December 20, 2014
At least 19 killed at UN school in Gaza, Israel offers 4-hour ceasefire
At least 19 Palestinian sheltering in a school in Gaza's biggest refugee camp died today, victims of Israeli shelling. Hours later, the Israeli military offered a four-hour humanitarian ceasefire today in some areas of the Gaza Strip.
Some 3,000 Palestinians, including many women and children, were taking refuge in the building in Jebalya refugee camp when it came under fire around dawn today, Khalil al-Halabi, director of northern Gaza operations for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) said.
"There were five shells - Israeli tank shells - which struck the people and killed many of them as they slept. Those people came to the school because it a designated U.N. shelter," he said.
The Israeli military said militants near the facility had fired mortar bombs and Israeli forces had shot back.
"Earlier this morning, militants fired mortar shells at [Israeli] soldiers from the vicinity of the UNRWA school in Jebalya [refugee camp]. In response, soldiers fired towards the origins of fire, and we're still reviewing the incident," a military spokeswoman said.
Hours after the attack, IDF (Israel Defence Forces) announced an humanitarian truce. “IDF has authorized a temporary window in the Gaza Strip. The window will commence today between 15:00-19:00," an army statement said. "The humanitarian window will not apply to the areas in which IDF soldiers are currently operating," it added.
UNRWA said on Tuesday it had found a cache of rockets concealed at another Gaza school - the third such discovery since the conflict began. It condemned unnamed groups for putting civilians at risk.
SHELLING IN JABALYA
In addition to the 19 dead, some 125 people were wounded at the Jabalya school, including five in critical condition, Halabi said. An UNRWA source said the agency had recovered fragments from the shells.
Israel has been shelling in Jebalya, where some 120,000 people live, since Tuesday, in what the chief Israeli military spokesman, Brigadier-General Motti Almoz, described as a slight broadening of its campaign against militants in the Hamas Islamist-dominated Gaza Strip.
Israeli tank fire also struck the main market in Jebalya today, killing at least three people and wounding 40 others, the Gaza Health Ministry said. Seven members of one family died in an Israeli attack in Deir al-Balah, in the central Gaza Strip.
The ministry said 1,270 Palestinians, most of them civilians, have been killed since Israel began its offensive on July 8 with the declared aim of halting cross-border rocket fire.