Israel’s military attacks on United Nations schools in Gaza that were sheltering thousands of displaced people slaughtered dozens of civilians “in violation of the laws of war,” Human Rights Watch declared in a report released Thursday.
The humanitarian organization investigated three separate attacks on such schools that occurred in late July and early August, which together killed 45 people, 17 of them children. “Israel has offered no convincing explanation for these attacks on schools where people had gone for protection and the resulting carnage,” said Fred Abrahams, special adviser at Human Rights Watch.
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On July 24, Israel shelled a UN elementary school in Beit Hanoun, killing 13 people, including six children, and wounding dozens, the report states. Fifty-eight-year-old witness Jamal Abu ‘Owda described to Human Rights Watch seeing, in the aftermath, “shredded bodies, a mix of everything, boys, men, girls, women, a mix of different faces and bodies.” Witnesses testify that at least four successive shells hit the school courtyard, in addition to more shelling just outside the compound, contradicting the Israeli military’s claim that “a single errant mortar” hit the “empty” courtyard, the report notes.
On July 30, another Israeli attack on a UN girls’ elementary school in Jabalya, which was sheltering over 3,200 people, killed 20 people, three of them children. “The Israeli military said that Palestinian fighters had fired mortars ‘from the vicinity’ of the school, but provided no information to support that claim,” notes the report. “In any event, the use of high-explosive, heavy-artillery shells so near a shelter filled with civilians constitutes an indiscriminate attack.”