Israeli Forces Shell UN School Where Displaced Palestinians Gathered, Killing at Least 9

The Palestinians had fled their homes following Israeli messages to do so.

The Israeli military shelled a United Nations Relief Works and Agency (UNRWA) school today, killing and injuring some of the Palestinians who had gathered there after fleeing their homes following Israeli messages to do so. CNN‘s Ben Wedeman, who is reporting from Gaza, said that medical sources told him 30 people were killed. Other reports put the death toll lower; the Associated Press reports that at least seven were killed, while Agence France Press reports nine dead.

UNRWA spokesman Chris Gunness has confirmed that there are “multiple dead and injured at designated UNRWA shelter in Beit Hanoun.” He said on Twitter that the Israeli military had been given “precise co-ordinates of the UNRWA shelter in Beit Hanoun.”

The first reports came in on Twitter from Palestinians in Gaza, and were then confirmed by CNN’s Ben Wedeman, who is reporting from the coastal strip.

As Israel’s assault on Gaza intensified last week, they dropped leaflets in Palestinian neighborhoods urging them to flee ahead of heavy bombardment. Tens of thousands of people heeded the call, with UNRWA sheltering 140,000 people in 83 different schools.

UNRWA has been pulled into the conflict by both sides. On Tuesday, the agency for Palestinian refugees announced that they “discovered rockets hidden in a vacant school in the Gaza Strip” for the second time. The agency condemned “the group or groups responsible for this flagrant violation of the inviolability of its premises under international law.” Israel has also hit other UNRWA schools multiple times. The agency’s spokesman, Chris Gunness, reported that “UNRWA’s had 3 direct hits from Israeli fire on 2 schools in 3 days,” injuring five Palestinians in one of the incidents.

During Israel’s 2008-09 assault on Gaza, the military bombed UNRWA facilities multiple times, a war crime under international law.

Editor's note: Since this article was published, the death toll has written to at least 15.

Alex Kane is former World editor at AlterNet. His work has appeared in Mondoweiss, Salon, VICE, the Los Angeles Review of Books and more. Follow him on Twitter @alexbkane.

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