Israel Bombs UN School, Three Killed; Death Toll 100 on Monday Alone
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Fares Akram, welcome to Democracy Now!, and our condolences on the death of your father.
Fares Akram: Welcome, and thank you for your sympathy and support.
AG: Can you talk about what happened to your dad?
FA: I'm talking to you now, and I think you may hear the sound of the shooting going on from the Israeli tanks, which are only two kilometers away from our house.
My father was killed on Saturday when he was in our farmland in the northwest of Gaza Strip, very close to the border with Israel. We were very shocked with his death, especially that we have never expected he would be killed by Israelis, because he's very close to the border, and that area is under control of Israeli cameras and the watching towers, and there are only a few houses scattered there amid the very large open spaces up for eight kilometers to the south until we get to Gaza. All that land, that area, are open, and there are no militant activities. We often thought that my father would be hurt from the rockets that are fired from Gaza, because, as I said, the farm is very close to the Israeli border. But we have never expected that he would be killed by the Israelis, who were watching him from nearby.
AG: Can you explain who your father was, Fares?
FA: My father was a judge within the -- working within the Palestinian Authority under -- led by President Mahmoud Abbas. After Hamas seized Gaza last year, he had to quit his job, because Hamas has taken over the judiciary system of the Palestinian Authority in Gaza. And he moved to the farm, where he set up a large farm to produce dairy products. We have hundreds of cows there.
We asked my father to stay here with us and not to go to the farm. That was at the beginning of the aerial onslaught on December 27. But he said he will go there to look after the cows, because, you know, if the Israelis have a--launch a ground operation, the roads will be cut, and no one will be looking after the cows. So he went there on December 27 and remained there. I want--
AG: Fares Akram, I'm going to ask you to pause for one minute --
AG: -- as you recount what happened to your father, because we've just been joined by Christopher Gunness, who's a spokesperson for UNRWA, the UN Relief and Works Agency. He's on the line with us from Gaza. And we've just heard that a school in Gaza has been hit, as well as a health clinic, and we want to get the latest. And then we're going to come back to you.
Christopher Gunness, welcome back to Democracy Now! Can you explain what has happened?
CG: Thank you very much. It's more bad news, I'm afraid. Last night at 11:30, at the Asma Elementary School in Gaza City, there was an air strike in which the school compound suffered a direct hit. I'm not suggesting that it was definitely targeted. Three people who had taken refuge in the school had actually asked permission from the supervisor there to go out and use the toilet facilities, which were at a building in the school compound. As they were returning back to the school, there was an attack, and an explosive of some sort landed in the school compound, and they were killed.
We are strongly protesting these killings with the Israeli authorities, and we're calling for an immediate and impartial investigation. It's important to say that the coordinates of all of our facilities in Gaza were handed over to the Israelis well before this offensive began. The schools were clearly marked. So it should have been known exactly where they were. The fact is that our compounds and our facilities are being used to shelter people. There were over 400 people in the Asma school who had left their homes, fleeing the fighting from the northern areas of Gaza. We say that there has to be an investigation, because the facts don't come out and speak for themselves. If there have been violations of international humanitarian law, then they have to be--people have to be held accountable.