11 UN staff, 30 pupils at UN schools, killed in Gaza, says spokesperson

Guterres calls for civilians to be protected, international humanitarian law upheld, as Israel targets Hamas in Palestinian enclave

Smoke rises following Israeli airstrikes in Gaza City, Wednesday, Oct. 11, 2023. (AP/Adel Hana)
Smoke rises following Israeli airstrikes in Gaza City, Wednesday, Oct. 11, 2023. (AP/Adel Hana)

At least 11 UN staff and personnel, as well as 30 students at UN schools, have been killed in the Gaza Strip since Hamas terrorists launched their devastating shock attack on Israel, a spokesman said Wednesday.

“11 UNRWA staff and personnel have been killed since Saturday,” UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric told reporters, referring to the UN agency for Palestinian refugees which also runs schools in Gaza.

“30 UNRWA students have also been killed and another eight have been injured,” she added.

The dead included five teachers, a gynecologist, an engineer, a counselor and three support staff, UNRWA’s deputy director Jennifer Austin said in a statement.

“UNRWA mourns this loss and is grieving with our colleagues and the families,” she said. “UN staff and civilians must be protected at all times during conflict. We call for the fighting to come to an end to spare more civilian lives lost.”

More than 250,000 people in Gaza have fled their homes, the UN said earlier. Most of them have crowded into schools run by the UN agency for Palestinian refugees.

A Palestinian walks through the destruction by Israeli bombing in Gaza City on Wednesday, Oct. 11, 2023. (AP/Fatima Shbair)

Israel and Hamas are five days into a war following the Palestinian terror group’s assault on Israeli communities in an early morning raid on Saturday. Over 1,200 people — most of them civilians — were killed, according to the latest toll, more than 3,000 injured, and an estimated 100-150 were captured and taken to the Gaza Strip. Their fate is not yet known.

Reeling from the mass infiltration and massacres of men, women, children, elderly people and hundreds of young party-goers at a music festival, Israel has been striking in the Gaza Strip on an “unprecedented scale” on Wednesday according to a senior air force officer as efforts focus on targeting Hamas terror officials.

Brig. Gen. Omer Tishler, the Israel Air Force’s chief of staff, said Wednesday that the IAF was not targeting civilians in the Gaza Strip, but that the strikes were no longer “surgical.”

“We do not act like the other side, we do not attack the civilian population. Behind every attack there is a target,” he said. “We act precisely and professionally but not surgically. I’m not talking about single, tens, or hundreds [of strikes]. We are talking about thousands of munitions.”

Israeli soldiers carry a body of a person killed in Hamas attack in kibbutz Kfar Aza on Tuesday, Oct. 10, 2023. (AP/Erik Marmor)

Israel has cut off supplies of food, fuel, electricity and medicine into Gaza, and the sole remaining access from Egypt was shut down Tuesday after airstrikes hit near the border crossing.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called on Wednesday for civilians to be protected, and international humanitarian law to be upheld, as Israel on Wednesday kept up its bombardment of Hamas targets in Gaza.

“About 220,000 Palestinians are now sheltering in 92 UNRWA facilities across Gaza,” he said, adding that UN premises, hospitals, clinics and schools must “never be targeted.”

Hamas has in the past been found to use UNWRA facilities as weapons depots and launching pads for fighting against Israel.

“UN staff are working around the clock to support the people of Gaza and I deeply regret that some of my colleagues have already paid the ultimate price,” he said.

And he called for “crucial” aid — including fuel, food and water — to be allowed into the Gaza Strip. “We need rapid and unimpeded humanitarian access now.”

On Wednesday, White House National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby said the US was “actively discussing” with Israel and Egypt efforts to ensure safe passage from Gaza for civilians.

“We support safe passage for civilians. Civilians are not to blame for what Hamas has done. They didn’t do anything wrong, and we continue to support safe passage,” Kirby said during a press briefing.

Palestinians, including some journalists, carry the bodies of two Palestinian reporters, Mohammed Soboh and Said al-Tawil, who were killed by an Israeli airstrike in Gaza City, Tuesday, Oct. 10, 2023. (AP/Fatima Shbair)

He acknowledged that the countries have not yet secured said safe passage but are still working to secure such a humanitarian corridor.

“Civilians are protected under the laws of armed conflict, and they should be given every opportunity to avoid the fighting,” Kirby said.

Conditions in the coastal enclave, home to 2.3 million people, were deteriorating quickly Wednesday as entire city blocks were reduced to rubble and residents searched for places to go.

Gaza’s power authority said its only power plant has since run out of fuel, leaving the territory without electricity, which leaves only private generators to power homes, hospitals and other facilities.

Gaza’s Civil Defense Department warned that there were too few rescue teams to search for survivors buried under rubble and that teams were unable to reach many places because of damage to roads and constant bombardments.

“There is no safe place in Gaza right now,” said journalist Hasan Jabar after three Palestinian journalists were killed in the bombardment of a downtown neighborhood home to government ministries, media offices and hotels. “I am genuinely afraid for my life.”

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