Israeli bomb lands near UN-run schools in Gaza, drawing new UN protest

Israeli bomb lands near UN-run schools in Gaza, drawing new UN protest

A powerful Israeli bomb exploded this morning within 200 metres of a large group of Palestinian refugee children at United Nations-run schools, causing widespread panic and prompting a top UN official in the area to urge Israel once again to halt bombing buildings adjacent to UN installations.

Reacting to the bombing of the Palestinian Police Headquarters in close proximity to over 3,000 Palestinian children attending three schools run by the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), Peter Hansen, the Agency's Commissioner General, said it was "difficult to fathom just what military or strategic purpose is served" by repeatedly attacking the site.

"What is clear is that by bombing a crowded city centre at 9 a.m. on a weekday morning, the innocent children at our schools have been severely traumatized," said Mr. Hansen. "I have been told that young children started screaming and crying at the sound of the explosion," he added. "It is horrifying to think what would have happened if the bomb had gone astray, as indeed one did on February 20th when it landed on the roof of one of the schools but thankfully did not explode."

UNRWA said the sound of the bombing and the blast wave that followed caused "widespread panic and terror" among an already vulnerable population of students attending a cluster of three schools near the Police Headquarters. All three UN-run educational facilities had previously suffered extensive damage during air raids on the police compound.

The raid came just one day after UNRWA lodged a strong protest with the Israeli authorities over extensive damage done to an Agency-run school for the blind.

In addition to bombing the Police Headquarters again today, Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) entered three UNRWA schools and used them as operational bases, according to the Agency, prompting Mr. Hansen to call for an immediate withdrawal. "I am appalled at what appears to be an emerging pattern of IDF tactics that use UNRWA schools to position inside camps," he said.