Israel under fire after 15 die at UN school

THE funeral of five brothers and cousins of the Daqqa family took place hurriedly during a humanitarian ceasefire.

There was uncertainty about how long the brief respite would last; sporadic gunfire and air strikes could already be heard in the distance. The mourners left hurriedly as a warplane made two passes overhead.

One of the supposed aims of Benjamin Netanyahu's government  is the return of Fatah to Gaza, weakening the grip of Hamas when the fighting ends.

All five killed today were Fatah members; Akram Ibrahim Abu Daqqa had worked in the office of Mahmoud Abbas, the Fatah leader and President of the Palestinian government; his brother Adli had been employed by the Fatah-run interior ministry.

"There is no Hamas in our family, there is no one from Hamas here," said Abdul Raif, one of the surviving brothers, waving his arm at those who had come to the burial at Abassan.

"We are not involved in fighting; some people in our family are interested in politics, does that mean they will become targets for the Israelis? Do the Israelis think they can work with Fatah in this area after this?"

Ahmed Abu Daqqa, the 65-year-old father of two of those killed, wanted to talk about personal, rather than political, matters.

He had left the home with most of the family to go to Khan Younis town centre. He heard what had happened from a son, 47-year-old Tawfiq.

"Of course I am very upset, for my sons and my nephews and for their wives, their children. There are more than 30 members in the family.

"Who is going to look after them now?" He asked. "It was risky for them to stay on here, but why should they have been targets? We will never find out."

Five hundred metres away, on the road out of the district of Khozaa, a battered car delivered Foulla Sabaan to an ambulance.

She was clutching her 10-month-old girl, Raghda, wrapped in a cream blanket soaked in blood as she wept: "The Israelis told us to leave our homes or we would get killed in the fighting. We started walking with a white flag when the tanks started firing. That is when my baby was hurt."

Ms Sabaan, 31, had been given a lift by a passing car. "My husband is walking with the other children. I am so worried about them - they are firing at everyone, no one is safe here".

The targeting policy of the Israeli military was once again under scrutiny later in the day when a UN school in the town of Beit Hanoun, which was being used as a shelter by hundreds fleeing the fighting, was hit by tank shells killing 15 people, including children, and leaving 70 injured.

Chris Gunness, spokesperson for the UN Relief and Works Agency, pointed out that "precise co-ordinates of the shelter had been formally given to the Israeli army.

Over the course of the day, the agency tried to co-ordinate a window for civilians to leave with the Israeli army: it was never granted.

Pools of blood lay on desks and floors of classrooms where the families had been living. Laila al-Shinbari described how families had gathered in the courtyard expecting to be evacuated.

"Now my son is dead and many of my relatives are wounded. All of us were sitting in one place when suddenly four shells landed. There were bodies on the ground, blood and screams."

The Israeli military said it was carrying out a review of the incident.

Rockets launched by Hamas had landed in the Beit Hanoun area, it claimed, and it was these rockets which may have been responsible for the school killings.

But paramedics accused the Israeli forces of deliberately shooting at ambulances trying to bring the injured out of Khozaa and Abassan.

"The tanks were firing and the shells were landing right next to us. There is no doubt that they were shooting at us; it was not crossfire," insisted Wissan Nabhan.

"We had been trying to get permission for a long time to get these people out, people were dying trapped in their houses because they could not get medical treatment. Then, when they allowed us, they started shooting."

Kamel Mohammed Qudaieh, who was treating the wounded in Khozaa, was severely injured and his home destroyed when hit by shellfire.

His 20-year-old brother, Ahmed, had been killed the previous day, said a group who had come out of the town.

"The doctor was doing all he could with those who managed to get to him and he was also visiting homes.

"He was the only place one could get treatment," said Abdurrahman Qudaieh.

"The Israelis knew that: a tank fired at the house; we are sure they did that deliberately. There is no one there now to help the wounded; we saw people bleeding on the doorways of their homes when we left.

"They were crying for us to get them help, but this ceasefire is almost over now, I don't know how many will stay alive tomorrow."

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