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Israel-Hamas war: Israeli strike on Gaza school kills more than 30

DEIR AL-BALAH, Gaza Strip (AP) — An Israeli strike Thursday morning on a school housing displaced Palestinians in central Gaza killed at least 33 people, including 12 women and children, according to local health officials. The Israeli military said Hamas militants were operating from inside the school.

It is the latest example of mass casualties among Palestinians trying to find refuge as Israel expands its offensive. The day before, the army announced a new ground and air attack in central Gaza, pursuing Hamas militants who it said had regrouped there.

Palestinians mourn their loved ones killed in an Israeli strike on a UN-run school in the Nusseirat refugee camp, outside a hospital in Deir al Balah, Gaza Strip, Thursday, June 6, 2024. The Israeli military said Hamas militants were operating from inside the school.  (AP Photo/Abdel Kareem Hana)

Palestinians mourn their loved ones killed in an Israeli strike on a UN-run school in the Nusseirat refugee camp, outside a hospital in Deir al Balah, Gaza Strip, Thursday, June 6, 2024. The Israeli military said Hamas militants were operating from inside the school. (AP Photo/Abdel Kareem Hana)

Troops have repeatedly returned to parts of the Gaza Strip they had previously invaded, underscoring the militant group’s resilience despite Israel’s efforts. an attack lasting almost eight months.

Witnesses and hospital officials said the pre-dawn strike hit the al-Sardi school, run by the United Nations agency for Palestinian refugees, known by the acronym UNRWA. The school was filled with Palestinians who had fled Israeli operations and bombings in northern Gaza, they said.

The hospital initially reported that nine women and 14 children were among those killed in the attack on the school. The hospital morgue later amended those records to show that the dead included three women, nine children and 21 men. The cause of the discrepancy was not immediately clear. An Associated Press reporter had counted the bodies but was unable to look under the shrouds.

Separate strikes in central Gaza killed another 15 people, almost all of them men.

Ayman Rashed, a displaced man from Gaza City who was sheltering in the school, said the missiles hit classrooms on the second and third floors where families were sheltering. He said he helped evacuate five dead people, including an old man and two children, one with a broken head. “It was dark, with no electricity, and we had difficulty getting the victims out,” Rashed said.

Palestinians watch the aftermath of the Israeli attack on a UN-run school that killed dozens of people in the Nusseirat refugee camp in the Gaza Strip, Thursday, June 6, 2024. The Israeli army said Hamas militants were operating from inside the school.  .  (AP Photo/Ismaël Abou Dayyah)

Palestinians watch the aftermath of the Israeli attack on a UN-run school that killed dozens of people in the Nusseirat refugee camp in the Gaza Strip, Thursday, June 6, 2024. The Israeli army said Hamas militants were operating from inside the school. . (AP Photo/Ismaël Abou Dayyah)

Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari, a spokesman for the Israeli military, said it carried out a “precise strike” based on concrete intelligence that the militants were planning and carrying out attacks from inside three military rooms. class. He said only these pieces were attacked.

“We carried out this strike after our intelligence and surveillance indicated that there were no women or children inside the Hamas compound, inside these classrooms,” he said. he declared.

Hagari said there were about 30 suspected militants in the three rooms. He said the army confirmed killing nine of them and displayed a slide showing their names and photos. He provided no further evidence to support the military’s claims.

Victims of the attack arrived at the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Hospital in nearby Deir al-Balah, which had already been overwhelmed by a constant stream of ambulances since the incursion into the central Gaza 24 hours earlier, said Omar al-Derawi, a photographer working for the hospital.

Videos circulating online appear to show several injured people being treated on the hospital floor, a common scene in Gaza’s overwhelmed medical services. Power is out to much of the hospital because staff are rationing fuel supplies for the generator.

