Cameras on Wednesday captured a spokesman for the United Nations mission devoted to assisting Palestinian refugees breaking down in tears over the latest artillery fire against a U.N.-run school killed at least twenty civilians.
United Nations Relief Works Agency (UNRWA) spokesman Chris Gunness has been a go-to source for information on what’s happening on the ground in the Gaza Strip for the past three weeks, as first airstrikes, then Israeli ground forces, have waged a war. The Israeli government has defended its actions as protecting Israeli citizens, focusing its assault on Hamas — which the United States and many other governments rank as a terrorist organization — and the militants allied with them. But in the course of the latest incursion, the dead have been almost entirely on the Palestinian side of the conflict, with the vast majority of them being civilians.
Gunness, in a video aired on Al Jazeera’s flagship Arabic network, can be seen giving an interview on the latest instance of a UNRWA school being damaged during the fighting before being unable to continue speaking. “The rights of Palestinians, even their children, are wholesale denied, and it’s appalling,” he manages to get out. A voice on the other side of the camera can be heard speaking to him, to which Gunness responds “my pleasure.” He was unable to speak more after that.
Children have been a significant percentage of those killed during the latest war. Seven of them died when a shell hit a playground. Eight were killed in a refugee camp as their parents went to celebrate the end of Ramadan. Four died in front of a hotel room full of reporters as they played on a beach. According to the United Nations’ best numbers, even before today, 243 of those killed in the Gaza Strip — out of at least 827 civilians, 74 percent of the casualties — during this latest conflict were children. On the Israeli side, 53 soldiers have been killed and two civilians.
The shelling of the school in Jabaliya on Wednesday will surely only raise the number higher. Earlier today, several shells hit the UNRWA facility hosting around 3,300 Palestinians who had been urged to flee their homes ahead of the Israeli operation. “One hit the street in front of the entrance, according to several witnesses,” the New York Times reported. “Two others hit classrooms where people were sleeping.”