Shelling by the Israel Defense Forces has killed 15 people at a UN school serving as a shelter for displaced Palestinians in Gaza. It comes as a legislator from the right-wing Likud Party assumed Israel’s presidency.
Thursday's shelling of the UNRWA facility, which serves Palestinian refugees, killed at least 15 people, including seven children, and injured more than 200.
Scores of Palestinians were killed across Gaza on the 17th day of an offensive by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), raising the death toll in Gaza to nearly 800, medics said, with the number of wounded rising above 4,500, most of them civilians. The conflict has shown no signs of letting up.
"I am appalled by the news of an attack on an UNRWA school in northern Gaza where hundreds of people had taken refuge," Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in a statement on Thursday.
A spokesman for the UNRWA wrote on Twitter that IDF officials had been told the school was housing civilians. "Precise co-ordinates of the UNRWA shelter had been formally given to the Israeli army, " Chriss Gunness wrote on Twitter. A minute later, he wrote: "Over the course of the day, UNRWA tried to coordinate with the Israeli Army a window for civilians to leave & it was never granted."
The UN has deemed 44 percent of Gaza unsafe. More than 140,000 people have fled their homes, with many of them taking refuge in crowded UN facilities such as the one destroyed. On Thursday, the United Nations highlighted the assault's impact on children in Gaza.
The IDF reports 32 soldiers and three civilians killed, with scores injured. Israel's Iron Dome anti-rocket batteries downed at least five missiles from Gaza on Thursday, a military spokeswoman said. So far, the IDF has reported that soldiers have discovered 31 tunnels into Israel from Gaza and blown nine of them up.
Peres steps down
Israeli President Shimon Peres ended his term Thursday, capping a seven-decade political career. He had held almost every major government position in the country.
"I did not imagine that in the last days of my presidency I would be called upon, once more, to comfort bereaved families," Peres, 90, said in his speech at a ceremony where he handed the job over to Reuven Rivlin. Peres has blamed the Palestinian poltical faction Hamas for starting the current war by firing barrages of rockets at Israel, but he also emphasized that "Israel is not the enemy of the people of Gaza."
Rivlin, a member of the right-wing Likud who has encouraged expansion of Israeli settlements and opposed a Palestinian state, has taken over the post, instantly becoming a wartime president.
mkg/jr (Reuters, AFP, dpa, AP)