Deadly Israeli strike hits UN school in Gaza

Israeli tanks have hit a UN school in the Gaza Strip, killing at least 40 people, according to medical sources. FRANCE 24's correspondent in Gaza City reports.


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.

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On the 11th day of the Israeli offensive on the Gaza Strip, tanks and troops pushed deeper into the coastal enclave, entering Khan Younis and pounding targets across the Strip.

Israeli tank fire killed at least 40 people who had taken refuge inside an UN-run school in the Gaza Strip on Tuesday, according to Palestinian medical sources.

Two tank shells exploded outside the school in the northern town of Jabaliya, spraying shrapnel on people inside and outside the building. In addition to the those killed, several dozen more were wounded, the officials said.

The armoured force was 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.

“Gaza is now surrounded by the Israeli troops”

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.

Only the day before, the Israeli army entered Gaza City and was approaching the city centre.

FRANCE 24’s Zuheir al Najaar, one of the few correspondents reporting from inside Gaza City, said the city was surrounded. “Last night was the heaviest clashes between the Hamas fighters and Israeli troops, making a big number of civilian victims.” Exact numbers of victims have yet to be confirmed by medical sources.

“The bombing has reached a new phase,” explained Radjaa Abou Dagga, another FRANCE 24 correspondent inside Gaza City. “Before, the Israelis were targeting only Hamas buildings, but now they are also targeting houses and apartments where they suspect Hamas militants are hiding out”.

Annette Young, our FRANCE 24 correspondent in Jerusalem, reported that Israeli forces had positioned themselves in eastern areas of Gaza City, such as Zeitoun, which is believed to be a Hamas stronghold. Young has learned from Palestinian eyewitness accounts that “troops were commandeering high-rise buildings, expelling residents and shooting militants on the streets.”

Last night saw some of the most violent clashes yet since Israel unleashed its massive "Operation Cast Lead" against Hamas on December 27.


Palestinian women cry the death of relatives at Gaza City's al-Shifa hospital
Palestinian women mourn the deaths of relatives at Gaza City's al-Shifa hospital.
Photo: Mohammed Abed/AFP


On Monday 60 Palestinians were killed, of which 15 were children. An army spokesman confirmed that three elite soldiers from the Golani Brigade and another 24 were wounded by “friendly fire”. The Israeli army claimed on Tuesday that it had killed 130 Hamas fighters since launching its ground offensive in Gaza on Saturday.

Militants continue to fire cross-border rockets

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, the army said.

A rocket fired from Gaza landed near the town of Gedera, some 45 kilometres (28 miles) from the border of the Gaza Strip, it said.

Previous rockets fired from Gaza had reached some 40 kilometres (25 miles) inside Israel.

At least three other rockets that were fired on Tuesday from Gaza landed without causing injuries, it said.

Despite the Israeli invasion, Hamas militants have fired around 32 rockets towards Israel since Sunday evening, according to Israel’s police. More than five rockets were fired on Israel by the militants on Tuesday, continuing the cross-border attacks.

No immediate hopes of a ceasefire

Urgent European diplomatic efforts to broker an immediate ceasefire in the region have so far been rejected by the Israeli government.

Israel on Tuesday set a key condition for a ceasefire in the Gaza Strip, saying it would not agree to a truce unless it included provisions to prevent Hamas from rearming.

"Preventing a Hamas arms buildup is the necessary foundation of any new calm arrangement. That is the make-or-break issue," said Mark Regev, a spokesman for Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.

Regev said that was Olmert's message in talks on Monday with French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who called in meetings with Israeli and Palestinians leaders for a rapid Gaza ceasefire.

Regev said Hamas, which has smuggled weapons into the Gaza Strip through tunnels running under the border with Egypt, used the previous six-month ceasefire brokered by Cairo to double the range of its rockets from 20 km (12 km) to 40 km (24 miles).



Sarkozy's trip
Israeli soldiers prepare their attack.

For its part, Hamas has also rejected calls to stop firing rockets into Gaza and has maintained that any ceasefire agreement should include a lifting of the blockade of the besieged Strip. 

"We are ready for a ceasefire," Palestinian Deputy Foreign Minister Ahmed Youssef, a member of Hamas, told FRANCE 24 from Gaza. Asked about the conditions for a truce, he said: "The Israelis should stop their aggression and the siege of Gaza."

A Hamas delegation arrived in Cairo Monday night and is due to hold talks with Egyptian mediators on Tuesday.

Since the battle began to end Gaza’s rocket attacks on Israel, over 560 Palestinians are confirmed as dead and 2,704 wounded by medical sources. Palestinian medical officials say at least 100 of the dead are children. They also say 90 people have died since the ground assault began.

Israel has lost four soldiers and four civilians over the past 10 days, and 79 Israelis have been wounded.



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