United Nations suspends operations in Gaza after schools and trucks are hit by Israeli forces

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Friday, January 9, 2009

The United Nations (UN) suspended all of its operations in Gaza from yesterday, after the bombing of a convoy of UN aid trucks which killed one Palestinian driver, and wounded three others. Thursday was the second day of attacks on UN targets after three UN schools housing refugees were bombed on Tuesday, killing over 50 civilians.

"UNRWA decided to suspend all its operations in the Gaza Strip because of the increasing hostile actions against its premises and personnel," Adnan Abu Hasna, a Gaza-based spokesman for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), said yesterday. Richard Miron, spokesman for the UN said that the Israeli military had been notified in advance of the coordinates of the relief trucks saying, "This underlines the fundamental insecurity inside Gaza at a time when we are trying to address the dire humanitarian needs of the population there."

The bombing of the UN trucks was the last straw for the UN, already angered after Israeli tanks fired on a UN school housing refugees killing 50 including an entire family of seven young children. The UN said that they had given Israel the GPS coordinates of their schools, and demanded accountability for the attacks. Israel's government says it is investigating the incidents.

More schools were attacked including the al-Fakhora School killing 40 people, many of them women and children. Hours before the attack on the al-Fakhora School was an attack on Asma Elementary School which killed three Palestinian cousins. The cousin's father said the bodies were so mangled he couldn't tell the bodies apart, "We came to the school when the Israelis warned us to leave," he said. "We hoped it would be safe. We were 20 in one room. We had no electricity, no blankets, no food. "Suddenly we heard a bomb that shook the school. Windows smashed. Children started to scream. A relative came and told me one of my sons was killed. I found my son's body with his two cousins. They were cut into pieces by the shell." Like al-Fakhora, Asma Elementary is an UNRWA school.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said on yesterday that they were trying for four days to get their ambulances to a Gaza neighborhood before being allowed to by Israeli military forces. After getting there, they said, they found four starving children sitting next to the bodies of their dead mothers.

"This is a shocking incident," said Pierre Wettach, ICRC chief for Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories. "The Israeli military must have been aware of the situation but did not assist the wounded. Neither did they make it possible for us or the Palestinian Red Crescent to assist the wounded."

Israel granted a three-hour ceasefire yesterday that they gave for aid workers to enter areas that they had closed off. 50 bodies were recovered during the ceasefire, raising the death toll to 763, including more than 200 children, since air raids first began on December 27. 3,121 people have also been wounded. Eight Israeli soldiers and three civilians have died in the same period. Israeli forces also shot a Palestinian man in the West Bank during a protest against Israel's actions in Gaza. Yesterday, a Palestinian man was killed by Israeli forces after a confrontation in the West Bank Jewish settlement of Ma'ale Adumim near Jerusalem.


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