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UN urges end of fighting in Gaza

Updated: 2014-07-31 11:16
( Xinhua)

UNITED NATIONS - A top UN official called on Wednesday for the ending of fighting in Gaza after a second UN school was hit by Israeli airstrike that killed at least 16 people earlier in the day.

"Enough is enough ... Stop this horrible fighting and start talking about issues," said UN Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson said on Wednesday.

Eliasson and John Ging, director of operations for the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), met with reporters here hours after several Palestinians were killed and dozens injured in the pre-dawn attack on a girl's elementary school in the northern Gaza Strip town of Jabaliya.

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The strike came the day after Israel ramped up bombardments of the offensive against Hamas and raised the Palestinian death toll to above 1,300 in more than three weeks of fighting.

"Sometimes you run out of words," said Eliasson, describing his thoughts in preparation for beginning the session. "We received with shock and dismay the news of the bombing this (Wednesday) morning of a UN designated shelter in a school, killing at least 16 civilians and several children and injuring more than 100 people."

"They were there under UN protection, under our protection, and after warnings from the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) who had numerous times been informed about the presence of over 3,000 civilians at this location," he said. "The exact location was communicated to the Israeli Defense Forces as late as 20:50, 8:50 pm," (local time) Tuesday.

Initial assessment by the UN Relief Works Agency (UNRWA) in Gaza showed that it was an Israeli artillery (round) that hit the school, the deputy secretary-general said. "An Israeli spokesperson has confirmed that mortar fire had been coming from militants in the vicinity of the school and that Israeli troops had fired back in response."

UNRWA was currently sheltering more than 200,000 displaced Palestinians in Gaza, which was only about 360 square kilometers in size or roughly the size of the city of the metropolitan area of Philadelphia in the US state of Pennsylvania, he said.

Since Israel began military offensive against Hamas on July 8, 5,750 of Palestinian's homes have been destroyed. Meanwhile, more than 240,000 refugees are living in temporary locations, and 204, 000 others in UNRWA schools.

"These locations are not safe," Ging said. "Nowhere is safe: 133 schools have already been hit by shelling or fire from those involved in this conflict."

Anthony Lake, executive director of the UN Children's Agency ( UNICEF) said, "For 23 days, too many children in Gaza have lived with fear and desperation. Water taps have run dry and raw sewage is running in the streets, while health workers try to save lives with little electricity and insufficient medicines."

"What hope is there for these children -- and their societies -- if adults no longer live up to their responsibility to protect them?" he asked. "What are these children learning about how to behave when they are adults?"