Gazans Weep and Pray Over Loved Ones Killed in U.N. School Strike - The World News

Gazans Weep and Pray Over Loved Ones Killed in U.N. School Strike

A mother begs her dead child to take her hand. A young man, wrapped in bandages, lies weeping next to the corpse of another man. A little boy, his face coated in dust and blood, stares vacantly from a hospital floor as people shout frantically around him.

The scenes at the doorstep of the last functioning hospital in central Gaza, posted on social media by a Palestinian videographer after an Israeli strike hit a United Nations school complex, have yet again highlighted the awful dilemma that Palestinian civilians keep facing through eight months of war: The places where they seek refuge often end up being attacked.

The videos were posted to Instagram on Thursday after the strike. The New York Times verified that they were shot at Al-Aqsa Martyrs Hospital in the central Gaza city of Deir al Balah.

In the early morning hours of Thursday, Israel launched a strike on a school complex housing thousands of displaced Palestinians who had sought shelter there. Dozens were killed. Israel says its attack targeted and killed Hamas operatives using the school building as a base. Palestinian medical workers say it killed civilians.

Of 40 dead bodies from the attack registered by Gaza’s Health Ministry, 14 were children and nine were women, the ministry said.

Al-Aqsa hospital had warned for days that it was overwhelmed by an influx of dead and wounded since Israel launched an operation to root out Hamas militants in the area.

On Thursday, crowds gathered at the hospital to weep and pray over the dead. A local Palestinian videographer posted a video that shows a young woman with the body of her small son.

“Open your hands,” she pleads with the dead boy as others around her try to wrap his body. “Answer me, you’ve always answered me, you never liked to upset me.”

The number of people in central Gaza, particularly in Deir al Balah, had swelled in recent weeks as Gazans fled an Israeli offensive in the southern city of Rafah. Before Israel launched the operation in Rafah last month, that city had been a main port of refuge for civilians, urged by Israel to head there to avoid the fighting elsewhere. At one point, according to U.N. agencies, Rafah hosted around half of the population of Gaza.

Displaced Gazans often try to set up tents or find apartments near U.N. facilities or medical units in the hope that their humanitarian purpose, and the fact that aid workers often report their coordinates to Israeli forces, will make them less of a target. But Israel has emphasized throughout the war that it will strike wherever it believes Hamas is operating.

Just last week, two areas near the fighting in Rafah where civilians had hoped to find safety were hit by attacks. An Israeli strike near a tent camp in Rafah killed 45 people, prompting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to say that civilian deaths in the episode were a “tragic accident.” A few days later, a strike the area of Al-Mawasi, on the outskirts of Rafah, killing 21 people; Israel denied responsibility for that strike.

Khalil Farid, 57, a teacher in Nuseirat, said his neighborhood had already been struck so many times that “there are no windows in our house left to be smashed.” But he and his family have given up on trying to flee.

“At home, you know who is sharing the place with you, who your neighbors are, and it makes you feel safer somehow,” he said. “But deep inside, I know nowhere is safe.”

Nader Ibrahim, Christiaan Triebert and Rawan Sheikh Ahmad contributed reporting.

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