A United Nations-run school in Gaza that was being used as a refuge for thousands of displaced Palestinians was struck Saturday, killing at least 24 people, United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) Commissioner-General Philippe Lazzarini has confirmed.
Lazzarini called the attacks “cruel,” adding, “These attacks cannot become commonplace, they must stop” and saying that a humanitarian ceasefire “cannot wait any longer.”
A graphic video of dead bodies strewn throughout the al-Fakhoora school and destroyed classrooms was released by Al Jazeera. As information continues to come in about the attack, Egypt and Qatar have blamed Israel’s military. Qatar asked for the United Nations to conduct an independent investigation into the targeted attacks on schools and hospitals.
UNRWA spokesperson Juliette Touma said that the total number of casualties remains unclear as the situation develops as does what or who was responsible for the violent destruction. The Israeli military told CNN it was reviewing the incident.
Another UNRWA spokesperson, Tamara El Rifai, told Al Jazeera that the incident was “horrific” adding, “Civilians, people who sought shelter in a protected UN building are paying the price. They thought that there they would have a bit of safety, but nowhere is safe in Gaza, not even our schools.”
The al-Fakhoora school was also struck on November 4 in an incident that left at least 12 people dead and 54 injured. Another UNRWA-run school in northern Gaza was hit less than 24 hours ago on Friday and had been sheltering 4,000 people.
“I am deeply shocked that two UNRWA schools were struck in less than 24 hours in Gaza. Dozens of people–many women and children–were killed and injured as they were seeking safety in United Nations premises,” UN Secretary-General António Guterres said in a statement, reiterating his call for an immediate ceasefire in the war. “Hundreds of thousands of Palestinian civilians are seeking shelter at United Nations facilities throughout Gaza due to the intensified fighting. I reaffirm that our premises are inviolable.”