UNRWA charged that Israel had shelled a school in Beit Hanoun in the north of Gaza, where people had taken shelter. The claim was that 15 people had been killed and over 100 injured. And what took place was labeled a “war crime.”
Robert Turner, Director of UNRWA Operations in Gaza, said that there was no information that there was military activity around the school.
“This was an installation we were managing, that we monitored [to ensure] that our neutrality was maintained.” Hamas? According to Turner, UNRWA had no information of Hamas activity around the school. A statement by the UNRWA Commissioner-General read: “The security situation in the Beit Hanoun area was deteriorating rapidly and over the course of the day UNRWA had been attempting to negotiate with the Israeli Defense Forces a pause in the fighting during which they would guarantee a safe corridor to relocate staff and any displaced persons who chose to evacuate to a more secure location. Approval for that never came to UNRWA. In addition, the school’s coordinates had been formally conveyed to the Israeli authorities on 12 occasions, most recently at 10:56 this morning.” http://www.unrwa.org/newsroom/official-statements/statement-unrwa-commissioner-general-pierre-kr%C3%A4henb%C3%BChl At one point Chris Gunness, UNRWA spokesperson, tweeted that:
“Over the course of the day UNRWA tried 2 coordinate with the Israeli Army a window for civilians 2 leave & it was never granted.”
The direct implication is that people who were sheltered in the school might have gotten out except for Israel’s failure to allow this to happen.
Israel’s response to this: “the Israel Defense Forces told the Red Cross to evacuate civilians from UNRWA’s shelter in Beit Hanoun between the hours of 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. today. UNRWA and the Red Cross received the message. “Hamas prevented civilians from evacuating the area during the window that the IDF gave them.” http://www.idfblog.com/blog/2014/07/24/hamas/
What is more, explained the IDF:
“In recent days, Hamas has fired rockets from an area of Beit Hanoun where an UNRWA shelter is located.
“Today, July 24, Hamas continued firing from Beit Hanoun. The IDF responded by targeting the source of the fire. Also today, several rockets launched from Gaza toward Israel fell short and hit Beit Hanoun.”
According to the final IDF investigation:
“…one of the mortars fell in the school’s courtyard while it was empty of people.” “In light of the investigation’s findings, we have rejected claims of casualties in the school grounds as they were presented by various elements immediately after the incident took place,” http://www.haaretz.com/news/diplomacy-defense/1.607384 Were people killed at the Beit Hanoun school at all? It remains unclear.
Israel has emphasized repeatedly that the IDF does not directly attack civilian installations.
As to the fallacious charge of “war crimes”:
“The law is clear that military targets may be attacked, even if civilian casualties are anticipated, so long as the importance of the military target is proportional to the anticipated civilian casualties and that reasonable efforts are made, consistent with military needs, to minimize civilian casualties. This sensible rule of proportionality was devised in the context of ordinary military encounters, in which the enemy is not using their own civilians as human shields. If the enemy is deliberately using civilians as human shields, the rules of proportionality should allow for more anticipated civilian casualties, especially if the target is of great military significance.
“…To be sure, the law of proportionality also required Israel to take reasonable steps, consistent with its military needs, to minimize Palestinian civilian casualties, even when attacking legitimate military targets. The key word here is ‘reasonable,’ and Israel has gone well beyond what other countries have done in analogous situations. They issued warnings, by leaflet, phone and other means-warnings that Hamas countermanded in its efforts to keep civilians in harm’s way and continue to have them serve as human shields to protect their terror tunnels. Israel did not issue warnings when it needed to act quickly to save its own soldiers from ambushes and other serious risks. Israel thus tried to minimize Palestinian civilian casualties, while Hamas tried to increase both Palestinian and Israeli civilian casualties.”