‘Death Itself Is Here With Us’
Israelis Massacre Refugees in UN Schools
Israel on Saturday attacked schools sheltering displaced Palestinians in northern Gaza, the United Nations confirmed.
UNOCHA, the agency for humanitarian affairs, said the bombardment killed over 50 people sheltering in the Tal az Za’atar school in Beit Lahiya and “scores, including children” in the Fakhoura school in Jabaliya, with a third school in Gaza city on Friday reportedly struck.
Media reports say that 200 people were killed at al-Fakhoura.
The schools are operated by the refugee agency UNRWA, which said Sunday that as they are in the north, cut off by the Israeli army, it “is not able to access these shelters to assist or protect IDPs,” internally displaced persons.
It said it received reports that the school in Gaza city, where up to 4,000 people were sheltering, “was directly struck.”
The Fakhoura school “was also directly impacted when classrooms on the 2nd and 3rd floors were hit… According to witnesses, up to 7,000 IDPs were sheltering at the school at the time.”
UNRWA head Philippe Lazzarini stated Sunday: “I watched with sheer horror reports from an attack on the al-Fakhoura UNRWA school-turned-shelter in northern Gaza. It is just cruel.”
“On Friday 17 November, another UNRWA school, ‘Al-Falah/Zeitoun’ in Gaza City was directly struck, leaving scores of people killed and injured.”
“Ambulances could not reach the school to provide help.”
Lazzarini said that at least 176 Palestinians had been killed in UN shelters prior to these attacks.
Some shelters have been operating at 12 times their normal capacity.
“The large number of UNRWA facilities hit and the number of civilians killed cannot just be ‘collateral damage’… They were all clearly marked as UN buildings carrying a blue flag. UNRWA shares the coordinates of these buildings on a regular basis with parties to the conflict,” he said from Amman.
“This vicious war is reaching a point of no return when all rules are disrespected, in overt disregard for civilian lives. I call and appeal once again for humanity to prevail and for a humanitarian ceasefire right now,” he said.
An estimated 884,000 Palestinian refugees are sheltering in 154 UNRWA buildings across Gaza.
The Fakhoura school was well known in the area and was also shelled by the Israelis on November 4, killing 12 people and injuring 54.
Over the weekend, UNRWA said it received reports that Israeli tanks had “entered another school in Gaza and used it for their military operations.”
It said that half the UN facilities damaged and half the 104 workers killed had been in southern Gaza.
Israel conducted further massacres in Jabaliya on Saturday and Sunday, where its airstrikes destroyed an entire residential block.
“In two separate attacks reported on the afternoon of 18 November in Jabalia camp, two residential buildings were hit, reportedly killing 50 and 32 people, respectively,” UNOCHA stated yesterday.
Jabaliya houses the largest refugee camp in the Gaza strip, dating to the initial expulsion and mass murders of people from Palestine in the 1948 Nakba.
Hamas reportedly condemned the Israeli attacks on Sunday, and said, “We will not leave this land, and you will be held accountable sooner or later for your massacre at Al-Fakhoura School and your continuous crimes against children and civilians… massacres committed deliberately by the occupation with premeditation and planning, benefitting from the green light given by the American administration, and the shameful silence of the international community.”
“We will remain on this land, and there will be no forced migration after today,” the resistance faction said.
‘Death itself is here with us’
Governments around Palestine swiftly condemned the massacres at al-Fakhoura and Tel az-Zaatar, demanding an immediate ceasefire.
Egypt’s foreign ministry in a statement reportedly called the attack “a deliberate insult to the UN, its relief organizations and noble humanitarian values.”
Both the Israeli and United States governments have expressed hostility towards UNRWA in the past.
“It is time the UNRWA be dismantled and merged with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees,” Israeli president Netanyahu said in 2017.
The US withdrew its funding for the agency under Trump the following year.
According to the scholar Hanin Abou Salem, Israeli opposition to UNRWA, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees in the Near East, stems from the fact that it accords refugee status, and the right of return in international law, even to descendants of the Palestinians expelled by Zionists in the Nakba.
Israel in occupied Palestine has claimed that this perpetuates “the Palestinian refugee problem.”
Jabaliya on Sunday / Anas al-Sharif
Between October 7 and November 3, according to the Euro-Med Human Rights Monitor, Israeli warplanes dropped over 25,000 tonnes of TNT equivalent explosives on Palestinians in Gaza, equivalent to both the atomic bombs dropped by the United States on the people of Nagasaki and Hiroshima.
The Euro-Med Monitor said its team had also documented injuries in Gaza showing the use of cluster bombs by Israel. “These small, high-explosive bombs cause penetrating shrapnel wounds and explosions inside the body, leaving victims with severe burns that lead to skin melting off and sometimes to death. Fragments from these bombs cause unusual swelling and poisoning of the body, plus internal injuries from transparent fragments that do not appear on x-rays.”
Monday, Israel reportedly bombed another UN school in the Bureij camp in central Gaza, killing over 12 people.
The Palestinian news agency Wafa reported that the Israelis also shelled the UN-run Kuwait School in Beit Lahiya Monday morning.
“They launched several direct missiles toward the Kuwait School, near the Indonesian hospital, which shelters a number of displaced individuals… the exact number of casualties, injuries, and the extent of the damage caused by IOF bombardment of the school are yet to be determined,” it reportedly said.
