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Wednesday, January 07, 2009

What really happened at the UNRWA school?

Chris Gunness, UNRWA spokesman, said that the agency was "99.9% certain" that no terrorists were on the grounds of the UNRWA school that saw some 30 people die yesterday.

John Ging, director of the UNRWA in Gaza, says that there is no way that terrorists could have been there. How does he know? Because "U.N. staff members and Palestinian families in the school compound in the Jabaliya refugee camp had been screened for weapons."

The AP reported immediately after the explosions:
Two residents of the area who spoke by telephone said they saw a small group of militants firing mortar rounds from a street near the school, the Associated Press reported. They spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisal, the AP said. The residents said the two brothers were known to be low-level Hamas militants. They said a group of militants - one of them said four - were firing mortar shells from near the school.
The IDF says that "The information that we have is that there was the launching of a mortar from the school's yard towards one of our forces. Our forces retaliated but it turned out that the school was booby trapped and as a result of our retaliation, everything flared up. There were a lot of secondary explosions from which probably those people were wounded."

From the pictures of the school that have been published, and from statements, it does not appear that anyone is claiming that mortars were being shot from within the school nor that Israel shot back into the school building. And Ging is clearly lying when he says that no weapons are allowed into UNRWA schools, as the IDF showed video of mortars being shot from that same school in 2007. In addition, in at least one case a UNRWA teacher was also an Islamic Jihad terrorist. And it is hard to take seriously that idea that the UNRWA can stop heavily armed terrorists from doing whatever they want at their schools anyway, especially when the agency will never criticize Hamas; and most of its employees are Palestinian Arabs who know that they would be killed if they do anything against the wishes of Hamas. Beyond that, Hamas has shown that it uses schools to store weapons, as the IDF showed yet again yesterday.

At this time my guess is that the mortars were shot from either very close to the school or within the school compound, Israel automatically returned fire to that same spot, and some of that shrapnel caused secondary explosions from bombs or weapons that were inside the school compound, although I am not sure about the booby traps. The death total seems way too high for tank shells alone. Obviously the residents of Gaza are too afraid to give evidence that would implicate Hamas and similarly photographers are afraid to take pictures that would show any clear terrorist activity in the school or outside it. (Hamas has already shown no compunction about brutally murdering "collaborators" in the fog of war, that are in all likelihood being counted as deaths from the IDF.)

(It is also interesting that while the initial reports said 42-45 dead, the UN later said that it was 30 dead, but today's newspapers report the higher figure as fact. The casualty count from the war is certainly higher than the reality.)