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Deadly Israel strike on Gaza ambulance convoy sparks condemnation

Gaza health ministry says 15 killed at UN school in Israeli strike

By AFP - Nov 04,2023 - Last updated at Nov 04,2023

In this image grab taken from an AFPTV video footage shows a man carries an injured girl a he runs in near an ambulance damaged in an Israeli strike in front of Al Shifa hospital in Gaza City on Friday (AFP photo)

GAZA STRIP, Occupied Palestine — The health ministry in Gaza said at least 15 people were killed on Saturday when a UN school sheltering thousands of displaced Palestinians was hit by an Israeli strike.

"The massacre at the Al Fakhura school committed by the occupation [Israel] this morning left 15 martyrs and 70 wounded," ministry spokesman Ashraf Al Qudra told a press conference.

The United Nations agency for Palestinian refugees said its school is being used as a "shelter for displaced families".

"At least one strike hit the school yard where there were tents for displaced families. Another strike hit inside the school where women were baking bread," UNRWA said in a statement.

On Thursday, UNRWA said four of its schools in the Gaza Strip housing people displaced by the war had been damaged by bombings.

An estimated 1.4 million people have been displaced in four weeks of war, out of the territory’s 2.4 million residents, with many crammed into schools or hospitals.

The health ministry said on Saturday at least 9,488 people have been killed across Gaza, the majority civilians, since Israel started pounding the territory on October 7.

The Palestinian Red Crescent Society (PRCS) said in a statement one of its ambulances had been struck “by a missile fired by the Israeli forces”, about 2 metres from the entrance to Al Shifa hospital in Gaza City.

The strike on Friday killed 15 people and wounded 60 others, it said, mirroring figures released earlier by the Hamas-run health ministry.

An AFP journalist at the scene saw multiple bodies beside the damaged ambulance outside the hospital.

Another ambulance, belonging to the health ministry, was “directly targeted” by a missile around 2 kilometre from the hospital, causing injuries and damage, the PRCS said.

Hamas denied that its fighters had been inside the vehicles, which it said were hit by Israeli forces while transporting wounded people from Gaza City towards the Rafah crossing with Egypt.

According to the PRCS, the convoy of five ambulances left Al Shifa hospital shortly after 4:00pm (14:00 GMT) and headed south.

The convoy, consisting of four ambulances from the Hamas-run health ministry and one belonging to the PRCS, had to turn back after hitting a stretch of road “blocked by large quantities of rubble and rocks” due to shelling, the statement said.

As the ambulances headed back towards the hospital, a first “missile” strike hit a health ministry ambulance, damaging the vehicle and injuring the people inside, according to the PRCS.

A second deadly strike hit the PRCS ambulance, carrying a wounded woman, as it approached Al Shifa’s gates, the Palestinian Red Crescent said.

It said “the deliberate targeting of medical teams constitutes a grave violation of the Geneva Conventions, a war crime”.

 

UN ‘horrified’ 

 

More than 23,500 people have been wounded across Gaza in four weeks of war, according to health ministry in Gaza.

Some 16 hospitals across Gaza are no longer functioning because of damage from strikes and the lack of fuel, according to the Hamas authorities that rule Gaza.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said in a statement he was “horrified by the reported attack in Gaza on an ambulance convoy outside Al Shifa hospital”.

He added that the deadly fighting “must stop”.

World Health Organisation (WHO) chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said he was “utterly shocked” by reports of attacks on ambulances evacuating patients.

Al Shifa hospital, Gaza’s largest, has a bed occupancy rate of 164 per cent according to the WHO, which on Wednesday warned a shortage of fuel for generators “immediately risks the lives” of patients.

Israel has long accused Hamas fighters of using hospitals and schools, charging that the armed group was using Palestinian civilians as “human shields”.

On Friday, a senior White House official said Hamas tried to use a US-brokered deal on opening the Rafah border crossing to get its fighters out of Gaza and into Egypt.

One-third of the names on a list provided by Hamas of wounded Palestinians for evacuation were those of Hamas members and fighters, the official said.

“That was just unacceptable to Egypt, to us, to Israel,” the official added.

 

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