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United Nations investigators found that Israeli missiles killed 30 to 40 Palestinians in the immediate vicinity of the Jabalia school in Gaza Strip, where hundreds of others had taken refuge during the Israel-Hamas conflict, according to a report released Tuesday.
The attack against the Jabalia boy school, also known as the al-Fakoura school, which was run by the UN refugee agency in the Middle East (UNWRA), was among the six attacks against UN compounds cited in the report by a three-member investigative board.
‘The board found that the undisputed cause of the injuries and the deaths to persons in the immediate vicinity of the school was the firing of 122 mm mortar rounds by the IDF, which landed in the area outside the school and at the compound of a family home nearby,’ the report said.
The report said the IDF had been given GPS coordinates of the Jabalia school, which was among the 91 shelters that had been communicated to the IDF before it launched Operation Cast Lead against Hamas militias in Gaza. The Jabalia school was attacked on January 6.
The report said the board also found ‘undisputed cause’ in attacks carried out by the IDF against five other targets. The field office of UNWRA was hit by artillery shells, injuring some employees.
The Israel-Hamas conflict from December to January ended with a series of cease-fires.
A summary of the 184-page report was provided to the UN Security Council with a preface by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, who said Israel has agreed to meet with UN officials to discuss the implementation of recommendations made by the three-member investigative board.
The report has triggered serious objections from the Israeli government, which considered it tendentious and biased. Israel has also accused the board of ignoring facts presented to it.
The report said, ‘In six of the nine incidents, board concluded that the death, injuries and damage involved were caused by military actions, using munitions launched or dropped from the air or fired from the ground, by the Israeli Defense Forces.’
The board said it found ‘undisputed cause’ that Israeli military activities had caused damage and deaths to the Asma school, the Jabalia school, the Bureij health center, a field office compound, the Beit Lahia school and a UN compound. The schools and field office were run by the UN refugee agency in the Middle East.
Ban said at a news conference at UN headquarters in New York that the three-member board, headed by UN veteran troubleshooter Ian Martin, was an independent team having no judiciary or court of law obligations.
He said the main intent of the investigation and the report was to clarify the incidents that took place during the conflict.
He acknowledged Israeli objections to the report.
‘In conclusion, I would like to highlight my deep and abiding concern for the civilians of Gaza Strip and Israel, and their right to live in peace and security, free from the threat of violence and terrorism,’ Ban said in prefacing the report.
‘The plight of the Palestinian civilians in Gaza is reflected in the report,’ he said. ‘We should keep in mind that Israeli civilians in southern Israel faced and continue to face indiscriminate rockets of Hamas and other militant groups.’