Israeli airstrike kills at least 27 people at school complex near Khan Younis, Gaza Health Ministry says

An Israeli airstrike hit a school complex housing displaced people in southern Gaza and killed at least 27 people on Tuesday, local health officials said, in the fourth such attack in as many days.

Israeli forces targeted the gate of a school housing displaced people in the town of Abasan, east of Khan Younis, according to the Palestinian Ministry of Health in Gaza, which called the attack “a heinous massacre against displaced citizens.”

The strike injured another 53 people, the ministry added, including some who are in a “serious and critical” condition. The death toll is expected to increase, as casualties are still being transferred to the nearby Nasser Hospital.

The Israeli military said it conducted a strike “near” Al-Awda school on Tuesday, and that it had targeted “a terrorist” who participated in the October 7 attacks into southern Israel.

“Earlier this evening, using precise munition, the IAF struck a terrorist from Hamas’ military wing who took part, among other terrorist activities, in the October 7 brutal massacre carried out by the Hamas terrorist organization in southern Israel,” the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said in a statement.

“The IDF is looking into the reports that civilians were harmed, adjacent to the Al-Awda School in the south of Khan Younis, which is located near the location of the strike. The incident is under review,” the IDF added.

CNN cannot verify the IDF’s statements.

Hamas also condemned it in a statement, saying the strike on the school represents “a continuation of the genocidal war and horrific massacres against our defenseless people.”

Hamas called for people around the world to “immediately take to the streets and squares in massive demonstrations and rallies” in support of people in Gaza, as well as called for people in the West Bank to support Gaza and clash with Israeli forces.

Israel launched its military offensive in Gaza on October 7 after the militant group Hamas, which governs Gaza, killed at least 1,200 people and abducted more than 250 others.

Israeli attacks in Gaza have since killed 38,295 Palestinians and injured another 88,241 people, according to the Ministry of Health there.

‘Why don’t we have the right to live?’

CNN footage from the aftermath of the attack shows bewildered Palestinian children clambering over slabs of broken concrete, with old clothes strewn across blown-out buildings.

One survivor told CNN she and other Palestinians were tucked into a local marketplace when “a missile landed on us.”

“We are dying here… We saw the scene of 30 martyrs piled on top of each other,” said Umm Mahmoud. “Our hearts break with sadness… They (Israeli forces) want to terrorize us.”

Elsewhere, in Nasser Hospital, relatives of the deceased could be seen wailing in horror, their cheeks red and flushed, in CNN video. One woman, whose nephews Ahmad and Omar were killed in the attack, said she had been displaced for nine months.

“Why don’t we have the right to live? Why do our young people die like this?” the aunt told CNN. “We have been here homeless for nine months and no one cares about us… We want to live in peace.”

Another Palestinian, Jadallah Abu Jamee, said her nine-year-old granddaughter, Rimas Abu Jamee, and cousin were killed in the strike. She told CNN that her daughter, a university student, was in surgery for an amputated hand and a head injury.

“A nine-year-old girl, what did she do to deserve this?” said Jamee.

Relatives of a Palestinian killed by an Israeli strike on a school near Khan Younis, in southern Gaza, mourn on July 10. - Hatem Khaled/Reuters
Relatives of a Palestinian killed by an Israeli strike on a school near Khan Younis, in southern Gaza, mourn on July 10. - Hatem Khaled/Reuters

The Government Media Office in Gaza condemned the attack, calling it a “massacre against civilians” by Israel. The government statement also called on the international community, the United Nations, and international NGOs to put pressure on Israel and the United States to stop the war in Gaza.

The commissioner-general of the UN’s agency for Palestinian refugees (UNWRA), Philippe Lazzarini, condemned the attack, warning “the blatant disregard of international humanitarian law cannot become the new normal.”

“Schools have gone from safe places of education and hope for children to overcrowded shelters and often ending up a place of death and misery,” he posted on X. “Nine months in, under our watch, the relentless, endless killings, destruction and despair continue. Gaza is no place for children.”

A paramedic carries a wounded child to the emergency ward in Khan Younis, in the southern Gaza Strip, on July 9, 2024. - Bashar Taleb/AFP/Getty Images
A paramedic carries a wounded child to the emergency ward in Khan Younis, in the southern Gaza Strip, on July 9, 2024. - Bashar Taleb/AFP/Getty Images

This comes days after an Israeli attack killed at least 16 Palestinians and injured dozens more at a school run by the United Nations’ agency for Palestinian refugees in central Gaza, the Palestinian Ministry of Health said on Saturday. UNRWA’s Al-Jaouni school was sheltering displaced people in al-Nuseirat camp, according to the ministry.

The Israeli military said in a statement Saturday that militants were operating in structures in the school area. CNN cannot independently verify the Israeli military’s claim.

On July 1, the IDF issued instructions for hundreds of thousands of people in Khan Younis in the south, Shujaya in central Gaza and the several neighborhoods of Gaza City to leave.

The effect has been to increase the total number of displaced people in Gaza, from 1.7 million in May to an estimated 1.9 million now, according to the UN. Approximately nine out of 10 people in Gaza are now estimated to be internally displaced, many of them multiple times.

The IDF has said that evacuation orders are necessary so that civilians don’t get caught up in its renewed operations in areas where Hamas is seeking to re-establish a presence. The IDF insists it goes to great lengths to avoid civilian casualties.

Human rights bodies have repeatedly criticized Israeli relocation orders. In May, the Norwegian Refugee Council warned the absence of safety assurances and proper accommodation for displaced Palestinians is a form of “forcible transfer, amounting to a serious violation of international law.”

Hamas has said the evacuations threaten to return negotiations for a ceasefire and hostage deal to “point zero.”

Humanitarian agencies say the evacuation orders have had a major impact on the few operational hospitals in Gaza. Besides the obvious dangers in moving from one part of Gaza to another, the constant displacements make it harder for aid agencies to target the provision of food.

This is a developing story and will be updated.

CNN’s Ibrahim Dahman contributed reporting.

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