Israeli airstrikes damage children’s hospital and school in the Gaza Strip

Jan 23, 2021
A US-sourced Israeli F-35 warplane performs during an air show in the Negev desert on December 27, 2017. (Photo: AFP / Jack Guez)

Ramallah, January 23, 2021—Israeli warplanes launched five missiles at targets in Gaza City in late December, damaging a children’s hospital, school, center for disabled people, and several residential buildings.

Israeli airstrikes struck areas in the north, east, and west of Gaza City. The Israeli attacks damaged the Gaza Center for People with Disabilities, the Shuhada Gaza School, and the Mohammad Al-Dura Children’s Hospital, all located in the At-Tuffah neighborhood of Gaza City, according to information collected by DCIP. The Israeli military claimed the attacks targeted Hamas locations in response to rockets fired from the Gaza Strip towards Israel. 

When the missiles struck the area, 16 Palestinian children were patients in the children’s hospital, including three in the intensive care unit. An ensuing power cut interrupted patient care at Mohammad Al-Dura Children’s Hospital.

“The explosions caused great bewilderment among the sick children in the hospital,” Dr. Majed Hamada, Head of Mohammad Al-Dura’s Children Hospital, told Defense for Children International - Palestine. “The explosion shattered ten windows,” he added, telling DCIP that none of the patients or staff sustained injuries.

“I was going to bring medication for the kids when I saw the sky turn red,” Eman Bilal, a nurse at the hospital, told DCIP. “After that, we heard the huge explosion that shook the building and shattered the windows. Everyone at the hospital panicked, parents were scared to the point they started carrying their sick children and running towards safer rooms.” 

The Gaza Center for People with Disabilities in At-Tuffah, which provides educational and training services for 60 students with disabilities aged between 14 and 28, sustained damage that interrupted classes and other services for at least one day. Around 20 windows were shattered and three doors were damaged, according to the director of the center, Salah Al-Amasi.

The Shuhada Gaza School, also in the At-Tuffah neighborhood, sustained damage to 52 windows and five doors during the airstrikes, according to the principal, Ihab Quqah. The building is home to both the  Shuhada Gaza Public School, which educates around 620 pupils aged between 6 and 11 years old in the morning, and UNRWA’s Al-Daraj School, which educates 1000 pupils aged between 6 and 14 years old later in the day. 

“Israeli forces’ use of explosive weapons in densely populated civilian areas in the Gaza Strip is very likely to have indiscriminate effects,” said Ayed Abu Eqtaish, Accountability Programme Director at DCIP. “While no casualties resulted here, Israeli forces regularly treat Palestinian public infrastructure in the Gaza Strip as acceptable collateral damaging and attacking essential facilities such as hospitals and schools.”

International humanitarian law prohibits indiscriminate and disproportionate attacks and requires that all parties to an armed conflict distinguish between military targets, civilians, and civilian objects. Israel as the occupying power in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including the Gaza Strip, is required to protect the Palestinian civilian population from violence. 

Israeli warplanes struck a United Nations-run school in a United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) compound in the Al-Shati refugee camp located in the northwest of Gaza City on August 13, 2020, according to documentation collected by DCIP. The munition did not detonate on impact. UNRWA officials confirmed reports that the UNRWA Beach Co-Educational School ‘D’ in the Al-Shati refugee camp was damaged by an Israeli missile that did not detonate. Students were not allowed on the premises, having only returned to school less than a week earlier following a five-month school closure in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

DCIP and numerous other human rights organizations have extensively documented Israeli forces’ targeting of schools, hospitals, and other civilian infrastructure in the Gaza Strip, as well as the killing and maiming of children in and around such infrastructure.

DCIP’s investigation into all Palestinian child fatalities during the Israeli military’s assault on the Gaza Strip in summer 2014, known as Operation Protective Edge, found overwhelming and repeated evidence that Israeli forces committed grave violations against children amounting to war crimes. This included direct targeting of children by Israeli drone-fired missiles and attacks carried out against schools. In at least three incidents, Israeli forces carried out indiscriminate or disproportionate attacks against schools.

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