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Middle east

Despair mounts as deadly Israeli strike hits UN schools

Video by Florence VILLEMINOT , Karim YAHIAOUI

Text by FRANCE 24 (with wires)

Latest update : 2009-01-08

Israeli tanks hit three UN schools in the Gaza Strip, killing at least 40 people, according to Palestinian medical sources.

The Israeli military began invading the Gaza Strip on Saturday, shortly before 7:30 pm. Keep track of the unfolding operations with our timeline by clicking here.

Ask our journalists posted in Israel and the Palestinian Territories your questions


On the 11th day of the Israeli offensive on the Gaza Strip, Israeli tanks and troops pushed into urban areas across the Strip, striking Hamas targets, but also hitting UN-run schools as the civilian death toll in the coastal enclave mounted.

Israeli tank fire killed at least 40 people who had taken refuge inside an UN-run school in the Jabaliya refugee camp in northern Gaza, according to Palestinian medical sources. FRANCE 24’s exclusive footage filmed hours after the attack showed disturbing images of seriously wounded people – including children – being rushed into a hospital in northern Gaza as the situation on the ground worsened.

“The bombardments have entered a new phase,” said FRANCE 24’ Radjaa Abou Dagga, who filed the exclusive footage. “Before, Israelis were targeting Hamas buildings; now, they are aiming at houses where they suspect combatants might be dwelling.”  

Abou Dagga is one of the few journalists reporting from inside the Strip. Israel has forbidden international journalists from entering the besieged coastal enclave.

The strike on the UN-run school in Jabaliya followed Israeli strikes on two other UN schools in the Gaza Strip Tuesday. Two people were killed when an artillery shell slammed into a school run by the UN Palestinian relief agency, UNRWA, in the southern Gazan city of Khan Younis and three people were killed in an airstrike on a school in Gaza City, according to Palestinian medical sources.

The attacks have put the total Palestinian death toll at over 600 since the start of the Israeli offensive Dec. 27, sparking widespread international condemnation over the loss of civilian lives in the latest crisis.


Palestinian medics struggle with the influx of wounded civilians

Israeli forces push in Khan Younis

Earlier Tuesday, the Israeli armoured force pushed deeper into the coastal enclave, entering Khan Younis and pounding targets across the Strip. They were met by return fire in southern Gaza’s largest city, which has been a bastion of Palestinian militants since the Israelis pulled out in 2005;

The reported incursion came a day after Israeli troops and Hamas militants fought pitched battles in Gaza City, and followed a tank and helicopter night offensive in northern Gaza. The Israeli assault has split the Strip in two. “There is no longer any safe place in the Gaza Strip,” said Dagga.

Shortly after nightfall on Monday, the Israeli tanks and troops surrounded Gaza City, according to Zuheir al Najaar, another FRANCE 24 correspondent reporting from Gaza City. “Last night was the heaviest clashes between the Hamas fighters and Israeli troops, making a big number of civilian victims,” said al Najaar.

Rocket attacks into Israel continue

Meanwhile, Hamas has continued firing rockets into Israeli territory. At least nine Israelis have been killed in the past 11 days, including three soldiers who were accidentally hit by Israeli tank fire in northern Gaza, according to the Israeli army.

The Israeli army claimed on Tuesday that it had killed 130 Hamas fighters since launching its ground offensive in Gaza on Saturday.

Palestinian militants in Gaza fired their furthest rocket into Israel on Tuesday, amid a massive air and ground offensive in the enclave, lightly wounding a three-month-old baby, according to the Israeli army.

A rocket fired from Gaza landed near the town of Gedera, some 45 kilometres (28 miles) from the border of the Gaza Strip, according to Israeli military officials.. At least three other rockets that were fired on Tuesday from Gaza landed without causing injuries.



The international community responds

Tuesday’s attacks on three Gaza schools sparked international concern over the mounting civilian deaths in Gaza. In Washington, US President-elect Barack Obama said the loss of civilian life was "a source of deep concern" for him.


Obama has been under intense pressure to break his silence on the situation in Gaza. He told reporters Tuesday he would speak out about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict once he takes office on January 20. Until then, he insisted, only President George W. Bush can speak for the United States.


Meanwhile, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said the Middle East was facing its "darkest moment yet”, and echoed the call of many European leaders for an immediate ceasefire.



Note: Because of the high number of user reactions to the Gaza conflict, we are posting only a selection on the site. Please keep your reactions short, relevant and civil. (See our Rules of conduct.)



Date created : 2009-01-06