Israeli air strike near Gaza school kills 30

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An Israeli air strike near a school in the southern Gaza Strip killed about 30 people late on Tuesday, mostly civilians sheltering at the facility, according to authorities in the Hamas-controlled enclave. Dozens more were injured.

The Israeli military confirmed that it had targeted a Hamas militant “adjacent” to the al-Awda school east of the city of Khan Younis, and said it was “looking into the reports that civilians were harmed”.

“The incident is under review,” the Israeli military added, emphasising that the target of the strike was a Hamas operative who had taken part in the group’s October 7 cross-border attack from Gaza that sparked the war, now entering its 10th month.

Video footage from the scene taken by Palestinian civilians showed a football game in the schoolyard interrupted by a loud boom, and onlookers rushing to the gates to find bodies and injured people strewn on the ground.

The air strike came as Israeli forces continued ground operations in other parts of the territory, including a renewed offensive in several neighbourhoods of Gaza City and the district of Shejaiya in the enclave’s north, as well as the southern city of Rafah bordering Egypt.

The Israeli military said on Wednesday that Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad operatives had been using the Gaza City headquarters of the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA, as a base from which to attack its troops. After providing for the safe evacuation of civilians, a “targeted raid” had been launched on the facility, the military added.

Philippe Lazzarini, the head of UNRWA, has said that all sides — Israeli armed forces, Hamas and other Palestinian groups — use UNRWA facilities in the fighting. He said two-thirds of UNRWA schools in Gaza had been targeted and damaged since the start of the war, writing on X on Wednesday: “4 schools hit in the last 4 days.”

“Schools have gone from safe places of education [and] hope for children to overcrowded shelters and often ending up a place of death [and] misery,” he added.

Israeli officials have maintained that Hamas fighters are present at UNRWA schools and facilities, taking cover behind displaced civilians, and that across Gaza the militant group systematically uses such civilian infrastructure for military purposes.

Meanwhile, tensions escalated between Israel and the Hizbollah militant movement in Lebanon on Tuesday, after two Israeli civilians were killed on the Golan Heights when a rocket struck their car. The rocket fire was part of a barrage of about 40 projectiles launched by the Iran-backed group in retaliation for an alleged Israeli air strike earlier in the day in Syria that killed a senior Hizbollah operative.

Yasser Qarnabash, believed to be a former bodyguard to Hizbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah, was travelling on the Beirut to Damascus highway when his vehicle was struck.

In response to the killing of the Israeli civilians, the Israeli military said it had targeted Hizbollah air defence systems early on Wednesday deep inside Lebanon, in the area of Janat in the Bekaa Valley.

Israel and Hizbollah have been exchanging near-daily fire since the eruption of the conflict in Gaza. While still limited, the clashes have displaced about 200,000 people in northern Israel and southern Lebanon, leading to concerns about further escalation and the risk of a full-on war between the two sides. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has vowed to return northern Israeli residents to their homes, either through US-sponsored diplomatic talks or via “other means”.

Hizbollah, for its part, has committed to continue firing at Israel so long as there is fighting in Gaza.

High-level international talks were set to resume on Wednesday in Doha over a potential ceasefire deal in Gaza that would secure the release of the remaining Israeli hostages seized by Hamas on October 7.

CIA chief Bill Burns and David Barnea, head of Israel’s Mossad, were expected to meet Qatari and Egyptian mediators in a bid to pursue negotiations with Hamas that have been stalled for months. A US official last week expressed optimism about the chances for finalising a deal, saying there now existed a “significant opening” to do so.

However, Netanyahu stressed over the weekend that there were “still gaps between the sides”, and on Sunday re-emphasised that he would not be willing to end the war as part of the deal “until all of the objectives of the war have been achieved”.

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