrorists.”

The IDF spokesperson, Lt. Col. Peter Lerner mentioned that the attack had been delayed twice to separate militants from civilians.

The conflict escalated after Hamas’s October 7 attack on southern Israel which has resulted in huge casualties.

At least 36,586 people have been killed, mostly civilians, according to Gaza’s health ministry. The October 7 attack by Hamas killed 1,194 people, primarily civilians and saw 251 hostages taken, 120 of whom remain in Gaza.

The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East, which operates the struck school has been under scrutiny.

Israel has accused several of its employees of involvement in the October 7 attacks, though UNRWA’s Chief Philippe Lazzarini has called for an end to what he describes as Israel’s “campaign against UNRWA.”

Israel faces growing isolation due to its actions in Gaza with cases against it pending in international courts.

Several European governments including Spain and Ireland have recognized a Palestinian state and supported South Africa’s genocide case against Israel at the International Court of Justice (ICJ).

Efforts led by the United States, Qatar, and Egypt to mediate a truce and hostage release deal are ongoing.

President Joe Biden has proposed a three-phase plan for a six-week ceasefire which includes exchanging hostages for Palestinian prisoners and increasing aid to Gaza.

While G7 powers and Arab states support the plan, sticking points remain as Hamas demands a permanent truce and full Israeli withdrawal.

Tensions are high along Israel’s northern border with Lebanon, where near-daily exchanges of fire have occurred between the Israeli military and Hezbollah.

This has resulted in deaths and mass evacuations on both sides. An Israeli soldier was killed in a clash with Hezbollah.

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The violence has killed at least 455 people in Lebanon mostly fighters but also including 88 civilians. At least 14 soldiers and 11 civilians have been killed on the Israeli side since the conflict began.

The IDF has launched new ground and air operations in several refugee camps in central Gaza. The military claims these operations are necessary to target Hamas militants who have regrouped in these areas.

Israel has declared certain areas like Muwasi as humanitarian safe zones, urging displaced civilians to seek refuge there.

Hundreds of thousands of Palestinians have been displaced due to the conflict, seeking shelter in areas like Nuseirat and Rafah.

The civilian toll continues to rise with numerous reports of strikes hitting densely populated areas and civilian infrastructure.

Ayman Rashed, a displaced person from Gaza City, described helping to carry out the bodies of those killed including an elderly man and two children.

The officials in Gaza including those from hospitals have been overwhelmed by the casualties with facilities receiving dozens of injured and deceased individuals.

The IDF maintains that its operations are precise and necessary to combat Hamas militants. Lt. Col. Peter Lerner addressed that the military had intelligence indicating that the school was used by militants who participated in the October 7 attacks.

The airstrike hit the al-Sardi School located in Block 2 of the densely populated Nuseirat refugee camp. The camp is one of several established in Gaza following the 1948 Arab-Israeli conflict.

Local journalists and witnesses reported that two missiles struck classrooms on the upper floors of the school.

Videos circulated on social media showed destruction with bodies wrapped in white shrouds and blankets.

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Initial reports from residents suggested over 20 fatalities. An official at the al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Hospital in Deir al-Balah, which has been overwhelmed by casualties later confirmed receiving 40 bodies from the school.

UNRWA spokesperson Juliette Touma stated the death toll could be between 35 and 45 but could not confirm the exact figures at this stage.

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) claimed responsibility for the strike, stating that it targeted a Hamas compound located within the school.

According to the IDF, 20 to 30 Hamas fighters were believed to be inside involved in planning and executing attacks.

An annotated aerial photograph released by the IDF highlighted rooms on the upper floors as the terrorists’ locations.

The Hamas-run Government Media Office denied the IDF’s claims, accusing Israel of perpetrating a “horrific massacre” and fabricating stories to justify the attack on displaced civilians.

Ismail al-Thawabta, director of the Hamas-run Government Media Office and an official from the health ministry reported that 40 people were killed including 14 children and nine women.

Dead and wounded individuals were rushed to the al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Hospital which has been struggling with an influx of casualties since Israel’s ground operation began in central Gaza.

Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders) reported that the hospital received at least 70 bodies, primarily women and children over the previous 24 hours.

The Israeli military has intensified operations in central Gaza including the eastern areas of Bureij refugee camp and eastern Deir al-Balah.

Since the commencement of Israel’s military campaign in response to Hamas’ October 7 attack, more than 36,580 people have been killed in Gaza, according to Hamas-run health ministry figures. This number includes both civilians and combatants, as the figures do not differentiate between the two.

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