Attack On U.N. School Kills Over A Dozen Civilians In Gaza

A United Nations school, which was being used to shelter displaced Gazans awaiting evacuation, came under fire from a missile or shelling. The attack reportedly killed 15 people. Palestinian officials blame Israeli shelling; Israel says it may have been Hamas rockets that fell short of their target.

Copyright © 2014 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Robert Siegel.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

And I'm Audie Cornish. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry continued to work the phones from Cairo today. He's been trying to forge a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip. At least 780 Palestinians have been killed in the fighting, mostly civilians. More than 30 Israeli soldiers and three civilians in Israel have been killed. Today also saw a shocking burst of violence. A United Nations school came under attack. It was being used as a shelter for civilians trying to escape the violence. At least 15 people died. Its disputed who fired ammunitions that hit the school as NPR's Emily Harris reports from Gaza.

EMILY HARRIS, BYLINE: Things were chaotic this afternoon at the Coma Adwon (ph) Hospital in the North of the Gaza Strip. About an hour after the nearby school was hit. Crowds swelled around wounded people on stretchers. Others uninjured but shocked and scared kept arriving, many crammed into ambulances. Anwar Hamad (ph) had a small wound on his shoulder. He had been staying at the school for a week for shelter.

ANWAR HAMAD: (Through translator) We were sitting in the school when someone came and said the Red Cross wants to take us out of here, so get your things together.

HARRIS: Shells, he said, landed soon after in the school courtyard where people had gathered.

HAMAD: (Through translator) It was awful. People were in pieces, people were injured, screaming. I took my child's hand and started running away.

HARRIS: Palestinians assumed this was an Israeli strike. Even before today the international Red Cross had been trying to reach the school. It's tucked way up in the Northeast corner of Gaza, in the middle of a battle zone since Israel's ground invasion began one week ago. To evacuate people or to send food, aid agencies must make arrangements with the Israeli Military. The U.N. gives the Israeli Army the coordinates of their schools every day.

MICKEY EDELSTEIN: We first have to investigate.

HARRIS: Israel's Brigadier General Mickey Edelstein commands the Gaza division. He says the Army does not target U.N. facilities. The military said it had been working to allow the Red Cross in to evacuate people. It said Hamas was firing in the area today and Israel returned fire. It also said rockets launched toward Israel fell short and landed in the town. That's one thing that happened in Northern Gaza today. Around Gaza airstrikes also continued. And there has been close-quarter conflict up and down Gaza's long eastern edge. In some areas, Israeli soldiers made scores of arrests. Samar Almahjer (ph) finally escaped the fighting in Kuzah, a small village just a few hundred yards from Israel's border, with her 6-year, 4-year and 10-day-old children plus dozens of extended family. She had spent two nights in a basement to avoid the fighting. This morning, she says, people decided they just had to run for it.

SAMAR ALMAHJER: (Through translator) We called each other and realized no help was coming, so people ran - some made it, some didn't.

HARRIS: She said snipers shot from rooftops and tanks were on the town streets. Her husband, Zohar Almahjer (ph), had to learn all this by cell phone he's been in a different part of Gaza and cannot return home. He says he still doesn't know what happened to his 67-year-old father who he believes was arrested.

ZOHAR ALMAHJER: The last call that I asked neighbors they told me they saw him, they never actually talked to him. They walked in lines with I.D.'s on hands.

HARRIS: With Israeli troops continuing their push into Gaza, people here are starting to wonder how long they'll stay - even if there's a cease-fire. Emily Harris, NPR News, Gaza.

Copyright © 2014 NPR. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to NPR. This transcript is provided for personal, noncommercial use only, pursuant to our Terms of Use. Any other use requires NPR's prior permission. Visit our permissions page for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR's programming is the audio.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.