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Updated: Sun, 03 Aug 2014 12:14:51 GMT | By The Associated Press, cbc.ca

Gaza official: Strike near UN school kills 10



A Palestinian carries a wounded boy following what witnesses said was an Israeli air strike at a United Nations-run school, where displaced Palestinians were taking refuge. At least 10 people were killed and about 30 others wounded in the reported attack in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip. Ibraheem Abu Mustafa/Reuters

A Palestinian carries a wounded boy following what witnesses said was an Israeli air strike at a United Nations-run school, where displaced Palestinians were taking refuge. At least 10 people were killed and about 30 others wounded in the reported attack in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip. Ibraheem Abu Mustafa/Reuters

A Gaza health official says 10 people have been killed by a strike near a United Nations school in the embattled coastal territory.

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Ashraf al-Kidra says another 35 were wounded after the hit near a boys' school in the southern town of Rafah that is sheltering people displaced by the 27-day conflict between Israel and Hamas.

Witnesses said the attack happened while people were waiting in line for food supplies. It was not immediately clear whether the strike was the result of Israeli or Palestinian fire.

Robert Turner, the director of operations for the UN Palestinian refugee agency in Gaza, said preliminary findings indicated the blast was the result of an Israeli airstrike near the school, which had been providing shelter for some 3,000 people. He said at least one UN staffer appeared to be dead.

UN staffer possibly among casualties

"We don't have confirmed details yet but the initial report says that there was some kind of airstrike in a street outside one of our shelters," Turner said.

Witnesses said the attack happened while people were waiting in line for food supplies. The Israeli military had no immediate comment.

In a chaotic scene inside the compound of the UN school, several bodies, among them children, were strewn across the ground in puddles of blood. Bloody footprints stained the ground where people had rushed the wounded into ambulances.

"Our trust and our fate is only in the hands of God!" one woman cried.

Some of the wounded, among them children with bloody head bandages, were transported to the Kuwaiti hospital in Rafah and others were treated in what seemed to be a makeshift clinic underneath a tent.

'Traumatized' population

Several dead bodies, wrapped in white cloth, were lined up on the floor.

The Israeli military had no immediate comment and the UN said it was not immediately clear where the strike originated.

Chris Gunness, spokesperson for the United Nations Relief Works Agency in Rafah, told CBC News on Sunday that 3,000 "displaced people" were registered in the area at the time.

"The sense of insecurity is profound and visceral because they know as they wait in their UN shelters, in these UN classrooms, that they may take direct hits because that's what has happened in previous occasions," he said, adding the incident has further "traumatized" the population of Gaza, more than half of whom are children.

"There's nowhere safe in Gaza. And that's the tragedy," he said.

Scaling back troops

CBC Middle East correspondent Sasa Petricic said the school was in a particular area that has housed "some of the most intense shelling there has been" in the southern Rafah area. It was the same area where the Israeli military says Hamas killed 23-year-old Israeli soldier Hadar Goldin in am ambush on Friday.

This has not been the first time that a school run by the UN meant for refugees has been hit. Last week, Israeli shelling struck the Jebaliya school in northern Gaza, killing 15 people there.

At least six UN facilities, including schools sheltering the displaced, have been struck by Israeli fire since the conflict began, drawing international condemnation. In each case Israel has said it was responding to militants launching rockets or other attacks from nearby.

Petricic said the reports of the deaths at the school come amid a "shift in operations" and an apparent withdrawal of some Israeli ground troops out of Gaza itself. He said troops were pulling back the border area between Israel and Gaza due to the successful destruction of tunnel that Israel says are used by Hamas militants to launch attacks against Israel.

Television images showed several Israeli tanks and other vehicles leaving Gaza. In an address late Saturday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu suggested troops would reassess operations after completing the demolition of Hamas military tunnels under the border. Security officials said the tunnel mission was winding down.

At the same time, Netanyahu warned the territory's Hamas rulers that they would pay an "intolerable price" if militants continued to fire rockets at Israel and that all options remain on the table.

In nearly four weeks of fighting, more than 1,700 Palestinians, mainly civilians, have been killed as well as nearly 70 Israelis, almost all soldiers.

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