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Israeli airstrikes have hit at least 3 UN schools sheltering people in Gaza in 6 days


Israeli airstrikes have hit at least three U.N. schools sheltering displaced people in Gaza in the past six days. A fourth suffered damage after an Israeli airstrike nearby. NPR's Kat Lonsdorf reports from Tel Aviv, with NPR's Anas Baba in Gaza. And a warning - this report contains graphic details of the scene of an attack.

KAT LONSDORF, BYLINE: The most recent strike was Saturday evening around dinnertime on a U.N. school in Nuseirat. It's an area packed with people after recent evacuation orders. At least 16 people were killed and more than 50 wounded, according to Gaza's Ministry of Health. NPR's producer in Gaza, Anas Baba, went to the scene shortly after the strike. It was full of families. Abu Nasser was sitting near his tent outside the school when the strike hit.

ABU NASSER: (Speaking Arabic).

LONSDORF: He says, "this is the fourth time a strike has hit the school." He and his family have survived all four times.

NASSER: (Speaking Arabic).

LONSDORF: "We run from one place that is bombed to another place that is bombed," he says. "We bury the dead, and then we come back."


LONSDORF: Inside the school, it is the chaos of sudden mourning. Twenty-three-year-old Nedal Al Kafarneh lives in the school, and after the explosion, he says he ran to try to help. He knew kids had been playing in the area.

NEDAL AL KAFARNEH: (Speaking Arabic).

LONSDORF: He described a horrific scene - body parts and blood everywhere. He says he collected the parts of one child's body and carried them out so the child could be buried whole. The Israeli military says the school had been used by Hamas as an operational facility, and that, quote, "numerous steps were taken in order to mitigate the risk of harming civilians."

Israel issued a similar statement a few days earlier when it struck two other U.N. schools in Gaza City in the north, also full of displaced people. The U.N. says that nearly 200 of its structures in Gaza have been hit since the war began last October, and more than 500 displaced people have been killed as a result. Striking U.N. facilities is prohibited under international law. But Israel argues that Hamas' use of those facilities also violates international law and makes them a legitimate target. Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands of Palestinians are caught in the middle, trying desperately to find shelter. Last week, an Israeli airstrike hit next to a U.N. school in the city of Khan Younis. Ahmad Akram Zaqzuq was staying in the schoolyard with his children.

AHMAD AKRAM ZAQZUQ: (Speaking Arabic).

LONSDORF: He says, "there was no warning." The blast knocked him over and destroyed their tent.

ZAQZUQ: (Speaking Arabic).

LONSDORF: "We don't know where to go," he says. "We thought the U.N. schools would protect us, but they can't." Kat Lonsdorf, NPR News, Tel Aviv, reporting with NPR's Anas Baba in Gaza.

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