In a statement calling the strike a “moral outrage and a criminal act,” on Sunday in New York City United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon condemned an attack which struck near a United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) school in Rafah and resulted in the deaths of 10 Palestinian civilians.
The school is presently being used to house approximately three thousands civilian Palestinians who have been displaced and who are seeking shelter from the present four-week long Israeli military operation in Gaza.
“The attack is yet another gross violation of international humanitarian law, which clearly requires protection by both parties of Palestinian civilians, UN staff and UN premises, among other civilian facilities,” the statement from Secretary-General noted.
Ban continued, “United Nations shelters must be safe zones not combat zones. The Israel Defense Forces have been repeatedly informed of the location of these sites. This attack, along with other breaches of international law, must be swiftly investigated and those responsible held accountable. It is a moral outrage and a criminal act.”
Most of the casualties in Israel’s attacks to rout out Hamas tunnels to Israel have been civilians, including many children. According to the UNRWA’s Gaza Situation Report 26 released on Sunday, 1,650 Palestinians have been confirmed killed in the conflict. Furthermore, 475,000 civilians have been displaced.
Ban’s statement noted that the hostilities in the region are taxing humanitarian and health care relief efforts, remarking that the fighting “has only exacerbated the man-made humanitarian and health crisis wreaking havoc in Gaza.” Ban urged both sides to immediately cease fighting and to return to the negotiating table.
UNRWA Commissioner General Pierre Krähenbühl and Director of UNRWA Operations in Gaza Robert Turner in another statement released on Sunday also condemned the attack. According to their statement the attack was of Israeli origin, though Secretary-General Ban’s statement did not note the origin of the attacks.
Explaining that Israel had been notified 33 times where this UNRFA school was located and that during this conflict a total of 11 UNRWA workers have thus far been killed, the two remarked, “We echo the Secretary-General’s call for an immediate cease-fire. This is another urgent reminder that the people of Gaza need an end to this violence and a negotiated settlement that addresses so the underlying causes."