The Palestinian Ministry of Health said on Saturday that at least 50 people were killed in the bombing of the al-Fakhoora School, which is run by the UN Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA) in Jabalia refugee camp.
Reporters at the site said dead bodies were everywhere as medical teams were trying to evacuate the wounded.
“People taking shelter at al-Fakhoora school in Jabalia refugee camp, many with medical issues, thought they could find shelter from the violence there. But the Israeli army seems to be sending a message: Flee to the south of the Gaza Strip,” Al Jazeera correspondent Tareq Abou Azzoum, reported.
In the meantime, Tamara Alrifai, a spokesperson for UNRWA, told Al Jazeera that half of the Gaza Strip’s 2.3 million population has been forced on an “exodus” south towards the desert after an Israeli order to evacuate to make room for its ground operations in the north, something that is reminiscent of previous forced displacements.
“Many people who stayed in the north stayed in the UNRWA school because they thought that they would have a bit of safety there, but nowhere is safe in Gaza, not even our schools,” she said.
“Unfortunately, people flee into our buildings with the blue flag looking for protection, but 70 of our buildings have been hit, so we ourselves are not protected.”
UN workers enjoy protection under international humanitarian law.
UNRWA, which stands for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East, was established in 1949 following the mass displacement of Palestinians from their land by Israel during the Nakba, or the catastrophe. UNRWA provides public services such as schools, health care and aid to Palestinian refugees.
However, Israeli leaders, whose forces have been targeting Palestinians in both north and southern Gaza, have been pushing for the relocation of refugees across the border in Egypt’s Sinai Desert, framing it as a humanitarian initiative that would allow the people of Gaza to be safe from the Israeli bombings, shelling and ground forces direct attacks.
Israel launched its relentless attacks on the besieged coastal enclave and cut off water, food, medicine, fuel and power, targeting Gaza’s schools, hospitals, residences, and places of worship, after Palestinian resistance groups launched a surprise attack against the regime on October 7 in response to decades of atrocities.