An Israeli strike on a school housing Palestinians displaced by the war killed at least 25 people in the southern Gaza Strip's Khan Younis on Tuesday, the Hamas Health Ministry said.
Dozens of wounded, as well as bodies pulled from the rubble of the Ma'an school, a neighborhood of Khan Younis, were taken to the Nasser Hospital in this southern town of the small coastal territory, which has been targeted for several days by the Israeli army.
Mohammed Salou said he lost his sister in the strike. "An hour ago, my cousin called me and told me to come because my sister's body was lying in a schoolyard and we couldn't get it back," he told AFP. At school, he said he saw "the remains of people in the school," but said he thought "it wasn't the school itself that was targeted, but rather the area around it." He explained that he had transported his sister's body to the hospital himself.
"We took refuge in the school and they continued to target us"
Many Palestinians have sought refuge in schools or hospitals since the start of Israeli bombardment of the Gaza Strip in retaliation for an unprecedented Hamas attack on Israel on 7 October.
The Israeli military has repeatedly claimed that Hamas is using civilians as "human shields" and that fighters from the Islamist movement, which has ruled Gaza since 2007, are hiding among the displaced, including in schools and hospitals.
Since the beginning of the conflict between Israel and Hamas, both types of buildings, or their immediate surroundings, have been struck in the Gaza Strip. "We took refuge in the school and they continued to target us," said Etraa al-Jerjaoui, a woman who left her home for fear of airstrikes and lost a relative in the bombing of the school.
80% of the population of the Gaza Strip has had to leave their homes since October 7
On Sunday, the Israeli military released a map dividing the Gaza Strip into numbered "blocks," whose residents are ordered to evacuate urgently when a strike is imminent. According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Aid (OCHA), the area designated for "immediate evacuation" on Sunday represented 20% of Khan Younis and was home to about 117,000 people, half of whom were displaced.
OCHA adds that about 1.8 million people, or 80 percent of the population of the Gaza Strip, have been forced to leave their homes since the start of hostilities unleashed on October 7 by the Hamas attack, which killed 1,200 people according to the Israeli authorities. Israel's military response has since killed more than 16,200 people in the Gaza Strip, the majority of them civilians, according to the Hamas government. Intense shelling, followed by ground operations launched on 27 October, pushed many of the inhabitants of the northern part of this overcrowded territory southwards.
After a slight respite during a seven-day truce, Gazans are now trapped in a shrinking perimeter, with nowhere else to go, with access to Egypt closed to them and Israel imposing a "full siege."