Chris Gunness works for the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) in Gaza and is someone I’ve shown before commenting on the attacks by Israel on civilians in Gaza. In an interview with Al Jazeera, after describing the latest atrocity that killed 19 people in an attack on yet another UN school, he breaks down right after the interviewer thanks him for his time.
UNRWA people work in troubled areas all the time and have seen horrible things. I think it is the deliberate targeting by Israel of places where people are seeking shelter from the bombings that Gunness finds impossible to deal with.
The UNRWA Commissioner-General issued a strong statement condemning the killings, saying (my emphasis):
Last night, children were killed as they slept next to their parents on the floor of a classroom in a UN designated shelter in Gaza. Children killed in their sleep; this is an affront to all of us, a source of universal shame. Today the world stands disgraced.
We have visited the site and gathered evidence. We have analysed fragments, examined craters and other damage. Our initial assessment is that it was Israeli artillery that hit our school, in which 3,300 people had sought refuge. We believe there were at least three impacts. It is too early to give a confirmed official death toll. But we know that there were multiple civilian deaths and injuries including of women and children and the UNRWA guard who was trying to protect the site. These are people who were instructed to leave their homes by the Israeli army.
The precise location of the Jabalia Elementary Girls School and the fact that it was housing thousands of internally displaced people was communicated to the Israeli army seventeen times, to ensure its protection; the last being at ten to nine last night, just hours before the fatal shelling.
I condemn in the strongest possible terms this serious violation of international law by Israeli forces.
This is the sixth time that one of our schools has been struck. Our staff, the very people leading the humanitarian response are being killed. Our shelters are overflowing. Tens of thousands may soon be stranded in the streets of Gaza, without food, water and shelter if attacks on these areas continue.
We have moved beyond the realm of humanitarian action alone. We are in the realm of accountability. I call on the international community to take deliberate international political action to put an immediate end to the continuing carnage.
So even the head of a major UN agency no longer buys the argument that Israel is trying to avoid killing civilians, and is accusing it of war crimes. It strains credulity that all these attacks on schools and hospitals where civilians are gathered for shelter could be accidental. What seems to be happening is that Israel issues warnings for people to leave their homes and then bombs the shelters where they flee for safety.