Palestinians check the bodies of their loved ones killed in an Israeli bombing of an UNRWA school in the Nusseirat refugee camp, outside the morgue of al-Aqsa Martyrs' Hospital in Deir al-Balah, in the central Gaza Strip, Thursday June 6, 2024. The Israeli military said Hamas militants were operating from inside the school.  (AP Photo/Abdel Kareem Hana)

Palestinians check the bodies of their loved ones killed in an Israeli bombing of an UNRWA school in the Nusseirat refugee camp, outside the morgue of al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Hospital in Deir al-Balah, in the central Gaza Strip, Thursday June 6, 2024. The Israeli military said Hamas militants were operating from inside the school. (AP Photo/Abdel Kareem Hana)

“We can’t walk around the hospital, there are so many people. The women of the victims’ families are gathered in the corridors and crying,” he said.

The school was in Nuseirat, one of the many refugee camps built in Gaza dating back to the 1948 war surrounding the creation of Israelwhen hundreds of thousands of Palestinians fled or were driven from their homes in what became the new state.

Images showed bodies wrapped in blankets or plastic bags arranged in lines in the hospital courtyard. Mohammed al-Kareem, a displaced Palestinian who took shelter near the hospital, said he saw people searching for their loved ones among the bodies, and that one woman kept asking medical staff to open the doors. wrapped bodies to see if his son was inside.

“The situation is tragic,” he said.

Palestinians mourn their loved ones killed in an Israeli strike on a UN-run school in the Nusseirat refugee camp, outside a hospital in Deir al Balah, Gaza Strip, Thursday, June 6, 2024. The Israeli military said Hamas militants were operating from inside the school.  (AP Photo/Abdel Kareem Hana)

Palestinians mourn their loved ones killed in an Israeli strike on a UN-run school in the Nusseirat refugee camp, outside a hospital in Deir al Balah, Gaza Strip, Thursday, June 6, 2024. The Israeli military said Hamas militants were operating from inside the school. (AP Photo/Abdel Kareem Hana)

Philippe Lazzarini, UNRWA commissioner-general, said in a message on X that 6,000 people were sheltering in the school when it was hit without prior warning. He said UNRWA was unable to verify claims that armed groups were inside.

UNRWA schools in Gaza have operated as shelters since the start of the war, which drove most of the territory’s population, 2.3 million Palestinians, from their homes.

Last week, Israeli strikes hit near an UNRWA facility in the southern city of Rafah, saying they targeted Hamas militants. A fire devastated the tents near the homes of displaced families killing at least 45 people. The deaths sparked international outrage and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the fire was the result of a “tragic accident.” The military said the fire may have been caused by secondary explosions. The cause of the explosions has not been determined.

Israel sent troops to Rafah in early May, in what they described as a limited incursion, but these forces are now operating in central areas of the city. More than a million people have fled Rafah since the operation began, scattering across southern and central Gaza into new tent camps or crowding into schools and homes.

Israel launched its campaign in Gaza after Hamas’ attack on Israel on October 7, in which militants killed some 1,200 people and took 250 others hostage. Israeli offensive has killed at least 36,000 Palestinians, according to Gaza Ministry of Healthwhich does not distinguish between combatants and civilians in its figures.

Israel blames Hamas for civilian deaths because it positions fighters, tunnels and rocket launchers in residential areas.

The United States has thrown its weight behind a gradual ceasefire and release of hostages highlighted by President Joe Biden last week. But Israel says it will not end the war without destroying Hamas, while the militant group demands a lasting ceasefire and a complete withdrawal of Israeli forces.

Far-right members of Netanyahu’s government have threatened to bring down the coalition if he signs a ceasefire deal.

Israel has regularly launched airstrikes in all parts of Gaza since the start of the war and carried out massive ground operations in the territory’s two largest cities, Gaza City and Khan Younis, which left much of ‘between them in ruins.

The army carried out a weeks-long offensive earlier this year in Bureij and several other neighboring refugee camps in central Gaza.

Troops withdrew from the Jabalia camp in northern Gaza last Friday after weeks of fighting that caused widespread destruction. First responders found the bodies of 360 people, mostly women and children, killed during the fighting.

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Magdy reported from Cairo.

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Follow AP’s coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/israel-hamas-war

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News Source : apnews.com

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