Israel has denied allegations by the United Nations saying that a centre of the world body sheltering displaced Palestinians was pounded by Israeli tanks causing ‘mass casualties’, news agency Reuters reports. Israel refuted the charges and hinted that the shelling could have been launched by Hamas. The attack on the UN vocational centre sheltering 30,000 displaced people in Gaza’s Khan Younis also drew condemnation from the US.
“Mass casualties have taken place, some buildings are ablaze and there are reports of deaths. Many people are trying to flee the scene, but unable to do so,” U.N. Humanitarian Coordinator for the Palestinian Territory James McGoldrick said. Thomas White, director of Gaza affairs for the U.N. agency UNRWA, said the centre’s building was hit by two rounds of tank attacks two tank rounds hit one of the centre’s buildings housing 800 displaced people. At least nine people were killed and 75 were wounded in the attack, he said. Agency’s head Philippe Lazzarini said the death toll was probably higher.
“The compound is a clearly marked U.N. facility and its coordinates were shared with Israeli Authorities as we do for all our facilities. Once again a blatant disregard of basic rules of war,” Lazzarini said.
Meanwhile. US State Department spokesperson Vedant Patel said, “We deplore today’s attack on the U.N.’s Khan Younis training centre.”
“Civilians must be protected, and the protected nature of U.N. facilities must be respected, and humanitarian workers must be protected so that they can continue providing civilians with the life-saving humanitarian assistance that they need.”
Following the US criticism, Israel’s military released a statement saying Hamas was using the wider Khan Younis area their base and acknowledged that fighting was taking place near large numbers of civilians.
In another statement it said on further examination of its operational systems an attack on the centre by Israeli forces was ruled out and further review was under way to examine the Hamas role.