'Horrific Images': Over 40 Killed At UN Gaza School That IDF Says Was Used By Hamas

Credit: @UNLazzarini

There are reports of another mass casualty airstrike emerging from the Gaza Strip on Thursday. The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) struck a school near the central Gaza city of Deir al-Balah, leaving at least 40 people dead and 74 injured.

The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) says those sheltering at the Al-Nusseirat Boys Preparatory were given no prior warning that the strike was coming. But the IDF has countered that it was a "precise strike on a Hamas compound" inside the school and that dozens of Hamas militants were using the compound. 

"The terrorists directed terror from the area of the school while exploiting it and using it as a shelter," the IDF wrote on Telegram. "Several terrorists who planned to carry out terror attacks and promote terrorist activities against IDF troops in the immediate time frame were eliminated in the strike."

The UN agency is disputing this narrative, with Commissioner-general of UNRWA Philippe Lazzarini saying "the school was sheltering 6,000 displaced people when it was hit." The Gaza Health Ministry has said that among the dead are 14 children and nine women.

"Attacking, targeting or using UN buildings for military purposes are a blatant disregard of International humanitarian law," he added. He also explained that throughout the conflict many other UNRWA shelters and conflicts had been struck, and estimated that over 450 internally displaced civilians had been killed in total.

Israeli leaders have long charged Hamas fighters with hiding among civilians or using residential areas to launch missile attacks or store arms. Often IDF military commanders fire back on said militants even knowing it could result in mass civilian casualties.

In this new mass casualty event, Israel does not appear to be denying that its airstrike killed many civilians. It has offered this as defense of its actions:

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) accused Hamas of embedding inside the UNRWA school and claimed fighters who invaded southern Israel on Oct. 7, killing around 1,200 people and taking another roughly 250 hostages, were sheltering at the site.

"Before the strike, a number of steps were taken to reduce the risk of harming uninvolved civilians during the strike, including conducting aerial surveillance, and additional intelligence information," they added.