RAMALLAH - At least 42 Palestinians sheltering in a UN school in the Jabaliya
refugee camp near Gaza City were killed Tuesday afternoon after two Israeli
tank shells exploded outside the school.
Hundreds of terrified Palestinians, desperately trying to escape the bombing,
had sought shelter there assuming that a clearly marked school would not be
targeted. Palestinian sources reported that the school was one of 26 residential
buildings hit Tuesday.
Another UN facility, the Ash-Shouka School in Rafah, in the southern Gaza
Strip, was bombarded Monday night.
The UN Relief and Welfare Agency (UNRWA) said that prior to the current fighting
it had given the Israeli authorities the GPS coordinates of all its installations
in Gaza, including the schools. The organization has demanded an explanation
from Israel, and called for an investigation.
"There's nowhere safe in Gaza. Everyone here is terrorized and traumatized,"
said John Ging, the UN head in Gaza. He blamed the international community
for allowing the violence to continue.
"I am appealing to political leaders here and in the region and the world
to get their act together and stop this," he said, speaking at Gaza's
largest hospital. "They are responsible for these deaths."
Earlier Tuesday another 13 Palestinians were killed in the Zeitoun suburb
of Gaza City when their apartment building collapsed after sustaining a direct
hit. And at least 30 Palestinians were killed as Israeli warships shelled targets
in Deir al-Balah in central Gaza and the al-Brej refugee camp near Gaza City.
These latest attacks bring the Palestinian death toll to nearly 600 on day
11 of Israel's Operation Cast Lead.
Meanwhile the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), which has declared
a "full-blown humanitarian crisis" in Gaza, said it is investigating
reports that a Palestinian Red Crescent (PRC) ambulance station in Jabaliya
refugee camp was targeted Monday night.
In an earlier attack last Friday, the ICRC reported that two clearly marked
ambulance medics from the PRC, evacuating the dead and wounded from an earlier
Israeli attack, were targeted by Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) fire.
The paramedics were wearing fluorescent jackets, and their ambulances had
flashing lights visible from a considerable distance.
"I have no doubt that one missile was aimed at us. I do not know for
certain whether it was meant to kill us or warn us to keep away, but it was
definitely aimed in our direction," said Palestinian ambulance driver
Khaled Abu Saada.
Sammy Hassan, a spokesman from Shifa Hospital, said in the last week that
four ambulance personnel had been killed in Israeli strikes. "One was
a doctor and the other three were medics. We are very worried about our ambulance
staff," Hassan told IPS.
Israel reported Tuesday it had killed Ayman Siam, the head of Hamas' rocket
unit and commander of the group's artillery forces, in an aerial attack on
While Israel continues to pound Gaza intensively, Israeli troops have also
been arresting Palestinian men in Gaza they suspect of being involved in the
A reporter for an Israeli TV network said that as many as 100 Palestinians
had been abducted and taken over the border for interrogation.
Meanwhile, Israel's northern border with Lebanon remains tense following Shia
resistance organization Hezbollah's declaration of a state of high alert. The
group says it fears Israel might use the war in the south to launch an attack
Israel has moved troops northward to fortify the border in the event Hezbollah
tries to launch an assault on Israel.
Israel is still refusing to allow foreign media into Gaza to report on the
war. Following a petition by the Foreign Press Association (FPA) in Israel
to the Israeli High Court, the Israeli government said Jan. 1 it would allow
a small group of eight journalists to enter Gaza when the crossings opened.
All would have to undergo security checks and would be embedded with the IDF.
Two of the eight would be chosen by the Israelis and the rest would be selected
The crossings opened briefly afterward to allow several hundred foreign passport
holders to leave Gaza, but no foreign journalists were allowed in despite the
A few foreign journalists, however, had managed to enter the coastal territory
after Gaza's borders opened briefly at the beginning of December. The borders
were closed for most of November.
The journalists refused to leave despite an IDF warning that they would be
prevented from leaving and that their safety was being compromised.
UNRWA's John Ging, speaking from Gaza's Shifa Hospital, said he had been forced
into reporting what is happening in Gaza "since there is no international
press in Gaza to report it."
Journalists have normally been allowed to enter Gaza individually without
any security checks even when the borders were closed during previous military
According to a Palestinian media report, Palestinian journalist Khader Shahin,
working for Iranian World TV, was arrested in Jerusalem Tuesday and is currently
being investigated for spreading "state secrets."
The Israeli military has reportedly stepped up its monitoring of the international,
Arabic, and Hebrew media since the beginning of Operation Cast Lead.
A cease-fire still appears elusive. Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on
Tuesday rejected an EU request for a 48-hour cease-fire, saying Hamas might
use the lull to shoot rockets further into Israel.
(Inter Press Service)