Al Jazeera – 2009-01-17 23:07:10
IsraelShells UN school in Gaza
GAZA CITY (January 17, 2009) — Two Palestinian boys have been killed after Israeli tank shells hit a UN-run school in Gaza – hours before Israel’s security cabinet is expected to vote on a proposal for a unilateral ceasefire.
The boys, aged five and seven, died and 25 other Gazans were wounded as they sought to shelter in the school run by the UN relief and works agency (Unrwa) in Beit Lahiya, northern Gaza.
The school is the third UN shelter to be hit by Israeli fire in its 22-day war on the territory.
The attack came as heavy artillery and aerial bombardment of what Israel described as “Hamas targets” continued on Saturday.
Christopher Gunness, an Unrwa spokesman, said several rounds hit the UN school at about 6:45am. The third floor of the school took a direct hit after a short pause, killing the pair and injuring another 14 people.
Witnesses said four more people were killed when other shells struck nearby as people tried to escape.
About 1,600 civilians had sought refuge from the fighting inside the building, Gunness said.
“The Israeli army knew exactly our GPS co-ordinates and they would have known that hundreds of people had taken shelter there,” he said.
“When you have a direct hit into the third floor of a UN school, there has to be an investigation to see if a war crime has been committed.”
Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary-general, said: “I condemn in the strongest terms this outrageous attack, which is the third time it’s happened.
“Top israeli leaders have apologised and assured me two days ago that UN premises would be fully respected.
“I strongly demand a thorough investigation and punishment for those responsible,” he told reporters in Beirut.
John Ging, the director of Unrwa, told Al Jazeera: “People today are alleging war crimes here in Gaza. Let’s have it properly accounted for. Let’s have the legal process which will establish exactly what has happened here.
‘A failure for humanity’
“It is another failure for our humanity and it is exposing the impotence of our [the international community’s] inability to protect civilians in conflict.”
In Jabaliya refugee camp, Dr Ezzedine Abu al-Aish, a Palestinian doctor from al-Shifa hospital, lost his three daughters and one niece during an Israeli air attack as he was being interviewed on an Israeli television channel.
At least 10 people were also killed late on Friday after a tank shell slammed into their home during a funeral wake in Gaza City.
More than 1,200 Palestinians have been killed in Israel’s offensive, including more than 400 children, according to UN and Palestinian medical sources.
At least 13 Israelis have also died in the same period, three of them civilians.
About five rockets were reported to have been fired from Gaza into southern Israel on Saturday.
Children ‘Paying Price of Gaza War’
(January 15, 2009) — More than 300 children are among the hundreds of Palestinians killed in Israel’s offensive.
Children are bearing the brunt of Israel’s war on the Gaza Strip, the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef) has said.
More than 300 children have been killed and hundreds more wounded in Israel’s aerial and ground assault, Ann Veneman, Unicef’s executive director, said in a statement released on Wedneday.
She said: “Each day more children are being hurt, their small bodies wounded, their young lives shattered. This is tragic. This is unacceptable.
“They are bearing the brunt of a conflict which is not theirs.
“As fighting reaches the heart of heavily populated urban areas, the impact of lethal weapons will carry an even heavier toll on children.”
Veneman said the war and bloodshed in Gaza would cause long-term psychological damage to children.
“The crisis in Gaza is singular in that children and their families have nowhere to escape, no refuge. The very thought of being trapped in a closed area is disturbing for adults in peace times,” she said.
“What then goes through the mind of a child who is trapped in such relentless violence?”
Israel has said that it is trying to minimise civilian casualties as it targets Hamas fighters and their infrastructure, but Palestinian children are being subjected to harrowing experiences.
“I saw the soldier standing next to the shop. I looked for my mum and then he shot me. One bullet him my hand and the other went through my back and out through my stomach,” Samar, a young girl, told Al Jazeera while recovering from her wounds at a Gaza hospital.
Amal, another young girl, wailed: “We have nothing to do with this, we don’t fire rockets, we don’t know what this war is about.”
More than 40,000 pregnant women and their unborn children were also believed to be at risk because Gaza’s overwhelmed hospitals were unable to take them in.
Dr Walid Sarhan, a Jordanian psychiatrist, said that if nothing is done to help traumatised children Gaza would begin to see advanced cases of psychiatric problems.
“The main one would be post-traumatic stress disorder, which is expected to rise 60 or 70 per cent among children,” he said.
“Also they will have behavioural and emotional problems. They will have difficulties returning to school, going on to achieve in school, and this will not be in small numbers.”
Mark Regev, an Israeli government spokesman, said that thousands of children in southern Israel were also suffering because of Palestinian rocket fire.
“Two weeks before this crisis started I went down south with my prime minister, Mr Olmert … and he was given letters from fourth graders I believe, children who are nine and 10-years-old, who their entire lives have been on the incoming end of these Hamas rockets,” he told Al Jazeera.
“You have a whole generation of Israeli children who unfortunately suffering similar trauma.”
Gaza’s Child Victims
• Video: Children Suffer•Gaza’s Child Victims
More than 1,000 people have been killed as a result of Israel’s offensive in the Gaza Strip. More than 300 of the dead are children. A senior United Nations official has said that the number of child casualties has tripled since Israel launched its ground invasion. Many other children have seen their parents and siblings die before their own eyes.
• Video: Born into War
Many of the more than 40,000 pregnant women in Gaza are unable to leave their homes for medical treatment because of the Israeli onslaught and hospitals swamped with the thousands of injured. Al Jazeera’s Sherine Tadros has the story of one mother who has not seen her baby since he was born on the first day of Israel’s offensive.
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