close
close

Israeli attack kills at least 33 people at Gaza school whose military claims were used by Hamas – WSVN 7News | Miami News, Weather, Sports

DEIR AL-BALAH, Gaza Strip (AP) — An Israeli attack early Thursday on a school housing displaced Palestinians in central Gaza killed at least 33 people, including 12 women and children, according to local health officials. The Israeli military said Hamas militants were operating from the school.

It was the latest example of mass casualties among Palestinians trying to find refuge as Israel expanded its offensive. A day earlier, the army announced a new ground and air assault in central Gaza, pursuing Hamas militants who are believed to have regrouped there.

Troops have repeatedly fallen back into parts of the Gaza Strip they previously invaded, underscoring the militant group’s resilience despite Israel’s nearly eight-month onslaught.

Witnesses and hospital officials said the pre-dawn strike hit the al-Sardi school, run by the U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees, known by its acronym UNRWA. The school was full of Palestinians who had fled Israeli operations and bombings in northern Gaza, they said.

The hospital initially reported that nine women and 14 children were among those killed in the attack on the school. The hospital mortuary later amended these records to show that the dead included three women, nine children and 21 men. It was not immediately clear what caused the difference. An Associated Press reporter had counted the bodies but was unable to see beneath the shrouds.

Separate attacks in central Gaza killed another 15 people, almost all of them men.

Ayman Rashed, a displaced man from Gaza City who took shelter in the school, said the rockets hit classrooms on the second and third floors where families were sheltering. He said he helped transport five dead, including an old man and two children, one with his head cracked open. “It was dark, there was no electricity, and we had trouble getting the victims out,” Rashed said.

Vice Admiral Daniel Hagari, the Israeli army spokesman, said it carried out a “precise attack” based on concrete information that militants were planning and carrying out attacks from three classrooms. He said only those rooms were attacked.

“We carried out the attack when our intelligence and surveillance indicated that there were no women or children in the Hamas complex, in those classrooms,” he said.

Hagari said there were about 30 suspected militants in the three rooms. He said the military had confirmed that nine of them had been killed, showing a slide with their names and photos. He provided no other evidence to support the military’s claims.

Victims of the strike arrived at the Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Hospital in nearby Deir al-Balah, which had already been overwhelmed by a stream of continuous ambulances since the raid on central Gaza began 24 hours earlier, said Omar al-Derawi, a photographer working for the hospital.

Videos circulating online appeared to show several wounded people being treated on the hospital floor, a common scene in Gaza’s overwhelmed medical wards. Electricity is out in much of the hospital as staff ration fuel supplies for the generator.

“You can’t walk in the hospital; there are so many people. Women from the victims’ families are standing in the hallways crying,” he said.

The school was in Nuseirat, one of many refugee camps in Gaza dating back to the 1948 war surrounding Israel’s creation, when hundreds of thousands of Palestinians fled or were driven from their homes in what would become the new state.

Footage showed bodies wrapped in blankets or plastic bags being laid out in rows in the hospital courtyard. Mohammed al-Kareem, a displaced Palestinian shelter near the hospital, said he saw people searching for their loved ones among the bodies, and that one woman kept asking medical workers to open the wrappers on the bodies to see if her son was in it.

“The situation is tragic,” he said.

Philippe Lazzarini, UNRWA’s commissioner general, said in a post on He said UNRWA could not verify claims that armed groups were inside.

UNRWA schools in Gaza have functioned as shelters since the start of the war, driving most of the territory’s population of 2.3 million Palestinians from their homes.

Last week, Israeli attacks took place near an UNRWA facility in the southern city of Rafah, claiming they targeted Hamas militants. An inferno ripped through tents near displaced families, killing at least 45 people. The deaths sparked international outrage, with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu saying the fire was the result of a “tragic accident.” According to the military, the fire may have been caused by secondary explosions. The cause of the explosions has not been determined.

Israel sent troops to Rafah in early May in what they said was a limited incursion, but those troops are now operating in central parts of the city. More than 1 million people have fled Rafah since the operation began, spreading across southern and central Gaza in new tent camps or flocking to schools and homes.

Israel launched its campaign in Gaza after Hamas’s attack on Israel on October 7, in which militants killed about 1,200 people and took another 250 hostage. The Israeli offensive has killed at least 36,000 Palestinians, according to the Gaza Health Ministry, which does not distinguish between fighters and civilians in its figures.

Israel blames Hamas for civilian deaths because it positions fighter planes, tunnels and rocket launchers in residential areas.

The United States has expressed support for a phased ceasefire and the release of hostages that President Joe Biden outlined last week. But Israel says it will not end the war without destroying Hamas, with the militant group demanding a lasting ceasefire and the complete withdrawal of Israeli forces.

Far-right members of Netanyahu’s government have threatened to topple the coalition if he signs a ceasefire.

Israel has routinely launched airstrikes in all parts of Gaza since the war began and has carried out large-scale ground operations in the territory’s two largest cities, Gaza City and Khan Younis, leaving much of it in ruins.

The army waged a weeks-long offensive in Bureij and several other nearby refugee camps in central Gaza earlier this year.

Troops withdrew from the Jabalia camp in northern Gaza last Friday after weeks of fighting caused widespread destruction. First responders have recovered the bodies of 360 people, mostly women and children, killed in the fighting.

Copyright 2024 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Sign up for our newsletter and receive the latest news straight to your inbox