Israel shells UN-run school in Gaza as Palestinian toll crosses 800

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Israeli forces in Gaza. PTI
Israeli forces shell Gaza. Photo PTI

Gaza/Jerusalem, Jul 25 (PTI): Israeli tanks yesterday shelled a UN-run school in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip, killing 15 people and wounding dozens who took shelter there, amid frantic international diplomatic efforts to end the bloodshed that has left over 800 Palestinians and 34 Israelis dead so far.

Israeli tank shells hit a compound housing a UN school in Beit Hanoun in northern Gaza Strip, killing at least 15 people and wounding 200 others, Gaza health ministry said on the 17th day of the war.

Reports said that pools of blood stained the school courtyard and the desks. Books and belongings were scattered and there was a large scorch mark in the premises marking the place where one of the shells hit.

The attack came amidst heavy fighting throughout the coastal territory between Israeli forces and Hamas.

Israel focused its attacks on southeast of Gaza, with residents fleeing areas which came under heavy bombing.

In another tragic incident, seven Palestinians were killed in a series of Israeli air strikes and tank fire in a flashpoint area near Khan Yunis in southern Gaza. Other casualties included a family of six with two young children.

In another attack, Israeli shell fire on a house in Gaza killed one person today, bringing the total death toll to more than 800 Palestinians after one of the bloodiest days of the conflict since Israel launched its military offensive ‘Operation Protective Edge’ on July 8. More than 70 people were killed in Gaza yesterday.

Israeli forces have destroyed at least 475 houses while 2,644 have been partially damaged. Some 46 schools, 56 mosques and seven hospitals had also suffered varying degrees of destruction, Palestinian officials said.

Thirty two Israeli soldiers, two civilians and a Thai worker in Israel have also been killed in the conflict. One other soldier remains missing, but is presumed dead.

As the death toll mounted, UN Human Rights Council yesterday ordered a probe into Israel’s offensive on Gaza.

India along with Brazil, Russia, China and South Africa voted in favour of the Palestinian-drafted resolution on “Ensuring Respect for International Law in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, including East Jerusalem”.

Israel’s close ally US was the only one of the 47 member states to oppose the probe supported by 29 countries.

Describing UNHCR as a “kangaroo court”, Israel slammed the move as a “travesty”.

“This investigation by a kangaroo court is a foregone conclusion,” the Prime Minister’s Office said.

Taking a dig at the UNHCR decision, Israel’s Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman labeled the UN body as the “council for the rights of terrorists”.

Prior to the vote, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay warned that Israel could be committing war crimes.

Hammond also emphasised that the UK was “gravely concerned by the ongoing heavy level of civilian casualties.”

The Israeli leader was deeply critical of a vote by the UN Human Rights Council for an official investigation into alleged war crimes in Gaza, describing the decision as “grotesque” and “a travesty of justice”.

Meanwhile, Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal said there could be no ceasefire to ease the conflict in Gaza without an end to Israel’s blockade.

“We will not accept any initiative that does not lift the blockade on our people and that does not respect their sacrifices,” he said.

Israel imposed restrictions on the Gaza Strip in 2006 after Hamas abducted Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit. The measures were tightened by Israel and Egypt in 2007 after Hamas ousted rival Fatah and forcibly took control in Gaza after winning elections the year before.

Hamas and Fatah announced a reconciliation deal in April, but the move was condemned by Israel which regards Hamas as a terrorist group.

Israel’s Science Minister Yaakov Peri told Israeli web portal Walla that he did not see a ceasefire in the coming days, as the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) needed more time to dismantle Hamas’ underground tunnel network.

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