The New York Times 2024-07-11 00:09:56

Middle East Crisis: Deadly Israeli Strike Was 4th in Recent Days to Hit School Buildings in Gaza, U.N. Says

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The strike killed at least 27 people and wounded dozens, Gazan health authorities said.

It was a moment of respite and levity in Gaza: Boys played soccer in the courtyard of a school building as a crowd looked on.

The moment did not last.

Video shared by Al Jazeera and verified by The New York Times recorded the instant an Israeli airstrike detonated outside the school-turned-shelter on Tuesday night, killing at least 27 Palestinians, according to Gazan authorities.

In the video, shot at the Al Awda School on the outskirts of Khan Younis, the ball is in midair when a large explosion is heard and the camera shakes. A man yells, “Run away, run away, Al Awda has been targeted!”

The person shooting the video runs to the entrance of the school, and the camera pans across a scene of devastation. Shredded bodies are on the ground amid debris, and there is a cacophony of screams. “Oh God,” someone yells.

The Israeli military said that the strike targeted a Hamas member who took part in the Oct. 7 attacks on Israel that ignited the war. It did not release details on the identity of the Hamas member or whether the person had been killed. The military said it was “looking into reports that civilians were harmed.”

Iyad Qadeh, who was sitting outside his home near the entrance of the school at the time of the strike, said it had been calm and there were not even Israeli surveillance drones in the sky, as there often is above Gaza creating a nearly non-stop buzzing.

Suddenly, a warplane flew overhead and fired a missile toward a group of young men sitting in an internet café, he said.

“After that, it was screams and body parts everywhere,” he said. “Everyone started running searching for their children or family members.”

The strike was the fourth in four days that hit or damaged a school building in Gaza, Philippe Lazzarini, commissioner-general of UNRWA, the U.N. agency that helps Palestinians, wrote on social media Wednesday.

Since Israel began its punishing military offensive in Gaza more than nine months ago, two-thirds of U.N.-run school facilities in the territory have been hit, Mr. Lazzarini wrote. “Schools have gone from safe places of education & hope for children to overcrowded shelters and often ending up a place of death & misery,” he said.

Those shelters have become critical for Palestinians in Gaza since Israeli bombardment and ground fighting have forced much of the territory’s 2.2 million residents to flee their homes. The Israeli military has claimed that militants are using such shelters and other civilian buildings to hide themselves and their activities.

Ghazi Hamad, a senior Hamas official, has said that the group tries to keep Palestinian civilians out of harm’s way.

Most of those injured or killed in the strike on Tuesday were taken to Nasser Hospital in Khan Younis in ambulances, private vehicles and donkey carts. Dr. Mohammed Saqer, director general of nursing at Nasser, said in a phone interview on Wednesday that 56 people had been wounded, most of them were children and women. “And unfortunately nearly 10 cases of amputation among them; hands and feet completely blown off.”

The state of the bodies brought to Nasser made it difficult to determine the number and identities of the dead, he said.

The influx of traumatic injuries came at a time when the few still-functioning hospitals in the Gaza Strip are struggling to keep running amid Israeli strikes and raids and a lack of medicine, medical equipment and reliable power. “Many of our medical staff have been detained, many have been killed and many have had to leave Gaza,” Dr. Saqer said.

There is a shortage, too, of hospital beds, and most of the airstrike victims were treated on the floors of wards or in the hallways, he said.

A video shot by the Reuters news agency at the site of the strike showed the fragment of a weapon. Two weapons experts — Trevor Ball, a former U.S. Army explosive ordnance disposal technician, and Patrick Senft, a weapons expert at the consulting firm Armament Research Services — identified the fragment as a part of a small-diameter bomb, also known as a GBU-39.

The precision-guided bomb, which is U.S.-made, weighs about 250 pounds, and is increasingly the weapon of choice for the Israeli military. Two GBU-39s were used in a deadly strike on a tent camp in Rafah on May 26.

In Gaza, such bombs “are often used to target specific floors in buildings, penetrating through the roof before detonating,” Mr. Ball said.

Although smaller in explosive power than the 2,000-pound bombs that have been used elsewhere in Gaza, the bombs “can still cause significant injury and death, especially when used in areas where there is little to no protection for people from blast and fragmentation effects, such as a street, or area with just tents,” he said.

Malachy Browne, Sanjana Varghese and Ameera Harouda contributed reporting.

Key Developments

Israeli officials expected in Qatar for cease-fire talks, and other news.

