UN Outraged, calls for independent investigation on school massacre by Israel

There’s been little traction in cease fire talks since one of Israel’s tanks fired three shells on the al-Fakhora UN school in Jabaliya refugee camp in Gaza, killing 43 people and injuring 100.

From the Independent UK:

Majed Hamdan, a photographer, said he rushed to the scene shortly after the attacks, which happened just as many of the refugees had ventured outside for fresh air. “I saw women and men – parents – slapping their faces in grief, screaming, some of them collapsed to the floor,” he said. “They knew their children were dead.”

Gruesome footage on Hamas’s al-Aqsa TV showed medics starting to unload the bodies of men who had been stacked up in the back of an ambulance, three high, and were dragged out without stretchers. The blood-caked stumps of one man’s legs bumped along the ground as he was pulled from the ambulance.

John Ging, the operations director for the UN Relief and Works Agency, which runs the school, expressed his outrage. “Those in the school were all families seeking refuge,” he said. “There’s nowhere safe in Gaza. Everyone here is terrorised and traumatised … I am appealing to political leaders to get their act together and stop this.”

While Israel attempts to exonerate its murderous act by claiming enemy fire was coming from the vicinity of the school, the UN is calling for an independent investigation.

UNRWA had supplied Israel with GPS coordinates of all its schools and they are well marked.

From the ABC’s AM program:

What are UN officials saying about this attack?

BEN KNIGHT: They’re absolutely outraged; absolutely outraged. The United Nations Relief and Works Agency is the one that runs these schools. It says it has given Israel the GPS coordinates of all of its schools, that all of its schools are well marked.

And it’s calling for an independent investigation, saying that this attack on the school violates international humanitarian law and says that that law protects buildings like schools from being attacked and that if international law has been violated that those responsible should be brought to justice.

ELEANOR HALL: Now Ben, Israel says it’s letting truck loads of aid and essential supplies into Gaza. What can you tell us of the situation for civilians there?

BEN KNIGHT: Well humanitarian aid has been going in, although it has to be said, it’s far less than was going in before this fighting started, which was far less than it was even the year before that.

And there are many, many agencies which are now saying that the humanitarian crisis is on the verge of a catastrophe.

You have the International Committee of the Red Cross; it says that the heavy fighting is preventing food and medical aid from moving around.

The World Food Programme says that the UN’s food relief agency has only been able to supply about a quarter of those people who would normally be getting their food aid, and that even if the food got through people are simply too afraid to leave their homes to actually get it.

Now the head of the United Nations agency which runs these schools in Gaza is a man named John Ging. He now says that nowhere is safe for civilians in Gaza. Here’s how he responded:

JOHN GING: It’s horrific and it starts with the total absence of any safety. Nowhere is safe for civilians here in Gaza at the moment. They’re fleeing their homes and they’re right to do it, when you look at the casualty numbers – 600 dead, almost 3,000 injured here in Gaza.

You can’t even flee the conflict zone, you see. That’s also a point that people have to understand. If you want empathy with the people here in Gaza then don’t eat for a week, don’t drink for a week, don’t sleep for a week and then you’ll begin to understand how it is for the children here, which is half the population.

ELEANOR HALL: Ben, Hamas leaders are in Egypt now. The Egyptians are trying to broker a ceasefire. How is today’s attack on the school likely to affect that?

BEN KNIGHT: What it will do is just draw further attention to what’s going on in the international community. Now what we have seen is a concerted push by European diplomats over the past couple of days. We’ve seen the United States talking about a ceasefire. That is going to continue and an incident like this is, I think, probably a turning point in this conflict.

Maximilian Forte asks what kinds of assumptions about humanity do the perpetrators of such an attack work with in their own minds.

The Israeli state pleads that we count the value of the lives of Israelis over all others, at many times the value. The United Nation’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reported that of all the deaths due to violence between Israelis and Palestinians from September 2000 to July 2007, 4,228 have been Palestinians, and 1,024 were Israelis. More than four times as many Palestinians were killed. Of the overall number of children killed, 88% were Palestinian, and 12% were Israeli. In the current Israeli attacks on Gaza, Al Jazeera has been keeping a toll which at this moment reads: “590 Palestinians killed…and 9 Israelis killed.” In terms of the rocket attacks that Israel claims as a provocation, the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs has kept its own tally, and for the purposes of comparison using available numbers, while the MFA says that in 2006 there was a drastic increase in the number of rockets fired at Israel (946 in total), the OCHA reports that for the same year, 2006, 14,000 Israeli artillery shells were fired into Gaza. Yet when it comes to media coverage of deaths, one study calculated that “ABC, CBS, and NBC reported Israeli deaths at rates 3.1, 3.8, and 4.0 times higher than Palestinian deaths, respectively,” even worse in the case of deaths of children from conflict, where Palestinian children died at 22 times the Israeli rate and yet “deaths of Israeli children [were] covered at rates 9.0, 12.8, and 9.9 times greater than the deaths of Palestinian children by ABC, CBS, and NBC, respectively.” When the Israeli propaganda machine, and U.S. mainstream media, monopolize “tragedy” under an Israeli banner, they endorse Stalin’s alleged statement. Palestinian deaths are a statistic, an underreported one at that. That is appropriate for a monster regime.

What does the Israeli state assume about the humanity of Palestinians when it demands that they surrender, that they cease to respond to forcible Israeli expropriations of their lands, barring Palestinian refugees from returning to their lands while establishing a “Law of Return” so that anyone from New York to Kiev can assume possession of a land they have never been to but to which they claim a relationship as eternal natives? In assuming that Palestinians will cease to respond, they assume the humanly impossible.

And in assuming the humanly impossible, the Israeli state furnishes itself with a pretext for genocide – the killing of Palestinians can never stop, because their response to such killings will never stop.

In another UN school in an area where there was no fighting at the time, Israel murdered 3 civilians. The Israelis responsible for these atrocities must be identified and prosecuted for war crimes.

660 people have died including 160 children and over 2700 injured in Israel’s latest repellent display of fascist aggression against the indigenous people and rightful owners of Palestine which it has occupied and oppressed for the past 60 years.

Whilst Israel protests that there is no humanitarian crisis in Gaza, the International Committee of the Red Cross disagrees:

Operations director Pierre Kraehenbuehl said earlier that “there is no doubt in my mind that we are dealing with a full-blown and major crisis in humanitarian terms. The situation for the people in Gaza is extreme and traumatic.”

It seems no punishment is too severe for Israel to inflict on civilians in its laughably transparent efforts to retain its land grabs in the West Bank. By not protecting the civilian populations in the areas which it occupies, Israel is in breach of the Geneva Conventions. It is a criminal state, and all countries of the world should immediate cut off trade ties. People can also boycott Israeli products in protest.

In the Guardian, Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg points to some of the measures the EU community can take to rein in Israel’s murderous excesses:

Brown must stop sitting on his hands. He must condemn unambiguously Israel’s tactics, just as he has rightly condemned Hamas’s rocket attacks. Then he must lead the EU into using its economic and diplomatic leverage in the region to broker peace. The EU is by far Israel’s biggest export market, and by far the biggest donor to the Palestinians. It must immediately suspend the proposed new cooperation agreement with Israel until things change in Gaza, and apply tough conditions on any long-term assistance to the Palestinian community.

Brown must also halt Britain’s arms exports to Israel, and persuade our EU counterparts to do the same. The government’s own figures show Britain is selling more and more weapons to Israel, despite the questions about the country’s use of force. In 2007, our government approved £6m of arms exports. In 2008, it licensed sales 12 times as fast: £20m in the first three months alone.

There is a strong case that, given the Gaza conflict, any military exports contravene EU licensing criteria. Reports, though denied, that Israel is using illegal cluster munitions and white phosphorus should heighten our caution. I want an immediate suspension of all arms exports from the EU, but if that cannot be secured, Brown must act unilaterally.

Finally, the world’s leaders must accept that their response to the election of Hamas has been a strategic failure. The removal of the EU presence on the Egypt border in response to Hamas’s election, for example, has made it easier for the rockets being fired at Israel to get into Gaza in the first place. An EU mission with a serious mandate and backing from Egypt and Israel would help Israel deal proportionately and effectively with the threat from weapons smuggling.

While western leaders fumbled around with useless blither about stopping the supply of weapons to a people which otherwise cannot defend itself from Israel’s aggression, Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president asked the UN Security Council to act immediately:

Any delay from the UN in imposing a ceasefire on Israel, he said, would deepen the tragedy. Young Palestinians would conclude in that event that “hope in peace, commitment to international law are all mirages that will never come true – that the present and future is only open to extremism”.

The West finds it easy to forget Israel’s history of massacres – and that its present collective punishment of the Gazan people should be seen in perspective with its previous horrendous record.

As veteran middle east correspondent Robert Fisk starkly points out:


Have we forgotten the 17,500 dead – almost all civilians, most of them children and women – in Israel’s 1982 invasion of Lebanon; the 1,700 Palestinian civilian dead in the Sabra-Chatila massacre; the 1996 Qana massacre of 106 Lebanese civilian refugees, more than half of them children, at a UN base; the massacre of the Marwahin refugees who were ordered from their homes by the Israelis in 2006 then slaughtered by an Israeli helicopter crew; the 1,000 dead of that same 2006 bombardment and Lebanese invasion, almost all of them civilians?

And I write the following without the slightest doubt: we’ll hear all these scandalous fabrications again. We’ll have the Hamas-to-blame lie – heaven knows, there is enough to blame them for without adding this crime – and we may well have the bodies-from-the-cemetery lie and we’ll almost certainly have the Hamas-was-in-the-UN-school lie and we will very definitely have the anti-Semitism lie. And our leaders will huff and puff and remind the world that Hamas originally broke the ceasefire. It didn’t. Israel broke it, first on 4 November when its bombardment killed six Palestinians in Gaza and again on 17 November when another bombardment killed four more Palestinians.

Yes, Israelis deserve security. Twenty Israelis dead in 10 years around Gaza is a grim figure indeed. But 600 Palestinians dead in just over a week, thousands over the years since 1948 – when the Israeli massacre at Deir Yassin helped to kick-start the flight of Palestinians from that part of Palestine that was to become Israel – is on a quite different scale. This recalls not a normal Middle East bloodletting but an atrocity on the level of the Balkan wars of the 1990s. And of course, when an Arab bestirs himself with unrestrained fury and takes out his incendiary, blind anger on the West, we will say it has nothing to do with us. Why do they hate us, we will ask? But let us not say we do not know the answer.”

Israel’s continued war crimes are sure to assist Al Qaida gain appeal – the West may pay in blood for their inertia in restraining the Zionist aggressor’s dreadful assault on the Gazan people.

Al-Qa’ida deputy Ayman al-Zawahiri called on Muslims to attack Israeli and Western targets in revenge for the offensive.

Sarkozy and Mubarak are trying to broker a truce:

The Egyptian and French presidents didn’t release details of their proposal, saying only that it involved an immediate cease-fire to permit humanitarian aid into Gaza and talks to settle the differences between Israel and the Islamic militants of Hamas who rule the small coastal territory.

They said they were awaiting a response from Israel. Israeli officials in Jerusalem declined immediate comment on the announcement, which came amid diplomatic efforts by the U.S. and other nations to resolve a conflict that has seen 600 people killed in 11 days.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice weclomed the initiative, but cautioned that no agreement would succeed unless it halted Hamas rocket attacks on Israel and arms smuggling into Gaza.

News from the West Bank

42 people are now dead, massacred by Israel at al-Fakhora UN school. 7 Israeli soldiers have been killed so far in the conflict.

Israel and Hamas are studying a ceasefire agreement drawn up by Egypt which has won backing from the US and Europe.

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice endorsed the Mubarak proposal and said a “sustainable” ceasefire should involve both closing off Hamas’s ability to rearm through tunnels from Egypt and easing the lives of the 1.5 million people of Gaza by reopening trade routes.

As the Zionists debate whether to attack Gaza’s urban areas in the final stage of their offensive, Jane’s Intelligence warns that a military solution is impossible.

Mr Hartwell said: “Hamas may well bow to Egyptian pressure and accept the need for a truce, but Israel’s attitude is such at the moment that this will only be granted when it feels its military job is done.

“With a military victory for Israel over Hamas not possible, the security situation in southern Israel and Gaza will not improve, even in the longer term.”

The Israeli-owned muppet, Bush, on his last legs in government, continues to reinforce Israel’s deception that Hamas breached the truce.

The deaths of children as collateral damage in Israel’s revolting offensive which it deliberately provoked is rejected by Jordan.

Queen Rania of Jordan, Israel’s immediate neighbour, says the deaths of Gaza’s children are unacceptable.

“The children of Gaza, the dead and the barely living, their mothers, their fathers, are not acceptable collateral damage,” she said.

“Their lives do matter. Their loss does count. They are not divisible from our universal humanity. No child is. No civilian is.”

UNICEF says the children of Gaza are being denied fundamental human rights, like protection from violence and access to education and healthcare.

Because the borders of Gaza have been closed since before Israel’s attack began, civilians are trapped in what could become an even more dangerous war zone if that can be imagined. Blaming Hamas is no excuse for what Israel is doing. As an occupying power, it is responsible for the civilian population. Instead, it has deliberately confined the Gazan population within the conflagration and is using them as bargaining chips.

Don’t miss Auntie Ziona’s take on the massacre of refugees in the al-Fakhora UN school.

The role of new media – Social Networking Platform, Twitter – in disseminating information about the holocaust in Gaza is discussed at Ahmad’s blog. With the Palestinian press under attack by Israel (another war crime) and no foreign journalists able to enter to relate events, the new media is able to bring the world its own special perspective.

For example, just in:

AJGaza Al Jazeera’s Sherine Tadros in #Gaza says Palestinians in the territory now have access to water only every five days.

AJGaza Latest death toll: 680 Palestinians killed in #Gaza and 3,075 injured since war began.

Is Israel winning the new media wars?

@endodontist This is Israel’s least compelling PR effort ever. #gaza Can’t seem to control the message, or even choose which message to go with. #gaza

Israeli hackers are targeting twitter accounts supportive of the people of Gaza.

SITUATION REPORT FROM THE HUMANITARIAN COORDINATOR
6 January 2009, 1800 hours

The Israeli military operation entered its eleventh day, with the civilian population of Gaza continuing to bear the brunt of the violence. Israeli air, sea and ground forces continue to surround Gazan populated areas. The Gaza and North Gaza governorates remain isolated from the rest of the Strip. Internal movement within
the Strip is extremely dificult because of ongoing hostilities and the destruction of essential infrastructure. The humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip continues to deteriorate.

VIOLENCE
According to the MoH, the total number of casualties as of 1800 hours today has risen to at least 640 Palestinians killed and 2,850 injured. Ongoing hostilities and the dangers involved in medical crews accessing casualties make it increasingly dificult to compile an accurate and up-to-date account of casualties.

Among the main incidents reported:
Early reports suggest that at 15.45 on 6 January 08, three artillery shells landed outside the UNRWA Jabalia Prep C Girls School, resulting in at least 30 fatalities and 55 injuries, of which 15 are reported to be critical. The school is currently being used as a shelter for those fleeing hostilities.

At 2330 on 5 January, three Gazans were killed in an UNRWA school in Gaza City. They were among over four hundred people who had earlier in the evening led their homes in Beit Lahiya in northern Gaza and had been given refuge in the UNRWA school. The school was clearly marked as a UN installation. UNRWA has protested the killings to the Israeli authorities and is calling for an immediate and impartial investigation. Mid Morning 6 January, the UNRWA health clinic in Bureij camp was damaged and ten persons were injured when a missile hit an adjacent building. Seven of the injured were UNRWA staff, the other three being patients. Three of the injuries are reported to be serious. On 4 January, approximately 100 members of the extended Al Samuni family were evacuated from their homes to a building to the east of Gaza City. In the early hours of 5 January, the house was repeatedly shelled. Three children who reached Shifa Hospital by civilian car were pronounced dead on arrival. According to survivors an unknown number of dead and injured remain under the rubble, as medical authorities have been unable to reach them. In the early hours of 5 January a shell hit a house in Beach Camp killing at least seven members of the Abu Aysha family. Overnight shelling of residential houses in the Bureij Camp have left at least five dead and 16 injured. In another incident, a pregnant Palestinian woman and her four children were killed.
On 5 January, the al-Awda hospital in northern Gaza was damaged by two shells which landed in a busy car park close to the emergency room. The entrance of the emergency room was damaged, along with some of their stores.

