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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Israeli strike kills dozens at school complex where civilians sought shelter

By Aaron Boxerman, Erika Solomon and Victoria Kim

An Israeli airstrike in the central Gaza Strip early Thursday killed dozens of people at a U.N. school complex that had become a shelter for thousands of displaced Palestinians. Israel’s military, which is fighting what Israeli officials say is a renewed Hamas insurgency, said the attack had precisely targeted Hamas operatives, including some who had taken part in the Oct. 7 attacks. Palestinian officials said it had killed civilians.

Many of the dead and injured were taken to Al-Aqsa Martyrs Hospital, in Deir al-Balah, a city near the strike site in Nuseirat. The hospital was so packed with the wounded that doctors struggled to push their way into operating rooms. In chaotic hallways, men wept over dead children, and injured children cried out for their parents. The Gaza Health Ministry said that of the at least 40 deaths registered from the strike, 14 were children and nine were women.

Lt. Col. Peter Lerner, an Israeli military spokesperson, said he was “not aware of any civilian casualties” as a result of the strike. The chief military spokesperson, Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari, said Israeli forces had tracked militants using classrooms at the complex as a base for three days before opening fire, and that it had identified nine militants among the dead.

Videos posted on social media by a Palestinian videographer at the hospital showed heart-wrenching scenes of the attack’s aftermath: a mother begging her dead child to take her hand; a young man wrapped in bandages, weeping next to a corpse; a little boy, his face coated in dust and blood, staring vacantly from a hospital floor.

At least one bomb used in the Israeli strike appeared to have been made in the United States, according to a weapons expert and videos reviewed by The New York Times. Remnants of a GBU-39 were visible in one verified video, a bomb that is designed and manufactured by Boeing.

At least 140 Palestinians have been killed and hundreds more wounded in recent days during the Israeli offensive in central Gaza, according to the spokesperson at Al-Aqsa Martyrs Hospital, Khalil Daqran. His hospital is the last one still functioning in central Gaza, and he said wounded people were “lying on the ground in the hallways and in tents outside.”

Israel’s offensive in central Gaza comes as cease-fire talks between Israel and Hamas remain stuck, with senior officials on both sides expressing deep concerns over a proposal endorsed by President Joe Biden to pause the fighting in exchange for the release of hostages held in Gaza. Israeli officials including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu have signaled they are not ready to wind down the war, which Gaza health officials say has killed more than 36,000 people.

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