  • A delegation of senior Israeli officials was expected in Qatar on Wednesday for further negotiations on a cease-fire and hostage release deal as mediators try to narrow wide gaps between Israel and Hamas. The delegation includes David Barnea, the head of the Mossad intelligence agency, and Ronen Bar, the head of Israel’s Shin Bet internal security service, according to Majed al-Ansari, the spokesman for Qatar’s Foreign Ministry, and an Israeli official familiar with the matter. The Israeli security chiefs were also expected to meet with William J. Burns, the C.I.A. director, and with the Qatari prime minister, Mohammed bin Abdulrahman bin Jassim Al Thani, they said. Mr. al-Ansari described the talks as “progressing positively” in recent weeks but added, “We are by no means out of the woods.”

  • The top White House official for Middle East affairs was in Israel on Wednesday, where he met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Yoav Gallant, the defense minister. In a short statement, Mr. Netanyahu’s office said he and the official, Brett McGurk, discussed cease-fire negotiations, during which the Israeli leader said he was committed to the process “as long as Israel’s red lines are preserved.” Mr. Netanyahu has long insisted that the war must continue until Israel has destroyed Hamas’s military and governing abilities.

  • An apparent Israeli drone strike in Syria prompted Hezbollah to respond with rocket fire on Tuesday into the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, an attack that killed two people. Hezbollah, the Lebanese militant group, said it had targeted an Israeli military base in response to what it called an “assassination” in Syria earlier in the day. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based war monitor, reported on Tuesday that two Hezbollah members had been killed in an Israeli drone strike on their vehicle close to the Lebanese border. Hezbollah did not say whether anyone had been killed in its strike, and Israel did not claim responsibility. The Israeli military has ramped up airstrikes in Syria, often targeting Hezbollah and other Iran-backed groups.

  • Israel’s defense minister, Yoav Gallant, approved a plan on Tuesday to start drafting ultra-Orthodox Jewish men into the military over the next month after a Supreme Court ruling on June 25 found that there was no legal basis to give them an exemption. The Defense Ministry said that Mr. Gallant had approved orders for the screening and evaluation of ultra-Orthodox conscripts. The Supreme Court decision pit secular Israelis against the ultra-Orthodox, who say their religious study is as essential and protective as military service, and exposed cracks in the coalition government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, which relies on two ultra-Orthodox parties.

Israel tells civilians to leave Gaza City, saying it will remain a ‘dangerous combat zone.’

The Israeli military called on Palestinians in Gaza City to move south into central Gaza on Wednesday through four “safe corridors,” indicating that its ground operations against what it has described as a renewed Hamas insurgency could escalate after more than nine months of war.

“Gaza City will remain a dangerous combat zone,” the Israeli military said in a statement published on social media.

Israel has already issued warnings for Palestinians to leave specific parts of Gaza City and it was not clear if its latest statement amounted to an expansion of those calls. But the notice raised new fears among residents, many of whom have been displaced multiple times.

An Israeli military spokesman did not respond to a request for comment on whether the military was evacuating the entire city. It said in its statement that Palestinians who left Gaza City through the approved routes would get out “quickly and without inspection.”

Israeli troops have re-entered Gaza City in recent days, in the latest instance of Israeli forces returning to fight in places they had secured earlier and then withdrew. The Israeli military has repeatedly returned to areas across the Gaza Strip in an attempt to suppress Hamas fighters, who have fought a dogged guerrilla war. Analysts have said Israel’s unwillingness to install an alternative administration in Gaza has created a power vacuum, allowing Hamas to regroup.

In January, the Israeli military dialed back the intensity of its military campaign in Gaza City and the rest of the north. Since then, Israeli forces have carried out a series of targeted raids in the area, and in March its troops raided Al-Shifa hospital for a second time, killing nearly 200 people it called “terrorists” and leaving devastation behind after extended gun battles with Palestinian militants.

It is not clear how many Hamas fighters remain in Gaza City. Israeli forces launched an operation in the Shajaiye neighborhood late last month, and the fighting has since expanded to encompass other parts of the city: Tel al-Hawa, where Israeli forces stormed a United Nations compound that the military said had taken over by militants, as well as the neighborhoods of Al-Daraj and Tuffah.

In statements on social media, Hamas has said over the past few days that its forces were fighting Israeli troops in Shajaiye and Tel al-Hawa. In Shajaiye alone, Israel claims its troops have eliminated “more than 150 terrorists” over the past week and have destroyed six underground tunnels.

Hamas has used urban areas in Gaza to conceal its operations, running tunnels under neighborhoods and holding hostages in city centers. The group’s members, who are from Gaza, have long lived among the civilian population.

Ghazi Hamad, a senior Hamas official, has said that the group tries to keep Palestinian civilians out of harm’s way, but Israeli operations in Gaza have left little room to maneuver.