On Saturday, Doctors with Borders stated, an Israeli airstrike within a kilometre of the Nasser Hospital in Khan Younis in southern Gaza killed 70 people and injured 52 more, many with severe burns.
On Sunday, UN secretary-general António Guterres stated, “I am deeply shocked that two UNRWA schools were struck in less than 24 hours in Gaza… I reaffirm that our premises are inviolable… This must stop. I reiterate my call for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire.”
On Monday, Maleiha Malik, whose foundation Education Above All helps run the Fakhoura school, in a media interview cited the WHO visit to the Shifa hospital, now barricaded by the Israeli army, and said:
“I think we should have a similar focus on establishing the facts around the bombardment of civilian shelters and schools that are acting as shelters in Gaza… What we’d like to see is an independent commission that establishes the truth of what’s going on, that establishes accountability… Given the gravity of violations of international law and the scale of the massacres that are taking place.”
“The pain, dread, and fear etched on the faces of children, women and men is too much to bear,” UN high commissioner for human rights Volker Türk stated from Geneva. “How much more violence, bloodshed and misery will it take before people come to their senses? How many more civilians will be killed?”
“This must stop,” he said.
On Monday, Hamas representative in Beirut Osama Hamdan reportedly accused Israel of carrying out “atrocities with the aim of accelerating Palestinian displacement”.
The day before the massacre at al-Fakhoura, Palestine representative Nada Abu Tarbush at a UN meeting on disarmament replied to the Israeli representative’s statement as follows.
“At the outset let us remind Israel that our name is not the Palestinian Authority but the State of Palestine… if your government is annexationist and racist, this body is not, and we ask you to kindly adhere to UN protocol and nomenclature and to show respect to all stakeholders in this room.”
“Other than throwing insults around and making grave, baseless accusations, Israel said something that should make all of you shudder. It effectively said: I can kill any and every person in Gaza. The 2.3 million people in Gaza are either terrorists or terrorist sympathisers or human shields, and are therefore legitimate targets… And so, according to Israel, it can kill them and then have the audacity to come to this room and tell the world with a straight face: We are acting in accordance with international law.”
“Anyone espousing this warped logic has no shred of humanity, no sense of morality and no knowledge of legality. But guess what: Your carpet explanation for carpet bombing will not fly. People are not fools. The people in this room… have seen your government make the same arguments during your six previous military aggressions on Gaza in the last fifteen years… They have seen you forcibly transfer our communities, colonize our lands, demolish our homes and evict families from their own properties, since the 7th of October, and for the 75 years that preceded it. They have seen your state sponsored disinformation campaign before.”
“Again, not fools. Don’t insult our intelligence… Everyone is lying about Israel violating international law, and we are asked instead to believe Israel, the state that is actually doing the indiscriminate killing… The dissonance of hearing the Israeli representative talk about wars having rules, as it commits genocide and breaches every rule in the book, live on our TV screens, is quite something.”
“To Israel we say, we see through your PR and disinformation. The whole world sees through your PR and disinformation. The millions of people filling the streets in every major capital of the world, calling you out for genocide, see through your PR and disinformation.
“Perhaps you think that with your incendiary rhetoric, we will all forget the incitement, the declarations and acts of Israeli officials—the people you represent—to wipe out Gaza, to drop a nuclear bomb on the Palestinian people, to destroy the ‘human animals’ and ‘children of darkness.’
“Perhaps you think that your constant intimidation and threatening language will make everyone overlook the fact that Israel is, as we speak, killing babies, youth, women, men, elderly, no one too small, too old, or too sick to be spared its wrath.”
“And your intimidation campaign knows no bounds. They attack Palestinians, Jews, Israelis, UN officials, politicians, parliamentarians, university professors, and anyone worldwide who calls you out for your violations of international law.
“But guess what, your intimidation and silencing will not work. We, along with all peace loving nations and along with all people of conscience around the world, will not be silent. We will continue to call you out for your crimes, to call for accountability for your violations, and for sanctions—as your government continues to reject calls for a ceasefire to massacre our people, and to entrench your colonial occupation and apartheid regime.
“Something your country should have learned over the past 75 years is that the Palestinian people are a people who refuse to disappear. And your nuclear threats, and your bombs, and your tanks, and your bulldozers will never break the Palestinian people’s will to be free, and to live in the dignity and peace to which all people are entitled.”
“And to Israel’s absurd assertion that Palestinians have a problem with people of Jewish faith, and give the impression that this is a religious conflict, let us say loud and clear: This is not and has never been about religion. Had the occupiers of our land or the violators of our rights been Muslim, Christian, Buddhist, Hindu, atheist, or of any other conviction, we would have called them out all the same. Palestine has always been multi-racial, multi-ethnic, and multi-religious. People of Jewish faith have lived in historic Palestine as Palestinians for centuries. We consider them to be our brothers and sisters. And since the memory of the Holocaust has been invoked, let us also say loud and clear: We have the greatest of solidarity with both the victims and survivors of the Holocaust. It was not Palestinians that committed that horrific genocide, but the fascist forces that spawned from Europe—and it is unconscionable that a number of European leaders are again beating the drum as another genocide is now underway in Gaza.
“We are united with those hundreds of thousands of Jews around the world… who are calling out this genocide and chanting in the streets of New York, London, Paris, Berlin, Sydney, Toronto and all major Western cities, so that their governments can hear: Not in our Name. End the Genocide in Gaza. With them we stand together to end this pain and suffering, together. We will not allow this to happen.”