Up to 45 feared dead in Israeli strike on central Gaza school

Authorities warn of rising death toll as generators fail at hospital treating the injured

Palestinians mourn their relatives killed in an Israeli bombardment of UNRWA school at Nusseirat refugee camp, in front of the morgue of al-Aqsa Martyrs hospital in Deir al-Balah. AP
Powered by automated translation

Live updates: Follow latest on Israel-Gaza

An Israeli strike on a UN-run school sheltering displaced Palestinians in central Gaza has killed at least 35 people, mostly women and children.

Several more people were feared dead, according to the Palestinian Wafa news agency.

The strike hit classrooms at the Al Sardi preparatory boys school in Nuseirat refugee camp, which is being used to shelter thousands of people, at about 2.15am.

"We were preparing ourselves to sleep. My father took a shower and went to sleep inside the classroom, and suddenly the rockets targeted the classrooms where my father was killed immediately," a survivor told The National.

Gaza's government media office described the strike as a “horrific massacre” and said Israel's deadly attacks “is clear evidence of its continuation of the crime of genocide and ethnic cleansing against civilians and displaced persons in the Gaza strip”.

“Huge numbers of martyrs and wounded are still flowing into Al Aqsa Martyrs Hospital, which has been filled with wounded and patients three times its clinical capacity, and this heralds a real disaster that will lead to an even greater increase in the number of martyrs,” it said on Telegram.

Palestinian journalists published footage of dozens of bodies at the school run by the UN's relief agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA), including a video of civilians moving the covered bodies of at least five children.

"The estimated number of deaths is between 35 and 45. UNRWA cannot confirm these numbers at this time,” Inas Hamdan, the UNRWA’s acting public information officer for Gaza, told The National.

Photos showed the school corridors splattered with blood.

Six others were killed in another strike on a home elsewhere in the camp.

“Violent bombardment” was also reported at Bureij refugee camp, with strikes also hitting Al Maghazi refugee camp, both also in central Gaza. Strikes were also reported in Rafah and Khan Younis in the south.

The Israeli army claimed the school was occupied by Hamas militants who participated in the October 7 attack on southern Israel, which started the war.

Gaza media office spokesman Ismail Al Thawabta rejected the claim, telling Reuters that Israel was using “fabricated stories” to justify its attack.

The UN said it could not verify the claims.

"UNRWA reminds all parties to the conflict that its facilities, including its schools, must not be used for any military or combat purposes," Mr Hamdan told The National.

Schools, hospitals and other civilian structures sheltering displaced people have been frequent targets of Israeli air strikes, shelling and raids.

At least 36,586, people, including more than 15,000 children, have been killed and 83,074 wounded since the war in Gaza began in early October, according to figures from Gaza's health ministry.

Three others were killed on Thursday morning while trying to approach the Gaza border fence, according to the Israeli army.

It described the men as “militants” attempting to cross into Israel from Rafah, killing them in air strikes and tank fire.

Israel is now concentrating attacks on central Gaza, including several refugee camps

NGO's and Gaza's media office have warned that the Al Aqsa Martyrs Hospital in Deir Al Balah was dealing with an influx of patients with severe injuries.

Local authorities said at least 141 bodies and 380 wounded were taken to the hospital in the last 24 hours.

Gaza authorities say the facility is the only one serving more than a million people in central Gaza, and is one of just two functioning hospitals left in the territory.

It called for “urgent international intervention” after one of its two electricity generators failed on Wednesday.

More than 700 sick and wounded Palestinians are currently being treated at the hospital, it said.

The World Health Organisation and the international community must “move immediately and urgently to closely examine the difficult health reality and address this crisis,” the government media office said on Telegram.

The humanitarian crisis in Gaza continues to worsen, with the threat of famine spreading across the enclave.

More than a million people will face starvation by the middle of next month, the UN's World Food Programme and Food and Agricultural Organisation warned in a report published earlier this week.

Nine out of 10 children in Gaza are experiencing “severe food poverty” and are surviving on two or fewer food groups per day, Unicef warned in a separate report.

“Four out of five children in this situation are fed only breast milk/milk and/or a starchy staple, such as rice, maize or wheat. Less than 10 per cent of these children are fed fruits and vegetables,” it said.

Less than 5 per cent are fed eggs, fish, poultry or meat.

Updated: June 06, 2024, 10:52 AM