clock menu more-arrow no yes

What we know so far about the attack on a UN school in Gaza

Palestinian women grieve over the death of relatives outside the morgue of the Kamal Adwan hospital in Beit Lahiya, on July 24, 2014, after a UN school in the northern Beit Hanoun district of the Gaza Strip was hit.
Palestinian women grieve over the death of relatives outside the morgue of the Kamal Adwan hospital in Beit Lahiya, on July 24, 2014, after a UN school in the northern Beit Hanoun district of the Gaza Strip was hit.
Mahmud Hams/AFP/Getty Images

An attack on a UN facility in Gaza sheltering Palestinians displaced by the ongoing fighting killed 15 people and wounded 200, according to the Wall Street Journal. As of right now, it's not clear who's responsible, but there's a growing dispute over who is to blame.

The facility, a school in the city of Beit Hanoun in northern Gaza, was operated by the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). It's the third shelter for displaced persons to be hit during the conflict. Here's what the scene looked like after the attack:

Both the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) and Chris Guinness, the UNRWA spokesman, confirm that the IDF had asked UNRWA to evacuate the Beit Hanoun school (Hamas' official position on the strike is not yet clear). The IDF was planning to target what it claimed were nearby Hamas rocket launchers.

Both the IDF and UNRWA spokesperson also agree that Hamas rockets were firing from the area. Sometimes, Hamas rockets fall short of their intended Israeli targets.

The official accounts are hazy because no one is really sure yet whether an Israeli strike or Hamas rocket hit the Beit Hanoun school.

Initially, the local UNRWA director blamed an Israeli strike. However, the New York Times now reports that UN officials are saying "they could not be sure." Israel, according to the Times, is denying intentionally hitting the school.

The Times and other reporters in Gaza have been unable to independently verify any claims of responsibility for the destruction at the school. However, witnesses suggest that the UN facility was struck by shells, possibly from a tank (which would imply Israeli responsibility):

This comes amidst a major controversy about Israeli target selection in the Gaza offensive. Two other UN facilities have been hit during the conflict, and the UN had found Hamas rockets hidden in the basement of two of its facilities.

More broadly, Israel has targeted schools, mosques, and homes that Hamas uses as rocket emplacements or shelters from which to fire on Israeli troops. Israel alleges that Hamas intentionally endangers civilians to put political pressure on Israel, which Hamas denies.

Regardless, the conflict's death toll keeps climbing: