In language that was rare in its directness and severity, the U.S. denounced the attack earlier Sunday, which killed 10 people. The statement released by the U.S. State Department noted that the school had been designated a protected location.
“The coordinates of the school, like all UN facilities in Gaza, have been repeatedly communicated to the Israel Defense Forces,” State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said. “We once again stress that Israel must do more to meet its own standards and avoid civilian casualties.”
The State Department referred to the attack on the U.N. school as a “shelling,” although U.N. and Palestinian officials in Gaza called it an airstrike.
The U.S. condemnation follows one by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who depicted the attack near the Rafah school as both “a moral outrage and a criminal act.”
UNRWA School Shelling
August 3, 2014
The United States is appalled by today’s disgraceful shelling outside an UNRWA school in Rafah sheltering some 3,000 displaced persons, in which at least ten more Palestinian civilians were tragically killed. The coordinates of the school, like all UN facilities in Gaza, have been repeatedly communicated to the Israeli Defense Forces. We once again stress that Israel must do more to meet its own standards and avoid civilian casualties. UN facilities, especially those sheltering civilians, must be protected, and must not be used as bases from which to launch attacks. The suspicion that militants are operating nearby does not justify strikes that put at risk the lives of so many innocent civilians. We call for a full and prompt investigation of this incident as well as the recent shelling of other UNRWA schools.
We continue to underscore that all parties must take all feasible precautions to prevent civilian casualties and protect the civilian population and comply with international humanitarian law.
Earlier, a senior Palestinian diplomat expressed outrage over killings and bloodshed on both sides in Gaza and called for negotiations to end the savage fighting that has gone on for nearly a month. “What we need now is to stop this fighting, to address the tragic humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip,” Riyad Mansour, the Palestinian ambassador to the U.N., said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
He said putting the people of Gaza “in a continuous situation of confrontation and fighting” will only lead to more violence, adding, “This is an excellent atmosphere for radicalism.”
“But if you give them (Palestinians) hope, you open the borders, you let them go to school, let them look for good jobs, let them look for moderation,” Mansour said. “And we will succeed in allowing all those who want to have peace … to have the upper hand.”
Pierre Krahenbuhl, head of the U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees, called the shelter attack a clear violation of international law. “These are premises that are protected, the sanctity of which has to be respected by all parties,” he said Sunday on CBS’ “Face the Nation.”
About 1,800 Palestinians and 60 Israelis have been killed nearly a month into Israel’s forceful assault on Hamas in the Gaza Strip.