Israeli airstrike targets Gaza school, killing dozens; military alleges Hamas use

An Israeli airstrike targeting a school housing displaced Palestinians in central Gaza has resulted in the deaths of at least 35 individuals, including women and children, as reported by local health authorities. The Israeli military asserted that Hamas militants were utilizing the school’s premises for their operations. This early morning assault represents the latest instance of significant casualties among Palestinians seeking refuge while Israel escalates its offensive.

The day prior to the attack, the military declared a fresh ground and air offensive in central Gaza, pursuing Hamas militants allegedly regrouping in the area. Israeli troops have repeatedly reentered regions of the Gaza Strip previously targeted, highlighting the resilience of the militant group despite the extensive Israeli onslaught lasting nearly eight months.

Witnesses and medical staff indicated that the predawn airstrike struck the al-Sardi School, managed by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) for Palestinian refugees. The school had accommodated Palestinians displaced by Israeli military actions and bombardment in northern Gaza. Initially, hospital reports indicated that the casualties included nine women and 14 children. However, the hospital later revised the figures to three women, nine children, and 21 men, though the cause of the discrepancy remains unclear. Separate strikes in central Gaza claimed the lives of an additional 15 individuals, primarily men.

Ayman Rashed, a displaced individual sheltering at the school, recounted that the missiles struck classrooms on the second and third floors where families sought refuge. He described the harrowing experience of retrieving the deceased, including an elderly man and two children, one of whom had suffered a severe head injury.

Rear-Admiral Daniel Hagari, the Israeli military’s spokesperson, asserted that the airstrike targeted specific classrooms based on actionable intelligence indicating that militants were planning and executing attacks from within. Hagari emphasized that only the designated rooms were struck, claiming that surveillance confirmed the absence of women and children in those areas. According to Hagari, approximately 30 suspected militants were present in the targeted rooms, with nine confirmed casualties. Philippe Lazzarini, the commissioner-general of UNRWA, stated on social media that around 6,000 individuals were seeking shelter in the school at the time of the attack, which occurred without prior warning. UNRWA has been unable to independently verify allegations of armed groups operating within its schools throughout Gaza, which have served as shelters for displaced Palestinians since the conflict’s onset, forcing most of the territory’s 2.3 million residents from their homes.

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