Israel-Hamas war

Palestinians say Israeli strike hits UN-run school, Blinken to meet Arab leaders


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Palestinians say Israeli strike hits UN-run school, Blinken to meet Arab leaders

AIRSTRIKE. Smoke rises from an Israeli airstrike in the Gaza Strip, as seen from Israel, November 3, 2023.


(3rd UPDATE) At least 15 people died and dozens more were wounded, Mohammad Abu Selmeyah, the head of al-Shifa Hospital, says

GAZA, Palestine – Palestinians reported a deadly Israeli strike on a Gaza City area school serving as a shelter on Saturday, November 4, as US Secretary of State Antony Blinken was due to hear Arab demands for a ceasefire in a meeting in Jordan.

Witnesses said an Israeli strike hit Al-Fakhoura school in Jabalia refugee camp, killing and wounding many of the evacuees who had taken shelter there. At least 15 people died and dozens more were wounded, Mohammad Abu Selmeyah, the head of al-Shifa Hospital, said of the school incident.

Reuters pictures of the aftermath showed broken furniture and other belongings lying on the ground, patches of blood and people crying.

“I was standing here when three bombings happened, I carried a body and another decapitated body with my own hands,” a young boy said in video obtained by Reuters, crying in despair. “God will take my vengeance.”

Nearby, a resident comforted a woman in shock.

One man asked angrily: “Since when has it become normal to strike shelters? This is so unfair.”

Juliette Touma, director of communication for the UN Palestinian refugee agency (UNRWA), confirmed to Reuters that the UN-run school, which is in the Gaza City area, had been hit.

She said there were children among the casualties, but that UNRWA had not yet been able to verify the exact death toll.

“At least one strike hit the schoolyard where there were tents for displaced families. Another strike hit inside the school where women were baking bread,” Touma said by phone.

The ministry of health in Gaza said another Israeli missile strike killed two women at the door of the Nasser Children Hospital. Several more people were injured, it said.

The Israeli military had no immediate comment on either reported strike and Reuters was not immediately able to verify any more details.

Israel’s ground forces encircled Gaza City on Thursday after stepping up a bombing campaign it says aims at wiping out Hamas, after the militant group killed 1,400 people and took more than 240 hostage in an October 7 assault in southern Israel.

Gaza health officials said on Saturday that more than 9,488 Palestinians have been killed so far in the Israeli assault.

Israel last month ordered all civilians to leave the northern part of the Gaza Strip, including Gaza City where it says Hamas militants are hiding in tunnels, and head to the south of the enclave.

It has continued to bomb the whole enclave, saying the militants are hiding among civilians, and many people have stayed in the north, where they say they now feel trapped.

The military said it would enable Palestinians to travel on a main Gaza Strip highway, the Salah a-Din road, on Saturday between 1 pm and 4 pm (1100 GMT and 1400). “If you care about yourself and your loved ones, heed our instruction to head south,” it said in a social media post in Arabic.

US Special Envoy David Satterfield said in Amman that between 800,000 to a million people have already moved to the south of the Gaza Strip, while 350,000-400,000 remain in northern Gaza City and its environs.

Blinken hears ceasefire demands

In what appeared to presage a widening of Israel’s ground offensive, the military issued footage showing armoured bulldozers churning up northern Gaza areas in what it described as “creating access routes for forces.”

A combined tank and combat engineering unit carried out a “pinpoint raid” in the southern Gaza Strip “to map out buildings and neutralize explosives,” it said.

Israel’s military also said it was striking what it described as “a number of Hezbollah terror targets in Lebanon” following fire from there, part of the biggest flareup since 2006.

A Lebanese source familiar with Hezbollah’s attacks said the group had fired a powerful missile not yet used in the fighting and that it had hit an Israeli position across the border from the villages of Ayta al-Shaab and Rmeich.

Lebanon’s powerful Hezbollah group is backed by Iran, as is Hamas. Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah on Friday warned that conflict could spread if Israel continued bombing Gaza.

Lebanon’s caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati emphasized the urgency of a ceasefire in Gaza when he met Blinken in Amman on Saturday, Lebanon state news agency said.

Blinken, in turn, emphasized his efforts to halt military operations for humanitarian reasons and to address the issue of prisoners.

Blinken is also due to meet the Saudi, Qatari, Emirati, and Egyptian foreign ministers on Saturday, as well as Palestinian representatives in Amman, the Jordanian foreign ministry said.

The Arab leaders will stress the “Arab stance calling for an immediate ceasefire, delivering humanitarian aid and ways of ending the dangerous deterioration that threatens the security of the region,” the ministry said in a statement.

Washington has maintained robust military and political support for Israel, while calling on its ally to take steps to avoid civilian deaths and address Gaza’s humanitarian crisis.

Ambulance hit

Gaza health officials had said 15 people were killed in an Israeli air strike on an ambulance on Friday evening that was part of a convoy carrying injured Palestinians at Gaza’s biggest hospital, al-Shifa.

Israel’s military said it had hit an ambulance “being used by an Hamas terrorist cell” and killed a number of Hamas fighters.

The Palestinian health ministry challenged Israel to provide proof that the ambulance was carrying militants. Israel said it would release more information. It has accused Hamas of concealing command centers and tunnel entrances in al-Shifa, something Hamas and the hospital denies.

Gaza’s living conditions, already dire before the fighting, have deteriorated further. Food is scarce, residents have resorted to drinking salty water, medical services are collapsing.

Israel says no pause unless hostages are freed

Hamas has prepared for a protracted war in Gaza and believes it can hold up Israel’s advance long enough to force its arch enemy to agree to a ceasefire, two sources close to the organization’s leadership said.

A senior Biden administration official said on Friday the US had “indirect engagement” aimed at freeing the hostages.

Foreign nationals have been leaving Gaza, but the official said Hamas initially conditioned the release of foreigners on wounded Palestinians being able to exit as well, but one-third of the Palestinians on the list turned out to be Hamas members.

Hamas official Izzat El Reshiq on Saturday urged Arab leaders and people to pressure Israel and the United States by cutting diplomatic ties, expelling ambassadors and leveraging oil and economic interests to support the Gaza Strip’s people.

The United States has dismissed growing international calls for a ceasefire but has sought to persuade Israel to accept localized pauses, an idea rejected by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu after he met Blinken on Friday. –

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