Now that much of the world believes Israel attacked a UN school for absolutely no reason whatsoever (to collect children’s blood for Passover, perhaps) the United Nations has admitted that, um, Israel didn’t actually attack that school:
Most people remember the headlines: Massacre Of Innocents As UN School Is Shelled; Israeli Strike Kills Dozens At UN School.
They heralded the tragic news of Jan. 6, when mortar shells fired by advancing Israeli forces killed 43 civilians in the Jabalya refugee camp in the Gaza Strip. The victims, it was reported, had taken refuge inside the Ibn Rushd Preparatory School for Boys, a facility run by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency.
The news shocked the world and was compared to the 1996 Israeli attack on a UN compound in Qana, Lebanon, in which more than 100 people seeking refuge were killed. It was certain to hasten the end of Israel’s attack on Gaza, and would undoubtedly lead the list of allegations of war crimes committed by Israel.
There was just one problem: The story, as etched in people’s minds, was not quite accurate.
Physical evidence and interviews with several eyewitnesses, including a teacher who was in the schoolyard at the time of the shelling, make it clear: While a few people were injured from shrapnel landing inside the white-and-blue-walled UNRWA compound, no one in the compound was killed. The 43 people who died in the incident were all outside, on the street, where all three mortar shells landed.
Stories of one or more shells landing inside the schoolyard were inaccurate.
While the killing of 43 civilians on the street may itself be grounds for investigation, it falls short of the act of shooting into a schoolyard crowded with refuge-seekers.
A scrupulously unbiased UNWRA official blames Israel, of course, for any misunderstandings:
[John Ging, UNRWA’s operations director in Gaza] blames the Israelis for the confusion over where the victims were killed. “They even came out with a video that purported to show gunmen in the schoolyard. But we had seen it before,” he said, “in 2007.” [The IDF admitted, from the start, that the video was from 2007 – DP]
The Israelis are the ones, he said, who got everyone thinking the deaths occurred inside the school.
“Look at my statements,” he said. “I never said anyone was killed in the school. Our officials never made any such allegation.”
Speaking from Shifa Hospital in Gaza City as the bodies were being brought in that night, an emotional Mr. Ging did say: “Those in the school were all families seeking refuge. … There’s nowhere safe in Gaza.”
And in its daily bulletin, the World Health Organization reported: “On 6 January, 42 people were killed following an attack on a UNRWA school …”
The UN’s Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs got the location right, for a short while. Its daily bulletin cited “early reports” that “three artillery shells landed outside the UNRWA Jabalia Prep. C Girls School …” However, its more comprehensive weekly report, published three days later, stated that “Israeli shelling directly hit two UNRWA schools …” including the one at issue.
Such official wording helps explain the widespread news reports of the deaths in the school, but not why the UN agencies allowed the misconception to linger.
“I know no one was killed in the school,” Mr. Ging said. “But 41 innocent people were killed in the street outside the school. Many of those people had taken refuge in the school and wandered out onto the street.
“The state of Israel still has to answer for that. What did they know and what care did they take?”
There’s a movement to have Israel expelled from the United Nations. The real question is, why would Israel want to remain a member?