A U.N. official said on Saturday that two schools run by his agency in northern Gaza had been bombarded in less than 24 hours, and video from one of the scenes, verified by The New York Times, showed many bloodied and motionless bodies at one.
Palestinian officials said on Saturday that many people were killed and injured in an Israeli attack that hit a U.N.-run school being used as a shelter by adults and children, in the Jabaliya area north of Gaza City. The Israeli military said it had received reports of “an incident” in the Jabaliya area and that it was under review.
A graphic video, whose location was verified by The Times, showed bodies lying amid widespread debris at the school, Al-Fakhura, which was run by UNRWA, the U.N. agency that aids Palestinian refugees.
The head of the agency, Philippe Lazzarini, said on social media on Saturday that he had received “horrifying images & footage of scores of people killed and injured” at an UNRWA school “sheltering thousands of displaced in the north of the Gaza Strip.”
Mr. Lazzarini later added that another UNRWA school had been “bombarded several times in the north of #Gaza sheltering more than 4,000 people.” He said this was the “second time in less than 24 hours schools are not spared. ENOUGH, these horrors must stop.”
An UNRWA spokeswoman said the later post referred to the Zeitoun school in Gaza City, which was hit around 3 p.m. on Friday.
The agency did not know the ultimate toll at either school on Saturday; UNRWA has not been able to directly monitor conditions at its northern Gaza facilities since an Israeli evacuation order for the north on Oct. 12. At that time, nearly 160,000 displaced people were taking shelter in 57 of its schools, it said. Throughout Gaza since the start of the Israeli offensive, classes have been suspended and schools have been converted into shelters.
The Israeli military says its intense bombardment has been aimed at Hamas, the group that controls Gaza, but its command posts and depots are deeply enmeshed within — and in tunnels beneath — Gaza’s neighborhoods. Israel’s bombardment has hit sites like apartment buildings, mosques and markets, and Israeli officials have called those sites legitimate targets, while saying it is seeking to limit harm to civilians.
The Israeli military said Saturday that it was “committed to international law including taking feasible steps to minimize harm to civilians.” It had said earlier in the day that it had engaged in intensive combat in Jabaliya, where it has claimed the command and control center of Hamas’s northern Gaza brigade was located.
The White House was talking to U.N. and Israeli officials to find out more about the attack at a school shelter, said Adrienne Watson, a spokeswoman for the National Security Council.
“We are aware of reports that civilians may have been killed while sheltering at least one UNRWA school in northern Gaza,” Ms. Watson said. “Any harm to a U.N. facility where civilians are sheltering is unacceptable.”
The civilian toll of Israel’s campaign in Gaza has drawn increasing criticism from U.N. officials, who have called for an urgent cease-fire, as well as rising anger from Israel’s neighbors in the Middle East. The Qatari Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Saturday denounced the destruction at the Al-Fakhura school, accusing Israel of a “flagrant violation of the principles of international law,” and calling for a U.N. investigation into attacks against hospitals and schools in Gaza.
“The Ministry warns that the silence of the international community regarding the war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by the occupation against the Palestinian people will increase the tension, expand the circle of violence, and lead to further escalation and instability,” it said.
The Gazan ministry of health has said that the Al-Fakhura school was previously hit by an Israeli airstrike in early November, killing 15 and wounding 70.
Aaron Boxerman, Neil Collier, Iyad Abuheweila Aric Toler and Lisa Friedman contributed reporting.