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After War's Deadliest Day, Another U.N. School In Gaza Gets Hit


Another U.N. school in Gaza has been shelled. It was packed with Palestinian families, seeking shelter the fighting between Hamas and Israel. NPR's Emily Harris is in Gaza and was at the school this morning. Emily, good morning.

EMILY HARRIS, BYLINE: Good morning Renee.

MONTAGNE: Tell us what happened at the school.

HARRIS: Well, about 5 o'clock this morning, there were several explosions that went off at the school. When I visited there, a few hours after the explosions happened, the damage is quite extensive in one area. Outside of the school, a number of donkeys and horses were killed. And their carcasses are still lying there. Inside, one classroom where families were sleeping is completely destroyed. The wall - the concrete wall that fronts the classroom, as it looks out to the courtyard, was completely gone. And the classroom is just a mess, a tangle of wood and metal fragments and personal belongings. We spoke to a young man who had been trying to sleep under a tree. Mostly the boys and men's sleep in the courtyards in these schools and the women and kids sleep in the rooms. And he had been just talking with a couple of his friends a little while before. And then he'd moved over to try to lie down, he said, and the blasts hit. And several of his friends were killed. His family members inside the classroom were injured and taken away.

MONTAGNE: And is this not the second time a school was hit?

HARRIS: Well, a number of United Nation's installations here have been hit. But this is the second time that people who have been taking shelter in a U.N. school have been killed. In this case, the United Nations agency - the main agency that works here - has come out with a very strong statement saying that their initial investigation points to Israeli artillery that hit the school. They said that people went up to the site this morning and gathered evidence, analyzed fragments, examined craters and other damage. And they've concluded in their initial assessment that this was Israeli artillery. And they stress that they have communicated the coordinates of this school 17 times, they said in a statement, to the Israeli military last night. This is an area where there has been a lot of fighting going on and the Israel - the military said to me this morning that they have also done an initial inquiry. And they've concluded that militants fired mortar shells at Israeli soldiers from the vicinity of this school and that soldiers responded by firing toward the origin where those mortars came from. The Israeli military has not said whether they believe that Israeli fire hit the school. In this previous case last week, when people were killed in a school, Israel released a video showing that it hit the school, but it was empty at the time. The United Nations agency here has also done an investigation and has evidence that, from my understanding, comes to a different conclusion. But bottom line, what the U.N. is saying here is that this has gone too far. That people are trying to take shelter. They are not safe in the shelters. And the statement the U.N. put out - the U.N. agency says this is going past the realm of humanitarian action and into the realm of accountability. So it's really trying to seek some responsibility for the people who died in this school today.

MONTAGNE: And Emily, tell us more about the conditions in these schools.

HARRIS: I visited a number of these schools, Renee, and they're really, really crowded. Families are assigned up to 80 people to a classroom. The U.N. is running into some concerns about water deliveries and food deliveries - not a crisis level problem yet, but a very fragile system.

MONTAGNE: Emily, thank you very much.

HARRIS: Thanks Renee.

MONTAGNE: That's Emily Harris speaking to us from Gaza. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

International Correspondent Emily Harris is based in Jerusalem as part of NPR's Mideast team. Her post covers news related to Israel, the West Bank and Gaza Strip. She began this role in March of 2013.
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