A WFP logistics contractor’s warehouse holding 360 tonnes of food was hit as of 5 January, killing one person and critically wounding two others. Four Israeli soldiers were killed in two separate incidents on 5 January. Over 40 Qassam and Grad rockets were reportedly ired on Monday from Gaza at southern Israel with no injuries reported.

SHELTER
Over 14,000 Palestinians are now staying in 23 emergency shelters as of this morning, with numbers quickly growing. UNRWA’s aid stocks for the shelters are depleting. UNRWA is in need of food and non-food items (NFIs) for these shelters, particularly blankets and mattresses, and is requesting organizations to share NFIs currently available. Local procurement of these items is hampered by the supply shortage on the local market due to the 18-month long blockade on the Strip. Additionally, bringing in any new items is dificult due to the bottle-neck at Kerem Shalom crossing. Yesterday, ICRC provided 350 hygiene kits to UNRWA for people in shelters. This is enough for 6,300 people over 10 days.

ELECTRICITY / TELECOMMUNICATIONS
The Gaza power plant is still not functional. Following coordination with the Israeli authorities, the 215,000 litres of industrial gasoline which arrived yesterday have been transported from Nahal Oz to the power plant: however, this does not mean that all areas depending on the power plant will receive electricity
immediately as most lines were damaged. Of the seven damaged electricity lines coming from Israel and Rafah, two have been repaired. GEDCO has received approval from the Israelis to repair the other lines from Israel. As of yesterday, an additional electricity line located east of Khan Yunis is no longer functioning.

The Palestinian telephone company, Paltel, warns that due to continued electricity cuts, the shortage of fuel and other constraints all land lines, cell phones and the internet might be cut within one to two days.

HEALTH
Hospitals continue to run on back-up generators for the fourth consecutive day. Only three out of 56 MoH primary health care clinics are currently open. Restrictions on movement and the dissection of Gaza are the main reasons for the closure of many clinics. Fuel available for generators at primary health care
services and the central drug store, including cold rooms for vaccine storage, is estimated to be enough for five days.

According to the MoH, six medical staff have been killed and 30 injured, while 11 ambulances have been hit. Over the last 24 hours, the Palestinian Red Crescent Society (PRCS) has not received Israeli approval for any of its coordination requests to reach those killed or injured. Nonetheless they have recovered 140
wounded and 22 dead. The ICRC surgical team which entered on 5 January brought in 1000 units of tetanus oxide for MoH hospitals.

WATER AND SANITATION
According to the Coastal Municipalities Water Utility (CMWU), 800,000 people in North Gaza, Gaza and the Middle Area have no running water as of 6 January. Those who still have running water face problems in purifying water as well as risking the additional danger of a contamination of the water network due to waste water leakage. Sanitation services (including solid waste disposal) are not functioning due to the fighting.

FOOD
Cooking gas is in short supply throughout the Strip with people relying on wood ovens or electricity, where available, or are burning alternatives where available. People continue to have problems obtaining food, including basic items such as rice, lour and oil. Bakeries have not received wheat lour since the beginning
of the ground operation. As a result, only nine bakeries remain operational with queues lengthening for the allotted 50 small pita bread piece allowance. Prices have nearly doubled since the offensive began compounding the cash shortage. The Bakeries’ Owners’ Association has appealed to UNRWA for wheat flour so they can continue operating. Prior to the current operation, 80 percent of the Strip’s population was already reliant on food distribution from UN and international organizations. UNRWA food distribution resumed under extremely dificult circumstances after 13 days of suspension on 1 January and is reaching close to 20,000 a day with 2-3 months’ dry food supplies. Neither UNRWA nor WFP were able to distribute on 6 January due to the prevailing security situation.

