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.
Precise co-ordinates of the UNRWA shelter in Beit Hanoun had been formally given to the Israeli army RT— Chris Gunness (@ChrisGunness) July 24, 2014
In recent days, Hamas has fired rockets from an area of Beit Hanoun where an UNRWA shelter is located.— IDF (@IDFSpokesperson) July 24, 2014
Last night, we told Red Cross to evacuate civilians from UNRWA's shelter in Beit Hanoun btw 10 am & 2 pm. UNRWA & Red Cross got the message.— IDF (@IDFSpokesperson) July 24, 2014
Today Hamas continued firing from Beit Hanoun. The IDF responded by targeting the source of the fire.— IDF (@IDFSpokesperson) July 24, 2014
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.
Also today, several rockets launched from Gaza toward Israel fell short and hit Beit Hanoun.— IDF (@IDFSpokesperson) July 24, 2014
Also being reported there were Hamas rockets falling in Beit Hanoun today RT— Chris Gunness (@ChrisGunness) July 24, 2014
Civilians yet again caught between two sides paying an unimaginable price RT— Chris Gunness (@ChrisGunness) July 24, 2014
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):
IDF has implied a Hamas rocket may have misfired and hit school at Beit Hanoun. Witnesses described multiple explosions from tank shelling— Kristen Chick (@kristenchick) July 24, 2014
Survivors at UNRWA shelter hit today told us that 3 4 or 5 shells hit, in courtyard, school building. 15+ killed, 100+ wounded.— William Booth (@BoothWilliam) July 24, 2014
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:
Ashraf al Qedra, health ministry spokesman here, says 107 Palestinians killed in Gaza today alone. Alone.— Hugh Naylor (@HughNaylor) July 24, 2014