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Middle East

Israeli airstrike on Gaza school: 4 killed, including Hamas official

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  • An Israeli airstrike on a school in Gaza City killed four people, including a senior Hamas official, marking the second such attack in two days.
  • The incident has reignited debates about the targeting of civilian infrastructure in conflict zones and compliance with international humanitarian law.
  • The ongoing conflict has resulted in unprecedented damage to UN facilities in Gaza, with over half of UNRWA's facilities hit and nearly 200 UN workers killed.

The ongoing Gaza conflict has taken another tragic turn as rescuers report that an Israeli airstrike on a school in Gaza City has claimed the lives of four individuals, including a high-ranking Hamas official. This incident, which occurred on Sunday, July 7, 2024, marks the second attack on a school sheltering displaced Palestinians in as many days, intensifying concerns about the targeting of civilian infrastructure in the war-torn region.

The Attack and Its Immediate Aftermath

The civil defence agency in Hamas-run Gaza reported that the Israeli strike hit the Holy Family School, owned by the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem. Among the casualties was Ihab al-Ghusain, the deputy labour minister of Hamas, highlighting the complex nature of the conflict where civilian and political targets often overlap.

The Latin Patriarchate, in a strongly worded statement, condemned the attack: "The Latin Patriarchate condemns in the strongest terms the targeting of civilians or any belligerent actions that fall short of ensuring that civilians remain outside the combat scene". This sentiment echoes the growing international concern over the protection of civilians in conflict zones.

Israeli Military's Stance

The Israeli military, while acknowledging the strike, stated that they hit "the area of the school," claiming that the school complex was being used as a militant hideout and housed "a Hamas weapons manufacturing facility". This justification aligns with Israel's longstanding accusation that Hamas and other militant groups use civilian infrastructure, including schools and hospitals, as cover for their operations – a charge that Hamas consistently denies.

The Broader Context of Civilian Targeting

This latest incident is part of a disturbing pattern of attacks on civilian infrastructure in Gaza. Philippe Lazzarini, head of UNRWA (United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East), expressed his frustration on social media, stating, "Another day. Another month. Another school hit".

UNRWA spokesperson Juliette Touma provided alarming statistics, revealing that more than half of UNRWA's facilities – 190 in total – have been hit during the current conflict, some multiple times. The toll on UN workers has been severe, with at least 196 UNRWA employees losing their lives since the war began.

The Human Cost and Humanitarian Crisis

The repeated targeting of schools and other civilian shelters has exacerbated the already dire humanitarian situation in Gaza. Tens of thousands of residents have sought refuge in UN-run schools across the territory, only to find themselves vulnerable to military operations. The damage to UN-protected facilities in this conflict has been described as "unprecedented in the history of the UN" by UNRWA spokesperson Touma.

International Law and Civilian Protection

The targeting of schools and other civilian infrastructure raises serious questions about compliance with international humanitarian law. The UN and other international bodies have repeatedly called for the protection of civilians and civilian infrastructure in conflict zones. However, the reality on the ground in Gaza suggests a significant gap between these principles and their implementation.

The Broader Conflict

This latest school bombing occurs against the backdrop of a devastating war that has raged since October 7, 2023. According to the Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza, the Israeli military offensive has resulted in at least 38,153 Palestinian casualties, predominantly civilians. On the Israeli side, the initial Hamas attack led to 1,195 deaths and the taking of 251 hostages, 116 of whom remain in Gaza, with 42 presumed dead according to Israeli military sources.

Looking Forward

As the conflict continues with no immediate end in sight, the international community faces mounting pressure to intervene and protect civilian lives. The repeated targeting of schools and other civilian shelters underscores the urgent need for a diplomatic solution that can bring an end to the violence and address the underlying issues fueling the conflict.

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