2014 Israeli shelling of UNRWA Gaza shelters
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The 2014 Israeli shelling of UNRWA Gaza shelters were seven shellings at UNRWA facilities in Gaza Strip which took place between 21 July and 3 August during 2014 Israel–Gaza conflict. At the time of the shellings the UNRWA facilities were being used as shelters for Palestinians and as a result of the shellings at least 46 civilians, including 10 UN staff died. All of the incidents were the result of artillery or mortar fire which struck on or near the UNRWA schools.
During the 2014 Israel-Gaza conflict, many Palestinians fled their homes after warnings by Israel or due to air strikes or fighting in the area. During the 2014 Israel-Gaza conflict an estimated 200,000 people (10% of Gaza's population) took shelter in UNRWA schools.
On 16 July, 22 July and on 29 July, UNRWA announced that rockets had been found in their schools. UNRWA denounced the groups responsible for "flagrant violations of its neutrality". All of these schools were vacant at the time when rockets were discovered; no rockets were found in any shelters which were shelled. The IDF stated that "Hamas chooses where these battles are conducted and, despite Israel’s best efforts to prevent civilian casualties, Hamas is ultimately responsible for the tragic loss of civilian life. Specifically in the case of UN facilities, it is important to note the repeated abuse of UN facilities by Hamas, namely with at least three cases of munitions storage within such facilities."
The attacks were condemned by members of the UN (UNRWA's parent organization) and other governments, such as the U.S., have expressed "extreme concern" over the safety of Palestinian civilians who "are not safe in UN-designated shelters." The Rafah shelling in particular was widely criticized, with Ban-Ki Moon calling it a "moral outrage and a criminal act" and US State Department calling it "appalling" and "disgraceful". UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said that both Hamas militants and Israel might have committed war crimes.
- 1 Background
- 2 Schools attacked
- 3 War crimes
- 4 Reactions
- 5 See also
- 6 References
- 7 External links
Template:Original research sectionSince the 2005 Israeli disengagement from Gaza, Palestinian groups in Gaza have launched rockets into Israel as part of the Israeli–Palestinian conflict, including the blockade of the Gaza Strip. Through the years, Israel has accused Hamas of launching rockets at Israeli civilians from schools, residential buildings, mosques and hospitals in the Gaza Strip. Hamas is accused of using civilians as a human shield. Israel asserts that it does not attack civilians and tries to avoid civilian casualties, for example by phone messages and dropping leaflets, or by using the technique of roof knocking to warn citizens to evacuate their homes. However, this can also have the effect of worsening the situation, when many of these people have nowhere to go, forcing them into crowded schools used as shelters. Israel has justified attacks on civilian objects in Gaza to stop the Palestinian rocket attacks and accepts as inevitable that there will be civilian casualties when it strikes targets like Hamas members in their houses, or offices, or mosques.
Israel has had an strained relationship with the United Nations. During the 2008–09 Gaza War, Israel shelled several schools. Among them were the Boys School in Beit Lahiya, the Asma Elementary School in Gaza City, the al-Fakhura school in Jabalia and a school in Khan Younis, which were run by the United Nations and were shelters for displaced persons. In one incident of a shelling on a UN warehouse also being used as a shelter, white phosphorus was used.
Within the Gaza Strip there are more than 80 schools of the 252 run by the UNWRA. In addition, over 5,000 homes have been destroyed and 30,000 other damaged by the IDF. A total of 460,000 Palestinians have been displaced due to these factors, since the beginning of the current conflict. A projected 200,000 Palestinian civilians have sought shelter in the schools, since they do not have alternative options.
Other UNRWA incidents during 2014
Template:Undue-section During the 2014 conflict there were several other incidents involving UNRWA facilities.
On 16 July 22 July and on 29 July, the UNRWA announced that rockets had been found in their schools although all of these schools were vacant at the time. UNRWA denounced the actions as "flagrant violations of its neutrality".
Later, a booby-trapped building with a UNRWA Health Clinic sign, was detonated killing three IDF soldiers inside.
Maghazi Preparatory Girls School A & B
On 21 July 2014, UNRWA’s Maghazi Preparatory Girls School, in the Maghazi refugee camp in central Gaza, was attacked. The UNRWA stated that their preliminary investigation indicated that the school was shelled by the Israel Defense Forces. One child was injured in the incident and the school was sheltering approximately 300 displaced Palestinians at the time of the shelling.
On 22 July 2014, while UNRWA officials were investigating the 21 July attack, the school was shelled again.[no citations needed here] The school was struck during the time that had been coordinated with Israeli authorities and the UN, to allow freedom of movement for the relevant UN personnel. Israel confirmed that their amunition did hit the facility, however placed the blame on Hamas for their militants operating in civilian areas.
Deir El Balah Preparatory Girls School C
On 23 July 2014, Deir El Balah Preparatory Girls School C was shelled. The school was sheltering 1,500 Palestinians at the time it was hit. UNRWA's preliminary investigation indicated that the school was shelled by the Israel Defense Forces.
Beit Hanoun Elementary Co-ed School A & D
A UNRWA school in Beit Hanoun, sheltering 800 people, was struck on 24 July resulting in 11 being killed, including 7 children and two women, and UN staff member. Additionally, 110 were wounded, including 55 children and 31 women.
