Israel’s security cabinet convened to discuss a revamped Egyptian proposal for a truce but it was unclear whether any decision was imminent that could halt a 23-day conflict in which nearly 1,400 people, mostly civilians, have died.
Some 3,300 Palestinians, including many women and children, were taking refuge in the school in Jabalya refugee camp when it came under fire around dawn, the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) said.
“Our initial assessment is that it was Israeli artillery that hit our school,” UNRWA chief Pierre Krahenbuhl said in a statement after representatives of the agency visited the scene and examined fragments, craters and other damage.
Blood splattered floors and mattresses inside classrooms at the Jabalya Girls Elementary School and survivors picked through shattered glass and debris for flesh and body parts to bury.
“I call on the international community to take deliberate international political action to put an immediate end to the continuing carnage,” Krahenbuhl said.
The Gaza Health Ministry put the number of dead in the school attack at 15 with more than 100 wounded. An Israeli military spokes- woman said militants had fired mortar bombs from the vicinity of the school and troops shot back in response. The incident was still being reviewed.
The army said three Israeli soldiers were killed yesterday when a booby-trap bomb exploded in a tunnel shaft they had uncovered in a residence in the southern Gaza Strip.
UNRWA said on Tuesday it had found a cache of rockets concealed at another Gaza school — the third such discovery since the conflict began. It condemned unnamed militant groups for putting civilians at risk. Mr Krahenbuhl said the Jabalya school’s precise location and the fact that it was sheltering thousands of displaced people had been communicated to the Israeli military 17 times, with the last notification just hours before the fatal shelling.
In a separate incident, Israeli shelling killed at least 17 people and wounded about 160 others near a fruit and vegetable market in Shejaia, a heavily bombarded neighbourhood on the eastern outskirts of the city of Gaza, the Health Ministry said.
Witnesses said the crowd had gathered to watch a petrol station, hit earlier, burn in the distance. The Israeli military had no immediate comment. “Such a massacre requires an earthquake-like response,” Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said. The army said more than 50 rockets were fired from the teeming coastal enclave into Israel yesterday, causing no reported casualties or damage.
According to the Gaza Health Ministry, 1,323 Palestinians, mostly civilians, have been killed since Israel began its offensive on July 8 with the declared aim of halting cross-border rocket fire. Ninety-six Palestinians were killed yesterday alone.
On the Israeli side, 56 soldiers and three civilians have been killed.