Israel first ordered hundreds of thousands of Gazans in the northern part of the enclave to move south in mid-October, just days after the Hamas-led attack that killed 1,200 in Israel and saw 250 taken hostage. Hundreds of thousands remained, however, and others joined them after a weeklong truce in November allowed some to return to their homes in the north.

In May, an estimated 200,000 people were still in northern Gaza, according to UNRWA, the United Nations agency for Palestinians. But the new wave of Israeli military operations has forced tens of thousands from their homes, leaving the current tally unclear.

Many have been already been displaced multiple times, seeking shelter in schools and relatives’ homes, only to be forced to flee the fighting yet again.

“People continue to flee and be on the run in search for safety that they never find,” said Juliette Touma, an UNRWA spokeswoman, on Wednesday. “Gaza has become an exodus on repeat.”

A Biden Confidant Emerges as a Crucial Mideast Diplomat

A few weeks before Hamas attacked Israel on Oct. 7, a senior White House official visited eastern Lebanon for a sightseeing trip that doubled as a dramatic political statement.

The official, Amos Hochstein, one of President Biden’s most trusted national security advisers, toured the ancient ruins of Baalbek in an area well known as a stronghold of Hezbollah, a U.S.-designated terrorist group sponsored by Iran.

Wearing white pants and a golf shirt, and with no security entourage, Mr. Hochstein marveled at the artifacts and snapped photos of the onetime Roman city’s crumbling stone walls and columns. Keeping watch from a distance were several muscular men in black T-shirts — presumed Hezbollah militiamen.

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Defeated by A.I., a Legend in the Board Game Go Warns: Get Ready for What’s Next

Lee Saedol was the finest Go player of his generation when he suffered a decisive loss, defeated not by a human opponent but by artificial intelligence.

Mr. Lee was beaten by AlphaGo, an A.I. computer program developed by Google’s DeepMind unit. The stunning upset, in 2016, made headlines around the world and looked like a clear sign that artificial intelligence was entering a new, profoundly unsettling era.

By besting Mr. Lee, an 18-time world champion revered for his intuitive and creative style of play, AlphaGo had solved one of computer science’s greatest challenges: teaching itself the abstract strategy needed to win at Go, widely considered the world’s most complex board game.

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Forces on Both Left and Right Battle for Europe’s Political Soul

Primed to celebrate victory but left explaining why his party finished third, the leader of France’s hard-right National Rally blamed Sunday’s surprise election result on the “caricature” of his party as extremist. That “disinformation,” he said, handed victory to “formations of the extreme left.”

The speech to glum supporters on election night by Jordan Bardella, leader of the nationalist party formerly known as the National Front, captured a Europe-wide trend: intense political polarization in which each side denounces the other as “extremist.”

Europe is far from what the British historian Eric Hobsbawm termed the “age of extremes” in the 20th century, when the continent succumbed to the twin extremist ideologies of fascism and communism. There are no violent street battles in Berlin, Paris or Vienna as there were before and sometimes after World War II between rival camps, or urban terror campaigns like those in the 1970s and ’80s by the would-be left-wing revolutionaries of Germany’s Red Army Faction and France’s Direct Action.

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Berlin Honors Earliest Settlers, Whose Bones Shared Their Secrets

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From under a parking lot in the center of Berlin, a team of archaeologists unearthed ancient human skeletons of nearly 4,000 forgotten dead from a bygone church cemetery paved over by a former Communist regime.

That was nearly two decades ago. In that time, scientists plumbed information from inside bones — some older than 1160 — and in between ancient teeth. They made startling discoveries, including that the city was inhabited nearly a century earlier than believed.

But bones hold only so many secrets. With much of the research on these earliest Berliners complete, the remains of 100 medieval and early modern babies, children and adults have now been returned to the heart of the city. They will rest in state in a museum, Petri Berlin, at the same place where they had been ignominiously blacktopped over.

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Rwanda Says It Doesn’t Have to Repay U.K. for Scrapped Migration Plan

Rwanda does not have to repay the hundreds of millions of pounds it received from Britain as part of a contentious policy aimed at sending migrants on a one-way flight to the Central African nation, two senior Rwandan government officials have said.

As part of the deal, Britain was set to give Rwanda as much as about half a billion pounds in development funding in exchange for taking in the migrants. Britain’s independent public spending watchdog said in early March that the country had already paid Rwanda £220 million, about $280 million, even though no asylum seekers had been deported to the African nation.

Britain’s new prime minister, Keir Starmer, scrapped the plan after taking over as the country’s leader last week. The initiative had been devised by Britain’s previous government under the Conservative Party in an effort to deter unauthorized migrants from crossing the English Channel to Britain in unsafe boats.

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