Israel acknowledges mortar shell hit UN school

2014-07-28 08:06
Blood and and discarded belongings are left behind at a UN school in Beit Hanoun, in the northern Gaza Strip. (File, AP)

Blood and and discarded belongings are left behind at a UN school in Beit Hanoun, in the northern Gaza Strip. (File, AP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Jerusalem - Israel acknowledged on Sunday that troops fired a mortar shell that hit the courtyard of a UN school in Gaza last week, but said aerial footage shows the yard was empty at the time and that the shell could not have killed anyone.

The shell was not fired at the school intentionally, an army spokesperson said.

Palestinian officials have said three Israeli tank shells hit the school in the town of Beit Hanoun last Thursday, killing 16 people and wounding dozens. It was one of the single deadliest incidents during three weeks of Israel-Hamas fighting.

The school was one of dozens used to house tens of thousands of Palestinians displaced by heavy fighting, especially in areas of Gaza bordering Israel.

The UN aid agency that operates the schools called for a full investigation.

"It is important in a case like this where a UN school in which hundreds of people took refuge is hit in this way, that there should be full transparency and accountability," Chris Gunness, a spokesperson for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, said on Sunday.

He noted that when the UN agency attempted to conduct its own investigation, "the mission was aborted after a firing incident at the school." Gunness did not say who he believed was responsible for that fire.

He said the school had been clearly marked as a UN shelter, and that the Israeli military was aware of its location. On Thursday, the UN made numerous phone calls to the army to request a pause for the evacuation of civilians, but that the request was not granted.

Lieutenant Colonel Peter Lerner, an Israeli army spokesperson, said on Sunday that a military probe shows that "a single errant mortar landed in the courtyard".

It is "extremely unlikely that anybody was killed as a result of this mortar," he said. Lerner pointed to aerial footage released on Sunday that he said showed the courtyard was empty at the time the mortar was fired.

AP photos from the scene shortly after the incident showed large spots of blood on the edges of the courtyard and people's belongings strewn about.

By the time the photographer arrived at the school, the wounded had already been taken to the hospital. At the hospital they told an AP reporter that they had been wounded at the UN school.

Lerner raised the possibility that shrapnel from the shell might have wounded some at the school. He also offered other scenarios - that the wounded were "brought to the compound after injury" or were caught in a crossfire between Israeli troops and Gaza militants.

Saed al-Saoudi, the commander of the Civil Defence in Gaza, said on Sunday that "all the testimonies of the wounded, witnesses, paramedics and doctors confirm that the Israeli shells are the cause of this massacre".
Read more on:    un  |  palestine  |  israel  |  gaza

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.
NEXT ON NEWS24X publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24


Amazing solar inventions!

Solar power is lighting up the world, and not just on rooftops anymore.



Plastic on your plate
Prince George the green prince?
Lean, green, drifiting machine
One man's $1 million vision for an eco Africa

Book flights

Compare, Book, Fly

Traffic Alerts

It may be hard to maintain a steady rhythm as you find yourself juggling a zillion things. Slow down a little and let go of more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.