A Market And A School Come Under Fire During A Violent Day In Gaza

An explosion rocked a crowded Gaza market during what was expected to be a lull in the fighting. Earlier in the day a United Nations school was hit by what U.N. officials say was Israeli artillery fire, killing at least 15 people. Meanwhile, rocket fire from Gaza continues to be fired into Israel.

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ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Ari Shapiro.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

And I'm Audie Cornish. This has been a very violent day in the Gaza Strip. Air strikes on a United Nations shelter and a crowded market killed at least 30 people. Militant rocket fire continued from Gaza to Israel, though no serious injuries were reported.

SHAPIRO: More than 1,200 Palestinians have died in just over three weeks. At least 56 Israeli soldiers have died along with three civilians in Israel. We begin with Gaza and NPR's Emily Harris. Hi, Emily.

EMILY HARRIS, BYLINE: Hi, Ari.

SHAPIRO: Tell us about the strike this afternoon on the market area. What happened there?

HARRIS: Well, this happened right around five p.m., so in the early evening. I was in an adjacent area, and we heard some shelling, and then we saw a thick, wide, black cloud rising above the skyline. The market area is a commercial street, basically. It has a lot of little, small shops that line the sidewalk. And many days during these three weeks of war which we've passed by, all the shops have been closed. They have tall, metal shutters, so you would just see shutter after shutter after shutter. And the area here - this street is right on the border of the Shejaya neighborhood and that's in the east of Gaza city toward the Israeli border. It's an area that's come under intense bombardments over the past three weeks. And Israel told everyone to leave there about 10 days ago because it's an area that they say - that a lot of militants operate from there. And this market is just on the edge of that neighborhood. It's not clear exactly what explosives hit - whether it was mortars or rockets artillery, but the number of wounded is around 200 people, according to Palestinian health officials, and 17 people are dead.

SHAPIRO: And you say the market has often been closed in recent days. Today it was open because - wasn't there supposed be a cease-fire around this time?

HARRIS: Yeah, this attack happened right in the middle of a four-hour humanitarian cease-fire. A couple of points about the cease-fire - it was announced about a half an hour before it was supposed to take effect. It was one-sided. It was unilateral by Israel. Hamas continued to shoot rockets into Israel - at that time about two dozen according to the U.S. military. And the cease-fire came with caveats. The military said it would not apply in places where Israeli troops were already operating, and it also said that Gazans should not go back into areas that the Israeli military had earlier told them to leave. So it was a little unclear exactly what the cease-fire meant. The information about it was distributed from the military mostly through Palestinian media. There weren't any leaflets dropped. On occasion during this war Israel's has dropped leaflets showing specifically where to go - what areas are considered safe.

SHAPIRO: And this airstrike on the market was not the only terrible incident today. Earlier in the day there was a strike on a UN school. You were there. Tell us what happened.

HARRIS: This happened about five a.m. I was there several hours later. There were a series of explosions. This is a school where people are taking shelter because they have had to leave their homes because of the fighting. There were over 3000 people in this school. One woman who heard the explosion said she thought that they were targeting room by room because they came sort of one, two, three, and she was waiting for her room to get hit. She did not get hit or injured at all. But one classroom was hit, a number of people killed - more injured. The United Nations sent people up there as soon as they could and gathered evidence of fragments and looked at the craters. And the UN has said that they believe that this is Israeli artillery and they have condemned it in particular because they inform Israel about the coordinates of their schools and had told the Israeli military more than a dozen times over the course of the day and evening before where the school was. The Israeli military says it was fired on from around the school and fired back at the source, and says it doesn't deliberately target schools.

SHAPIRO: That's NPR's Emily Harris speaking with us from Gaza. Thanks, Emily.

HARRIS: Thanks, Ari.

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