As Israel escalated its assault on the Gaza Strip throughout July 2014, over 1,500 Palestinians were killed and over 200,000 were displaced from their homes. Many of those displaced sought shelter in UNRWA-run schools.
Early in the morning of 30 July, the IDF launched an attack in the vicinity of Jabaliya Elementary Girls School, where 3,300 Palestinians had taken shelter. Israeli artillery shells struck the school, killing 19 people and wounding dozens more. Using messaging that was typical throughout the assault, the IDF spokesperson said that Israeli forces had been “forced” to respond after “[Palestinian] militants fired mortar shells at [Israeli] soldiers from the vicinity of the . . . school.”
Presented below is the press release that UNRWA issued in the immediate aftermath of the attack. In his statement, UNRWA Comm.- Gen. Pierre Krähenbühl offers the agency’s initial assessment of the attack, describes the measures taken to avert it, and calls on the international community to intervene.
Last night, children were killed as they slept next to their parents on the floor of a classroom in a UN designated shelter in Gaza. Children killed in their sleep; this is an affront to all of us, a source of universal shame. Today the world stands disgraced.
We have visited the site and gathered evidence. We have analyzed fragments, examined craters and other damage. Our initial assessment is that it was Israeli artillery that hit our school, in which 3,300 people had sought refuge. We believe there were at least three impacts. It is too early to give a confirmed official death toll. But we know that there were multiple civilian deaths and injuries including of women and children and the UNRWA guard who was trying to protect the site. These are people who were instructed to leave their homes by the Israeli army.
The precise location of the Jabaliya Elementary Girls School and the fact that it was housing thousands of internally displaced people was communicated to the Israeli army seventeen times, to ensure its protection; the last being at ten to nine last night, just hours before the fatal shelling.
I condemn in the strongest possible terms this serious violation of international law by Israeli forces.
This is the sixth time that one of our schools has been struck. Our staff, the very people leading the humanitarian response are being killed. Our shelters are overflowing. Tens of thousands may soon be stranded in the streets of Gaza, without food, water and shelter if attacks on these areas continue.
We have moved beyond the realm of humanitarian action alone. We are in the realm of accountability. I call on the international community to take deliberate international political action to put an immediate end to the continuing carnage.