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At least 24 killed in strike on Gaza school run by U.N.

U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres speaks at the U.K. Artificial Intelligence Safety Summit on Nov. 2 in Bletchley, England.  (WPA Pool)
By Hiba Yazbek New York Times

A strike this weekend on a school run by the United Nations that was being used for shelter by thousands of displaced people in northern Gaza Strip killed at least 24 people, a U.N. official said Sunday.

Palestinian officials had said Saturday that many people were killed and injured in an Israeli attack on the Al-Fakhura school, which was being used as a shelter by adults and children, in the Jabalia area of northern Gaza.

Philippe Lazzarini, head of the U.N. agency that aids Palestinian refugees, gave the death toll Sunday and said that there were nearly 7,000 displaced people sheltering in the school when the strike hit. He did not give a number for the wounded or suggest who was responsible.

The Israeli military said that it had received reports of an incident Saturday in the Jabalia area and that it was under review, adding that it was “committed to international law including taking feasible steps to minimize harm to civilians.”

Lazzarini said another school, where about 4,000 displaced people were sheltering at the time, in Gaza City, was “directly struck” Friday, and ambulances “could not reach the school to provide help.” His agency, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, said it believed that scores of people had been either killed or wounded, but did not have exact numbers.

U.N. Secretary General António Guterres said hundreds of thousands of Palestinian civilians have sought shelters at U.N. facilities throughout Gaza. “I reaffirm that our premises are inviolable,” he said in a statement Sunday.

At least 176 displaced people sheltering at schools run by UNRWA have been reported killed and nearly 800 wounded since the start of Israel’s bombing campaign against Hamas after the militant group attacked Israel on Oct. 7, according to the UNRWA statement. Classes have been suspended and the schools have been converted into shelters across Gaza.

The agency said that it was still verifying its figures for the numbers of dead and wounded, but that it had confirmed that at least 17 of its facilities have been directly hit.

The “large number of UNRWA facilities hit and the number of civilians killed cannot just be ‘collateral damage,’” Lazzarini said in the statement. The agency’s facilities were clearly marked as U.N. buildings and their coordinates were regularly shared with both sides of the conflict, he said, adding, “This is yet another proof that no one, and nowhere, is safe in Gaza.”

The Al-Fakhura school was also hit by a strike Nov. 4, killing at least 12 people and wounding 54 others, UNRWA said.

According to UNRWA, almost 900,000 displaced people are sheltering in the agency’s facilities across Gaza. They include many people who fled northern Gaza after Israeli orders to evacuate the area amid an escalation in ground fighting there.

Families who were sheltering at UNRWA schools in the south described overcrowded facilities where food and water were scarce.

Ihab Abedrabo said he had been sheltering with his mother, wife and six children at a school run by the U.N. agency in the southern city of Khan Younis since a strike damaged their home.

His family, like thousands of others, had fled to the school hoping that they would be safe. But Abedrabo said that when a strike hit nearby last week and sent shrapnel into the school, he again feared for his relatives’ lives.

“No place is safe,” he said. “However, I can’t think of a safer place to go.”

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.