CROSSINGS
Kerem Shalom was open today with approximately 50 truckloads expected to arrive into Gaza. A total of 41.5 truckloads, including 40.5 from humanitarian aid agencies, was allowed entry through Kerem Shalom on 5 January. These comprise 31 of flour for UN agencies, 8 of food supplies from Arab donors, and 1.5 of
medical supplies for ICRC. The Nahal Oz fuel pipelines and Karni conveyor belt used for grains were closed today. Rafah crossing was partially open today for the transfer of medical supplies and the evacuation of medical cases. On 5 January, 10 truckloads of medical supplies were allowed entry and 18 medical cases were allowed out. According to the MoH, 133 patients have been transferred through Rafah for treatment outside of Gaza since 27 December.

PRIORITY NEEDS
Supply of fuel: Industrial fuel is needed to power the Gaza Power Plant, which has been shut down since 31 December. The replacement of transformers which were heavily damaged is also urgently needed, as well as coordination to allow technical teams to ix other damage. Nahal Oz crossing must remain
open as it is the only crossing which can facilitate the transfer of suficient amounts of fuel to restart and maintain operations of the power plant, and restock other types of fuel needed in the Strip. The continuous switching off and on of the plant is seriously damaging its machinery and could lead to a collapse of some of its vital components.
Distribution of cooking gas: Though cooking gas was pumped from the Israeli side of Nahal Oz to the Palestinian side, it has not yet been picked up due to fears of being targeted. Coordination is urgently needed for the collection of cooking gas from stores along the border area and from Nahal Oz, and
subsequently for the distribution of the gas which is essential for bakeries and home-cooking of bread and other food. Wheat grain, essential to provide flour for local bakeries and humanitarian food distribution to the population of Gaza. The Karni Crossing conveyor belt is the only mechanism which can facilitate the import of the amount of grain required in the Strip at this time. This crossing remains closed.

Cash has still not entered the Gaza Strip and is urgently needed, including for the UNRWA cash distribution program to some 94,000 dependent beneiciaries, as well as its cash for work” programme, salaries for its staff and payments to suppliers. Internal movement within the Gaza Strip: Movement within the Strip is restricted and dangerous. It is essential that patients and ambulances have access to hospitals, that agencies access warehouses to conduct distributions, and that damage to public services can be repaired. Bakeries also need access to cooking gas.

SCHOOL ATTACK UPDATE FEB 5

From ABC AM:

BRENDAN TREMBATH: The United Nations has backed down from a claim that a UN run school in Gaza was hit during an Israeli mortar attack last month.

Forty-three people were reportedly killed in the attack.

But a clarification issued by the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian affairs says the shelling and all the casualties happened outside the school.

At the time of the attack there was a barrage of international condemnation directed at Israel.

David Mark reports.

DAVID MARK: It was the most controversial incident of the three week Gaza War.

On 6th January, reports emerged that an Israel mortar had hit a school run by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency.

The School was sheltering hundreds of woman and children at the time – 43 were killed and more than 100 were injured.

On the day the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs reported that three artillery shells landed outside the school but the story quickly became confused.

At the time a spokeswoman for the Israeli Defence Force, Major Avital Leibovitz, defended the action without denying that the strike was aimed at the school.

AVITAL LEIBOVITZ: The information that we have is that there was the launching of a mortar from the school’s yard towards one of our forces. Our forces retaliated but it turned out that the school was booby trapped and as a result of our retaliation, everything flared up. There were a lot of secondary explosions from which probably those people were wounded.

DAVID MARK: A spokesman for UN’s Relief and Works Agency, Chris Gunness, rejected that claim – without clarifying whether or not the mortars actually landed on the school.

CHRIS GUNNESS: We are 99.9 per cent certain that there were no militants, no militant activity in the school building or in the compound. If anyone has any information that contradicts that, could they please come forward? Can their information please be part of an impartial investigation?

DAVID MARK: On the day after the attack, the United Nations put out another situation report that left little doubt that the strikes were aimed at the school:

(Extract from United Nations situation report)

READER: The UN Relief and Works Agency reported that there were 43 fatalities and approximately 100 injuries due to the shelling of the UNRWA school in Jabalia on January 6.

The UN Secretary General characterised these acts as “totally unacceptable”.

