A school run by the United Nations in northern Gaza has been hit with apparently devastating impact, the UN confirmed Saturday, in what a top UN official described as a “horrifying” incident.
Video from al-Fakhoura School in Jabalya – which was being used as a shelter for displaced people – shows bloodied bodies across a series of rooms on two floors of the two-story building. Many women and children are among the dead.
One room appears to contain about a dozen bodies lying on the floor covered in dust. Desks are strewn and smashed up and a huge hole can be seen in one of the room’s walls. In the building courtyard, a canopy roof across a metal structure appears to have been torn off, and debris is visible on the ground.
Juliette Touma, a spokesperson for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, which runs the schools in Palestinian refugee camps and serves as the main UN relief agency in Gaza, confirmed the incident. The total number of casualties remains unclear, she said, as information is still coming in.
Touma could not confirm what caused the incident, nor who was responsible.
UNRWA chief Philippe Lazzarini, who called the images “horrifying” in a post on X (formerly Twitter), said thousands of displaced people had been sheltering there at the time of the incident.
The Israeli military is reviewing the incident, it told CNN, but had no further comment.
Egypt and Qatar have already blamed Israel’s military campaign in the battered enclave for the incident. The Egyptian Foreign Ministry called it a “bombing”, and said it was the latest in a series of Israeli violations against civilians in Gaza.
Qatar called on independent investigators from the United Nations to go to Gaza to examine what it described as the “ongoing targeting of schools and hospitals.”
Saturday’s incident was the second time in twenty-four hours an UNRWA school in northern Gaza had been hit, the agency said. Another school in Zaitoun was sheltering 4,000 people when it was struck multiple times on Friday, Touma told CNN.
She added that ambulances had reportedly been unable to get to the school, which she said was most likely due to the fighting and the communications blackout.
Dozens of people were likely killed in that incident, according to Lazzarini, who wrote: “These attacks cannot become commonplace, they must stop. A humanitarian ceasefire cannot wait any longer,” he added.
The UN’s Secretary-General António Guterres reiterated his call for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire in a statement on Sunday.
“I am deeply shocked that two UNRWA schools were struck in less than 24 hours in Gaza. Dozens of people – many women and children – were killed and injured as they were seeking safety in United Nations premises,” Guterres said.
“Hundreds of thousands of Palestinian civilians are seeking shelter at United Nations facilities throughout Gaza due to the intensified fighting. I reaffirm that our premises are inviolable.”
The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Türk also called for an immediate ceasefire, saying that the killing of civilians in Gaza schools and large evacuations from Al-Shifa Hospital fly in the face of basic protections for civilians under international law.
“Rules of international humanitarian law, including the principles of distinction, proportionality and precautions in carrying out the attacks, must be strictly adhered to,” he said. “Failure to adhere to these rules may constitute war crimes.”
Türk said that in Khan Younis, a city in southern Gaza, the IDF has been dropping leaflets, telling residents to go to unspecified shelters. However, he stressed that warnings alone are not enough under international law.
“Irrespective of warnings, Israel is obliged to protect civilians wherever they are,” he said.
The Israeli military has previously pushed back against accusations of war crimes, saying its strikes are intended to target Hamas, and that it tries to minimize civilian casualties.
This is a developing story and will be updated.
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