State Dept. slams Israel’s ‘disgraceful shelling’ at U.N. school

Marcy Oster

(JTA) — The U.S. State Department condemned what it called Israel’s “disgraceful shelling” outside a United Nations school.

“The United States is appalled by today’s disgraceful shelling outside an UNRWA school in Rafah sheltering some 3,000 displaced persons, in which ten more Palestinian civilians were tragically killed,” State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said in a statement Sunday. “The coordinates of the school, like all U.N. facilities in Gaza, have been repeatedly communicated to the Israeli Defense Forces. We once again stress that Israel do more to meet its own standards and avoid civilian casualties.”

At least 10 Palestinians were killed and dozens wounded in the attack in Rafah, in southern Gaza, on the school run by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian refugees. Palestinian and United Nations officials blamed the attack on the IDF.

The State Department statement was the harshest condemnation of Israeli actions in Gaza.

“U.N. facilities, especially those sheltering civilians, must be protected, and must not be used as bases from which to launch attacks,” Psaki said. “The suspicion that militants are operating nearby does not justify strikes that put at risk the lives of so many innocent civilians.”

Rafah has been the scene of heavy fighting between the Israeli army and Palestinian gunmen since the attack on an IDF team decommissioning a tunnel that led to the death of two Israeli soldiers and the believed kidnapping of a third. That soldier, Hadar Goldin, later was declared dead.

The State Department called for a “full and prompt investigation” into the shelling of the Rafah school, as well as the other incidents in which U.N.-sponsored schools were shelled.