Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Gaza Civilian Death Toll Rises Sharply

The Guardian, January 6, 2009 - The civilian death toll in Gaza increased dramatically today, with at least 12 members of an extended family, including seven young children, killed in an air strike on their house in Gaza City while the bombing of two United Nations schools being used as shelters took 13 lives.

The bodies of the Daya family were pulled from the rubble of a house in Gaza City's Zeitoun area after it was hit by two Israeli missiles. The dead included seven children aged from one to 12 years, three women and two men. Nine other people were believed to be trapped in the rubble.

Israeli missiles also struck a UN school in Jabaliya refugee camp, which was being used as a shelter by people forced from their homes by the fighting, according to news agency reports. Ten of the refugees were killed.

Hours earlier, three young men – all cousins – died when Israeli forces bombed Asma elementary school in Gaza City. They were among about 400 people who sought shelter there after fleeing their homes in Beit Lahia, in northern Gaza.

The UN, which said the school was clearly marked, said it was "strongly protesting these killings to the Israeli authorities and is calling for an immediate and impartial investigation".

"Where it is found that international humanitarian law has been violated, those responsible must be held to account. Under international law, installations such as schools, health centres and UN facilities should be protected from attack. Well before the current fighting, the UN had given to the Israeli authorities the GPS coordinates of all its installations in Gaza, including Asma elementary school."

The killings take the total toll in Palestinian lives since the Israelis launched their assault on the Gaza strip 11 days ago to more than 600. Doctors at Gaza hospitals say that at least one-fifth of the victims are children and that a large number of women are among the dead.

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