Un gaza
Members of a United Nations investigation team visit a school run by the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) which was hit during an Israeli army strike the day before, in the Nuseirat camp in the central Gaza Strip on June 7, 2024, amid the ongoing conflict in the Palestinian territory between Israel and Hamas. Image Credit: AFP

Gaza Strip: Israeli forces bombarded a Gaza refugee camp on Friday after a deadly strike on a UN-run school there, as the war sparked by Hamas’s unprecedented attack on Israel entered its ninth month.

The conflict has killed thousands, laid waste to much of the Gaza Strip, uprooted most of its 2.4 million people and put them at risk of starvation.

Efforts to mediate the first ceasefire since a week-long pause in November appear to have stalled, only a week after US President Joe Biden offered a new roadmap.

Hamas has yet to respond to Biden’s proposal, while Israel has expressed openness to discussions but remains committed to its goal of destroying the Palestinian Islamist group.

Al-Aqsa Martyrs hospital in Deir Al-Balah, central Gaza, said at least 37 people were killed in Thursday’s Israeli strike on the UN-run school in Nuseirat camp.

The Israeli military said its fighter jets killed nine “terrorists” who were hiding in three classrooms.

The United Nations agency for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA, said hundreds of displaced Gazans were sheltering at the school, which was “hit without prior warning”.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres described the strike as “horrific”, while Egypt’s foreign ministry spokesman Ahmed Abu Zeid condemned what he called the “deliberate bombing of an UNRWA school”.

“Israeli violations of Palestinian rights continue day after day, in full view of the civilised world,” Abu Zeid said on X.

Strikes across Gaza

The United States, which provides Israel with $3.8 billion in annual military aid, urged its ally to be “fully” transparent about the strike.

Israel accuses Hamas and its allies in Gaza of using schools, hospitals and other civilian infrastructure, including UN-run facilities, as operational centres - charges the militants deny.

An Israeli strike late Thursday killed Nuseirat mayor Iyad Al-Mughari as he was visiting a water pumping station, a municipality spokesman said Friday.

Israel’s military said it would publish a statement about the strike.

A day after the school was hit, eyewitnesses said the Nuseirat refugee camp came under attack again as Gaza faced Israeli attacks from land, sea, and air.

Witnesses also reported Israeli strikes east of Deir al-Balah and intensive fire from army vehicles near the Bureij camp, where a blaze was raging.

The Israeli military said it “eliminated dozens of terrorists” in eastern Bureij and Deir al-Balah, where a hospital source said a strike on the Wafati home in nearby Maghazi camp killed six people.

The military also released footage of soldiers conducting operations in bombed-out buildings in the southern city of Rafah.

Fighter jets targeted Al-Sultan neighbourhood, said sources in the city bordering Egypt.

Gaza also came under fire from the sea, with Israeli warships bombarding homes in the fishermen’s port and other areas west of Gaza City, an AFP correspondent said.

Osama al-Kahlut of the Palestinian Red Crescent Society said “occupation forces and snipers” east of Deir Al-Balah were firing on people along Gaza’s main thoroughfare.

“Gunfire on Salaheddin Street has severely restricted people’s movement, and several wounded people have been evacuated from the area,” he told AFP.

Israeli isolation

The war was sparked by Hamas’s October 7 attack, which resulted in the deaths of 1,194 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally based on Israeli official figures.

Militants also took 251 hostages, 120 of whom remain in Gaza, including 41 the army says are dead.

Israel’s retaliatory military offensive has killed at least 36,731 people in Gaza, also mostly civilians, according to the Hamas-run territory’s health ministry.

Seventy-seven were killed in the past 24 hours, it said on Friday.

Israel has faced growing diplomatic isolation, with international court cases accusing it of war crimes and several European countries recognising a Palestinian state.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has meanwhile accepted an invitation from US lawmakers to address Congress on July 24, a congressional source said.

A week ago, Biden outlined what he labelled an Israeli plan to halt the fighting for six weeks while hostages are exchanged for Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails and the delivery of aid into besieged Gaza is stepped up.

G7 powers and Arab states have backed the proposal, with 16 world leaders joining Biden’s call for Hamas to accept the deal.

“There is no time to lose. We call on Hamas to close this agreement,” the joint statement said.

‘Just words’

Egypt’s state-linked Al-Qahera news quoted a high-level source on Thursday saying Cairo had “received positive signs from the Palestinian movement signalling its aspiration for a ceasefire”.

But Beirut-based senior Hamas official Osama Hamdan cast doubt on the proposal, calling it “just words”.

Qatar said on Thursday that Hamas has not yet given its response to the truce plan.

Major sticking points include Hamas insisting on a permanent truce and full Israeli withdrawal - demands Israel has rejected.

An Israeli siege on the long-blockaded Gaza Strip since early October and the widespread destruction have sparked a dire humanitarian crisis, with aid entering the Palestinian territory slowing to a trickle.

A temporary pier meant to boost aid deliveries into Gaza by sea has been “successfully reestablished” after suffering storm damage and being repaired, the US military said Friday, adding that deliveries via the pier were set to increase.

Cyprus, the Mediterranean island that is the departure point for the maritime corridor, said the repair work “hasn’t interrupted the scheduled supply of aid” and ships leaving for Gaza “has become a daily routine”.

The more effective “land routes are a priority for everyone”, Foreign Minister Constantinos Kombos told reporters, but for now, the sea route “is the only actionable choice to send aid to Gaza, which is insufficient”.