A senior Israel military officer initially stated that the school shelling could have been caused by Israeli forces. Several other Gaza rockets have landed in Beit Hanoun and the IDF had not ruled out one of these rockets landing on the school.
Gaza authorities however said that the school was shelled by Israeli forces. Additionally, both the UN and Fatah stated that they were investigating the incident and was unaware of who struck the school.
The IDF on 27 July announced that they had concluded their investigation into the UNRWA deaths. They stated that one IDF mortar bomb had landed in a courtyard of the school but caused no injuries, and that the damage that caused the casualties was not caused by the IDF and UNRWA confirmed rockets fired by Hamas landed in the area. The UN stated that they will be conducting their own investigation as well.
UNRWA rejected the IDF's account, and stated that the initial shell that struck the school was followed by several others within minutes. UNRWA's preliminary investigation indicated that the school was shelled by the Israel Defense Forces.
Reporters who visited the school shortly after the attack said that the damage and debris that they observed was consistent with mortar rounds.
Zaitoun Preparatory Girls School B
On 29 July 2014, Zaitoun Preparatory Girls School B was shelled. The school sheltered almost 2,200 internally displaced persons. UNRWA's preliminary investigation indicated that the school was shelled by the Israel Defense Forces.
Jabalia Elementary Girls School A & B
At 4:40 on the morning of 29 July, the UNRWA Elementary Girls School in Jabalia was shelled resulting in the deaths of 21 people and more than 100 people being wounded. IDF officials acknowledged that five tank shells hit the school when soldiers responded to Mortar fire from the vicinity of the school. The IDF stated that Palestinian militants were firing about 200 yards away. A journalist from the New York Times who visited Jalabi days after the incident stated that no one they had interviewed had seen "Palestinian fighters or Israeli soldiers in the area... and there were no bullet holes or empty casings suggesting close clashes [in the area]." The UNRWA stated that Israel had been informed 17 times of the shelter's location, in order to avoid it.
Rafah Preparatory A Boys School
At 10:50 in the morning of 3 August, a UNRWA school in Rafah sheltering around 3000 displaced Palestinian civilians was hit by an Israeli shell, killing at least 10 people. The Palestine Red Crescent Society announced that the attack occurred while people were in line to get food from aid workers. Robert Turner, director of operations for the U.N. Palestinian refugee agency in Gaza, said the strike killed at least one UN staffer. The attack was denounced by the UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon as a "moral outrage" and "criminal act", and condemned by the US State Department as disgraceful.
After the attack, Israel declared a seven-hour truce in most of Gaza, which Hamas called "unilateral", saying it aimed "to divert attention away from the Israeli massacres".
|1||Maghazi Preparatory Girls School A & B||21 July 2014||Maghazi Camp|
|2||Maghazi Preparatory Girls School A & B||22 July 2014||–||1||Maghazi Camp|
|3||Deir El Balah Preparatory Girls School C||23 July 2014||–||5||Deir al-Balah|
|4||Beit Hanoun Elementary Co-ed School A & D||24 July 2014||15||200||Beit Hanoun|
|5||Zaitoun Preparatory Girls School B||29 July 2014.||Zeitoun|
|6||Jabalia Elementary Girls School A & B||29 July 2014||15-20||100+||Jabalia Camp|
|7||Rafah Preparatory A Boys School||3 August 2014||at least 10||35||Rafah|
|Total||46+ civilians, 10+ UN staff members||341+ civilians|
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay on 31 July 2014 said that both Hamas militants and Israel might have committed war crimes. The Palestinian militants by placing and firing rockets within heavily populated areas, and Israel by attacking civilian areas with schools, hospitals, homes and UN facilities, are committing "a violation of international humanitarian law, therefore a war crime", Pillay said.
- Template:Flag – Ban Ki-Moon, Secretary-General of United Nations, condemned the Jubalia Camp incident at the school, describing it as "unjustifiable". After the 29 July incident, he pointed out that the precise location of this school had been communicated to the Israeli military authorities 17 times. He said: "Nothing is more shameful than attacking sleeping children" Ban Ki-moon described the attack on Rafah school as a "moral outrage and a criminal act" and called for those responsible for the "gross violation of international humanitarian law" to be held accountable.
- Template:Flag - Pierre Krähenbühl, Commissioner-General of the UNRWA, said: "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 what humanitarian action alone can deal with. This is now the time for political action. It is the time for accountability," he said. Krähenbühl described the Jubalia Camp incident as "probably one of the most tragic protection failures that the international community has witnessed." Asked to explain the scale of the civilian suffering to an Arab news station, UNRWA spokesman Chris Gunness simply burst into tears. "We have reached breaking point; our staff are being killed, our shelters overflowing", he adds.
- Template:Flag - A White House spokesman, said: "We are extremely concerned that thousands of internally displaced Palestinians who have been called on by the Israeli military to evacuate their homes are not safe in UN-designated shelters in Gaza." They continued by condemning "those responsible for hiding weapons in United Nations facilities in Gaza." US State Department said in a statement that the US is "appalled" by the "disgraceful shelling" outside the school in Rafah and urged Israel to do more to avoid civilian casualties.
- Template:Flag - Ministry of Foreign Affairs condemned Israeli military attack that rocked a United Nations school in Jubalia in Gaza's biggest refugee camp.
- Template:Cite press release
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