IDF missile strikes UN school

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Saturday, June 8, 2024

A map of central Gaza, showing the location of the Nuseirat camp, toward the top right.
Image: OCHA oPt.

Early on Thursday, Israeli forces fired missiles at a school operated by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) in the Nuseirat refugee camp in central Gaza. The al-Sardi school was being used as a refuge by 6,000 displaced Palestinians, according to UNRWA. Two missiles were reportedly fired at the school's upper floors. Local reports place the current death toll at 35-45, with the overall death toll in Gaza now standing at over 36,000.

The Israel Defense Forces said they were "not aware of any civilian casualties". They described the attack as a targeted effort to kill Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad militants involved in the October 7 attacks on Israel, who were hiding in the school. They also stated it was the fifth occasion they had had to target militants who were operating in UN facilities. The IDF later identified nine militants killed in the attack. The IDF stated the attack was planned for days and twice delayed to be certain there would be no civilians harmed.

A video published by The Guardian shows civilians sifting through the rubble, placing the dead bodies of victims in bags.

Udai Abu Elias was asleep at the school at the time of the bombing, when there was "a loud explosion and shattered glass and debris from the building fell on us." He also told the BBC "[smoke] filled the air, and [...] [he] heard someone calling for survivors." He added:

"I struggled to see as I stumbled over the bodies of the martyrs. [...] The situation has become extremely difficult, especially for children and the elderly. Everyone is a target. The blood of the martyrs has not yet dried; it stains the stairs, walls, and bedding."

The number of UNWRA buildings bombed during the conflict is disputed. UNWRA says that 186 of their installations have been affected. Philippe Lazzarini, commissioner-general of UNRWA, said that 180 buildings were hit. According to the Guardian, over 170 UNRWA-operated buildings have been bombed since the beginning of the conflict.