Gaza/Jerusalem, July 24;
At least 16 people were killed and dozens injured when Israeli army tanks shelled a UN-run school in the northern Gaza Strip town of Beit Lahia Thursday even as the toll in the coastal enclave in the ongoing offensive hit 750.
Witnesses, who were in the school, run by the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), said Israeli tanks fired four shells at the school, killing or wounding dozens of people, Xinhua reported.
Ashraf al-Qedra, spokesman of the health ministry in Gaza, told reporters that “it is a real massacre, and I can say there are at least 16 people killed, seven of them are children”.
He said that the death toll grew to more than 750 since the beginning of the Israeli offensive on the Gaza Strip and 4,650 injured, the majority of them civilians, including women and children.
“We were inside the school, some were in the classrooms and some were outside in the yard, and suddenly four tank shells hit us,” Sobheya al-Kafarna, who was injured and survived the Israeli shelling on the school, said.
“We are not terrorists; they (Israelis) are the terrorists who kill children in cold blood. We escaped from our houses after they told us to evacuate it, and we went to this school, and they also shelled us,” said al-Kafarna.
Meanwhile, Fawzi Barhoum, Hamas spokesman in Gaza, said in an emailed press statement that targeting the UN-run school and “committing an awful massacre against children by the Israeli occupation is a big war crime”.
“Israel will pay a very heavy price for committing all these crimes against the populations, mainly women and children,” said Barhoum.
Meanwhile, Israel apprehended 150 alleged Hamas members overnight Thursday in the Rafah area, near the border with Egypt, a military spokesperson told Xinhua.
Most of them were taken away from their homes, the Ha’aretz daily reported.
A photo posted on Israel’s Walla website shows the detainees walking near the sandy Israel-Gaza border, wearing only underwear, as armed soldiers transferred them for questioning by the Shin Bet, the Israeli security service.
Palestinian Ma’an news agency reported that 29 people were killed in Gaza by Israeli strikes overnight, including 10 members from the same family.
About one in four casualties was a minor, according to UN statistics. Some 32 Israelis were killed, including three civilians.
On Wednesday, the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) decided to form a committee to look into possible Israeli war crimes in Gaza, in a move that angered Israel.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu described the decision as “a travesty”.
Moshe Ya’alon, the Israeli minister of defence, said he instructed his troops Wednesday to prepare for a wider ground war.
US Secretary of State John Kerry left Israel late Wednesday after a day-long visit aimed at brokering a ceasefire agreement to end the ongoing fighting between Israel and Hamas.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon also visited the region, but there have been no official reports regarding a possible breakthrough in the ceasefire efforts.