RAMALLAH, PALESTINE: At least 42
Palestinians sheltering in a UN school in the Jabaliya refugee camp near
Gaza city were killed Tuesday afternoon (6 Jan) after two Israeli tank
shells exploded outside the school.
Hundreds of terrified Palestinians,
desperately trying to escape the bombing, had sought shelter there assuming
that a clearly marked school would not be targeted. Palestinian sources
reported that the school was one of 26 residential buildings hit Tuesday.
Another UN facility, the Ash-Shouka
School in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, was bombarded Monday night (5
The UN Relief and Welfare Agency (UNRWA)
said that prior to the current fighting it had given the Israeli authorities
the GPS co-ordinates of all its installations in Gaza, including the
schools. The organisation has demanded an explanation from Israel, and
called for an investigation.
"There's nowhere safe in Gaza.
Everyone here is terrorised and traumatised," said John Ging, the UN
head in Gaza. He blamed the international community for allowing the
violence to continue.
"I am appealing to political leaders
here and in the region and the world to get their act together and stop
this," he said, speaking at Gaza's largest hospital. "They are
responsible for these deaths."
Earlier Tuesday another 13 Palestinians
were killed in the Zeitoun suburb of Gaza city when their apartment building
collapsed after sustaining a direct hit. And at least 30 Palestinians were
killed as Israeli warships shelled targets in Deir Al-Balah in central Gaza
and the Al-Brej refugee camp near Gaza city.
These latest attacks bring the
Palestinian death toll to nearly 600 on day 11 of Israel's Operation Cast
Meanwhile the International Committee of
the Red Cross (ICRC), which has declared a "full-blown humanitarian crisis"
in Gaza, said it is investigating reports that a Palestinian Red Crescent
(PRC) ambulance station in Jabaliya refugee camp was targeted Monday night.
In an earlier attack last Friday (2 Jan),
the ICRC reported that two clearly marked ambulance medics from the PRC,
evacuating the dead and wounded from an earlier Israeli attack, were
targeted by Israeli Forces fire.
The paramedics were wearing fluorescent
jackets and their ambulances had flashing lights visible from a considerable
"I have no doubt that one missile was
aimed at us. I do not know for certain whether it was meant to kill us or
warn us to keep away, but it was definitely aimed in our direction," said
Palestinian ambulance driver Khaled Abu Saada.
Sammy Hassan, a spokesman from Shifa
Hospital said in the last week that four ambulance personnel had been
killed in Israeli strikes. "One was a doctor and the other three were
medics. We are very worried about our ambulance staff," Hassan told
A reporter for an Israeli TV network said
that as many as 100 Palestinians had been abducted and taken over the border
Israel is still refusing to allow foreign
media into Gaza to report on the war. Following a petition by the Foreign
Press Association (FPA) in Israel to the Israeli High Court, the Israeli
government said 1 Jan it would allow a small group of eight journalists to
enter Gaza when the crossings opened.
All would have to undergo security
checks, and would be embedded with the IDF. Two of the eight would be chosen
by the Israelis and the rest would be selected randomly.
The crossings opened briefly afterwards
to allow several hundred foreign passport holders to leave Gaza, but no
foreign journalists were allowed in despite the court ruling.
A few foreign journalists, however, had
managed to enter the coastal territory after Gaza's borders opened briefly
at the beginning of Dec. The borders were closed for most of Nov.
The journalists refused to leave despite
an IDF warning that they would be prevented from leaving and that their
safety was being compromised.
UNRWA's John Ging speaking from Gaza's
Shifa Hospital, said he had been forced into reporting what is happening in
Gaza "since there is no international press in Gaza to report it."
Journalists have normally been allowed to
enter Gaza individually without any security checks even when the borders
were closed during previous military operations.
According to a Palestinian media report,
Palestinian journalist Khader Shahin working for Iranian World TV was
arrested in Jerusalem Tuesday and is currently being investigated for
spreading "state secrets".
The Israeli military has reportedly
stepped up its monitoring of the international, Arabic and Hebrew media
since the beginning of Operation Cast Lead.
(By MEL FRYKBERG/ IPS Asia-Pacific)