Additional examples of what human rights experts are calling clear cases of 'war crimes' against the people of the Gaza Strip continued on Thursday as Israel military forces bombed both a UN school acting as an emergency shelter for civilians and a hospital caring for those already suffering from the bombardment that began on July 8 and has now claimed over 700 lives in the sealed-off territory.
Earlier on Thursday, at least fiften people were killed and scores wounded when the shelter operated by the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) was hit be Israeli fire.
As The Guardian reports:
Pools of blood soiled the school courtyard, amid scattered books and belongings. There was a large scorch mark in the courtyard marking the place where one of the tank shells hit.
The strike occurred during a day of heavy fighting throughout the coastal territory as Israel pressed ahead with its operation to halt rocket fire from Gaza and destroy a sophisticated network of cross-border tunnels.
The Gaza health official Ashraf al-Kidra said the dead and injured in the school compound were among hundreds of people seeking shelter from heavy fighting in the area.
It was the fourth time a UN facility has been hit in fighting between Israel and Palestinian militants in Gaza, since the Israeli operation began on 8 July.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said he was is “appalled” by news of the attack, adding that the incident underscores the need to stop all fighting immediately.
“Many have been killed – including women and children, as well as UN staff,” Mr. Ban said in statement issued in Erbil, Iraq, where he is currently on an official visit. Though circumstances were still unclear at the time of his statement, Ban said he "strongly condemn[ed] this act” by Israeli forces.
Later in the day, the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) of a hospital in Gaza City was partially destroyed as one young child was killed and dozens of other people were wounded by Israeli strikes.
According to the Ma'an News Agency:
A toddler was killed and dozens of other Palestinians were injured in a Gaza City hospital late Thursday as an Israeli bomb struck the area, medics said.
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Ibrahim al-Sheikh Omar, two-and-a-half years old, was in the ICU of Muhammad al-Durra hospital when an Israeli strike hit outside.
Medical sources said the boy was hit by shrapnel from the explosion, killing him on the spot.
Thirty other Palestinians were injured in the strike.
An Israeli army spokeswoman told Ma'an she was looking into the incident.
The army has repeatedly claimed that hospitals have been used as launching grounds for Palestinian militants during the Israeli offensive on Gaza.
On Tuesday of this week, Richard Falk, a professor at Princeton University and the the former UN Special Rapporteur on Palestinian human rights, described what is currently happening in Gaza as a 'massacre' performed by an overwhelmingly powerful military force against a nearly defenseless civilian population. In an op-ed published on Al-Jazeera, Falk wrote:
The events in Gaza are essentially a repetition of prior Israeli incursions with heavy sophisticated weaponry in which the people of Gaza are the helpless victims of Israeli firepower, with no place to hide, and increasingly without even such necessities of life as water and electricity, whose facilities have been targeted by Israel's precision weaponry.
By now we should all understand that one-sided violence whether in the form of torture or state terror is criminal behaviour. When it leads to many civilian deaths on one side and few civilian casualties on the other side, then such state terror is best characterised as a massacre, epitomised by the high civilian death toll on July 20 in the Gaza City neighbourhood of Shujayea where a crowded residential district was repeatedly shelled by heavy IDF artillery.[...]
As with earlier massive Israeli military operations carried out against the people of Gaza 2008-2009, and 2012, the defenceless Gazan population is again being cruelly victimised. If an adversary of the West was behaving as Israel has since July 8, it would be branded an aggressor whose leaders would likely be held accountable before the International Criminal Court (ICC) or some other tribunal with the authority to prosecute persons accused of international crimes which have distressed the US government and its allies.
Remarking on the dire situation for Palestinians, Democracy Now! correspondent Sharif Abdel Kouddous—reporting from the Gaza Strip on Thursday—described how civilians have no place safe to go: