On the 6th of January the Israeli army returned fire at Hamas terrorists in Jabalya who were using a mortar battery to target Israeli personnel. They killed and identified at least two Hamas operatives. At the same time a number of innocent civilians died in the attack. The UN’s World Health Organisation have news of this event on their site:
42 people were killed 6 Jan in an UNRWA school in an Israeli attack.
On 6 January, 42 people were killed following an attack on a UNRWA school transformed into a refugee site for displaced people. Dozens were injured and evacuated.
The UN were extremely concerned by this attack since “International Humanitarian Law requires all medical personnel and facilities be protected at all times, even during armed conflict. Attacks on them are grave violations of International Humanitarian and Human Rights laws.” Indeed, the UN recently have recently called for an investigation of alleged war crimes, and this report in The Independent notes the attack in Jabalya when discussing the UN’s call:
the call came at the culmination not only of a rising civilian death toll but also a series of attacks on UN installations and, in some cases, the people who were under the UN’s care at the time. The most lethal of these was an earlier shelling in which 43 internally displaced Gazans, sheltering in the Fakhura UNRWA school in Jabalya, were killed on 6 January.
Yet even at the time, there was some confusion as to the target of the Israeli attack. Here in this Guardian editorial, the day after the attack, it is noted that the Israeli shells fell outside, as opposed to on or in, the UN refuge:
Three shells exploded outside a United Nations school in Jabalya refugee camp, where more than 300 Palestinians had sought refuge. Over 40 died and 55 were injured. It was waiting to happen.
So, the shells fell outside the school, but it still seems as though the effect of the Israeli attack was to kill over 40 people. If you are in a UN refuge, it makes little difference to you if you are killed because of shells hitting you directly, or indirectly. However, it nows seems that reports of the deaths in the UN refuge are inaccurate. No one died in the UN refuge.
Physical evidence and interviews with several eyewitnesses, including a teacher who was in the schoolyard at the time of the shelling, make it clear: While a few people were injured from shrapnel landing inside the white-and-blue-walled UNRWA compound, no one in the compound was killed. The 43 people who died in the incident were all outside, on the street, where all three mortar shells landed.
Stories of one or more shells landing inside the schoolyard were inaccurate.
While the killing of 43 civilians on the street may itself be grounds for investigation, it falls short of the act of shooting into a schoolyard crowded with refuge-seekers.
The teacher who was in the compound at the time of the shelling says he heard three loud blasts, one after the other, then a lot of screaming. “I ran in the direction of the screaming [inside the compound],” he said. “I could see some of the people had been injured, cut. I picked up one girl who was bleeding by her eye, and ran out on the street to get help.”But when I got outside, it was crazy hell. There were bodies everywhere, people dead, injured, flesh everywhere.”
The teacher, who refused to give his name because he said UNRWA had told the staff not to talk to the news media, was adamant: “Inside [the compound] there were 12 injured, but there were no dead.”
So, in fact, the Israeli army did not attack a UN refuge. The shells landed outside the UN refuge and no-one in the refuge was killed. The shells also landed outside an auto-body shop, so it may as well be termed an attack on an auto-body shop.
So, firstly, one has to ask why the UN stated that deaths occured within the compound, when none had. When John Ging, UNRWA Director of Operations in Gaza, visited the UN school in Jabaliya he stated in a press release, which says an Israeli strike on UNWRA school occurred:
“There’s nowhere safe in Gaza. Everyone here is terrorized and traumatized. These men, women and children are all seeking safety and there is no safety in Gaza at the moment, even in an UNRWA school. This is unacceptable.”
In fact, he is wrong. It appears that the UN refuge was safe. To be fair, he has accepted this now, but it would have been nice for the UN to get its facts right or at least shut up until the facts where clear.
Secondly, it is noticable how certain parts of the media leapt onto the story with some glee. The Independent takes first prize with its headline “Massacre of innocents as UN school is shelled“. Those with a biblical eye may spot the reference in the article’s title to King Herod’s attempt to kill Jesus by murdering all young children in Bethlehem. Interesting that racial agitation, in the form of raising the myth of Jews as the killers of Christ, should slip so easily into a modern liberal newspaper.