(End of extract)

DAVID MARK: Now the United Nations has issued a clarification.

The initial report on the day of the attack was right after all.

The UN’s latest situation report reads”

(Extract from United Nations situation report)

READER: The humanitarian coordinator would like to clarify that the shelling, and all of the fatalities, took place outside rather than inside the school.

(End of extract)

DAVID MARK: The Head of the UN’s Relief and Works Agency in Gaza, John Ging, says the clarification came about because of an error in the situation report published the day after the attack.

JOHN GING: There is no change in the reporting that we have done here about that tragic incident. The facts that we presented at the time are still the facts that we are presenting today, and there were many changes in the Israeli reactions and information put out by various spokespeople.

DAVID MARK: But the CEO of the Jewish Board of Deputies in Sydney Vic Alhadeff, sees things differently.

VIC ALHADEFF: Israel’s position is what has not been entirely vindicated. At the time a senior UN spokesman Chris Gunness was interviewed on television together with an Israeli Government spokesperson and he went very close to accusing Israel intentionally permitting, committing an atrocity at the school and now Gunness himself, this UN official himself, has admitted that no-one was killed at the school. That Israeli fire did not hit the school and that Hamas fire has come from close to the school and Israel had returned fire to those Hamas positions.

Unfortunately that the truth has not been conveyed with the same vigor which the original fasle accusations were received.

BRENDAN TREMBATH: The chief executive the New South Wales Jewish Board of Deputies Vic Alhadeff, ending David Mark’s report.

4 comments to UN Outraged, calls for independent investigation on school massacre by Israel

  • The attack on Al Fakora school is further explicated:

    John Ging, UNRWA’s operations director in Gaza, acknowledged in an interview this week that all three Israeli mortar shells landed outside the school and that “no one was killed in the school.”

    “I told the Israelis that none of the shells landed in the school,” he said.

    Why would he do that?

    “Because they had told everyone they had returned fire from gunmen in the school. That wasn’t true.”

    Mr. Ging blames the Israelis for the confusion over where the victims were killed. “They even came out with a video that purported to show gunmen in the schoolyard. But we had seen it before,” he said, “in 2007.”

    The Israelis are the ones, he said, who got everyone thinking the deaths occurred inside the school.

    “Look at my statements,” he said. “I never said anyone was killed in the school. Our officials never made any such allegation.”

    Speaking from Shifa Hospital in Gaza City as the bodies were being brought in that night, an emotional Mr. Ging did say: “Those in the school were all families seeking refuge. … There’s nowhere safe in Gaza.”

    And in its daily bulletin, the World Health Organization reported: “On 6 January, 42 people were killed following an attack on a UNRWA school …”

    The UN’s Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs got the location right, for a short while. Its daily bulletin cited “early reports” that “three artillery shells landed outside the UNRWA Jabalia Prep. C Girls School …” However, its more comprehensive weekly report, published three days later, stated that “Israeli shelling directly hit two UNRWA schools …” including the one at issue.

    Such official wording helps explain the widespread news reports of the deaths in the school, but not why the UN agencies allowed the misconception to linger.

    “I know no one was killed in the school,” Mr. Ging said. “But 41 innocent people were killed in the street outside the school. Many of those people had taken refuge in the school and wandered out onto the street.

    “The state of Israel still has to answer for that. What did they know and what care did they take?”

  • Brilliant coverage, I like the diverse aspects you covered, but with the recent Obama statements, I think the least to say it will be interesting to see how things play out once Obama is in the Oval Office.

    • Thanks mate 🙂 I enjoyed your article. With the pace of events, it’s hard to keep up.

      Re Obama: Initially Obama said there could not be two voices speaking on the Gazan issue – his statement yesterday was pretty non-committal as well. I took his initial statement to have a subtext, that his voice indeed would be different. Israel knows it has till Obama’s inauguration to be sure it will not receive too much censure for its slaughter of innocents. Can the EU, pressured by the withholding of gas by Russia, bring enough pressure to bear on the rogue state till then? I hope so.

      I don’t want to see more Palestinian land concessions because of the terrible onslaught they are facing – Israel in effect is holding them to ransom at present.

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