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Israel announces four-hour truce after deadly strike on UN school

Mahmud Hams, AFP | Civilians in Gaza
2 min

Israel will observe a four-hour humanitarian ceasefire from 12pm (GMT), the army announced Wednesday, hours after at least 13 people were killed when tank shells hit a UN school in Gaza where hundreds of Palestinians had taken refuge.


Adnan Abu Hasna, a spokesman for a UN aid agency, says tank shells hit the Abu Hussein UN school in the Jabaliya refugee camp around 4:30am.

Reuters said 20 people had been killed at the school, while AP claimed just 13 deaths and AP put the number of victims at 15. 

The Israeli military said mortar shells had been fired from near the school and that soldiers fired back.

The army said the lull would not apply in areas where the army was "currently operating" and warned those who had fled their homes not to return.

The announcement came as the Israeli security cabinet was meeting in Tel Aviv to discuss an Egyptian proposal for a more permanent ceasefire, Israeli army radio reported.

The head of the UN agency for Palestinian refugees in Gaza issued a furious denunciation of the Israel strike.

"I condemn in the strongest possible terms this serious violation of international law by Israeli forces," said UNRWA commissioner general Pierre Krahenbuhl, saying the school's location had been communicated to the Israeli army 17 times.

"This is the sixth time that one of our schools has been struck," he said, adding that some 3,300 people had been sheltering in the school at Jabaliya refugee camp.

Hamas is known to have used UN schools and hospitals as weapons depots. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon last week expressed “outrage and regret” that rockets had again been found inside a UN school for refugees.

Ban said storing the rockets in this way “turned schools into potentially military targets, endangering the lives of innocent children”, along with those of UN employees and the tens of thousands of sheltering Palestinians. He urged an investigation into the practice.

Israeli airstrikes and shelling killed 40 Palestinians elsewhere across the Hamas-ruled coastal territory on Wednesday.

The strikes on the school came a day after Israel unleashed its heaviest air and artillery assault yet in the bloodiest day of the three-week Gaza war, destroying key symbols of Hamas control and shutting down the territory’s only power plant.


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