The UN has now admitted that the school was not fired upon.
Maxwell Gaylord, the UN humanitarian coordinator in Jerusalem, said Monday that the
IDF mortar shells fell in the street near the compound, and not on the compound itself.
Gaylord said that the UN "would like to clarify that the shelling and all of
the fatalities took place outside and not inside the school."
UNRWA, an agency whose sole purpose is to work with Palestinian refugees,
said in response Tuesday that it had maintained from the day of attack that
the wounded were outside of the school compound.
But the latter claim seems to be a new lie, as explained below.
SEVENTEEN hours after the attack on one of his schools killed 40 Palestinians seeking shelter from Israel's war on Hamas, the UN's director of operations in Gaza, John Ging, was certain of at least one thing.
"We have established beyond any doubt that the school was not being used by any militants," Ging told the Herald last night. "They were innocent people."
Speaking from the UN's Relief and Works Agency in Gaza, Ging struggled to contain his anger at the attack that has also left more than 50 people with serious injuries, 10 of whom remain critical.
When the attack came on the Prep C Girls school in the Jabaliya camp at 3.45pm on Tuesday, Gaza time, there were about 350 Palestinians inside using the school as a shelter, Ging said.
"The reason they were in the school is because the Israelis had told them to go there. They were doing exactly as they had been told," he said.
To ensure there was no confusion about the school's location, the UN had given specific GPS co-ordinates to Israeli commanders.
"As you can imagine, this was a very distressing attack. It has killed 40 people, and some of those who were injured may yet die," Ging said. "Now we need to know how this happened. A full, transparent and independent inquiry has to be held to determine exactly how this occurred."
In fact, as Patrick Martin reports in Canada's The Globe and Mail on January 29, 2009, Ging of UNRWA knew all along there was no attack on the school but didn't set the record straight:
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 UN Relief and Works Agency. There was just one problem:
The teacher (who witnessed the shelling and), who refused to give his name because he said UNRWA had told the staff not to talk to the news media, was adamant: "Inside (the compound) there were 12 injured, but there were no dead."
John Ging, UNRWA's operations director in Gaza, acknowledged in an interview this week that all three Israeli mortar shells landed outside the school and that "no one was killed in the school".
"Look at my statements," he said. "I never said anyone was killed in the school. Our officials never made any such allegation."
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.
"I know no one was killed in the school," Ging said.