In one of the Gaza offensive's many awful tragedies, an Israeli missile struck near a United Nations Relief and Works Agency school in Rafah that was being used as a shelter, killing at least 10 people. Israel was targeting three suspected militants on a nearby motorbike.
In an interview with me last night on MSNBC, UNRWA spokesman Chris Gunness called for a full investigation, noting that the UNRWA had made 33 calls to the Israeli army telling them this school was being used as the shelter and making sure they had the precise GPS coordinates so that the Israel army knew to give it a wide berth. The last of those calls was put through an hour before the strike. The interview begins at 04:30:
This isn't the first time an Israeli missile has hit a UN shelter. The New York Times reports that, "though Israeli military leaders have declared definitively that no United Nations facility was targeted, Rafah was the sixth shelter struck during the operation." Those strikes also came, in some cases, after extensive warnings: Gunness notes that his organization notified Israel 17 times that it was using its school in Jabaliya as a shelter. A subsequent strike there killed more than 15 people.
There have been cases of Hamas launching rockets from near UNRWA schools, and even hiding rockets in abandoned UNRWA schools. But in a statement, the State Department warned Israel that that's not sufficient reason to strike so near the shelters. "The suspicion that militants are operating nearby does not justify strikes that put at risk the lives of so many innocent civilians," they said.
Like the UN, the State Department is calling for "a full and prompt investigation of this incident as well as the recent shelling of other UNRWA schools."