UNRWA official breaks down after Israel bombs yet another school

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.


  1. busterggi says

    The OT is largely a collection of stories applauding genocide by Hebrews of their neighbors with the promise that more will come in the future by divine decree. The re-creation of the modern state of Israel is fulfilling that prophesy.

  2. says

    I’ve contacted both of my Senators and the president. I’ll message my house of representatives when I get home tonight. Is there anyone else I should consider as well?

  3. Pen says

    They lost it a while ago and now it shows. The only good thing that will ever come out of this is that they’ll be forced to hang their own heads in shame and stop saying nasty things about Germans in general (those that do). And then maybe we can start making some progress on what it is exactly that causes human beings to lose it and give way to factional hatred.

  4. says

    People were told to leave their homes, and they gather in a school. The Israeli Terrorist Force (ITF) probably saw it as an opportunity to save on ammunition, killing many at the same time with fewer rounds.

    The banality of evil is so common amongst the Israeli government and military that they didn’t hesitate to bomb a school with sleeping children. They knew, and they did it intentionally. But you can be sure there will still be blindly loyal apologists excusing this, trying to defend it.

    Part of why there’s a banality if evil is that Israel has been doing this for years, deliberately murdering civilians. The ITF has been able to do it and get away with it for so long, it’s become accepted practice. There have never been any consquences for their war crimes of the past, so “Why would there be any now?” is their mentality.

  5. thebookofdave says

    Operation Protective Edge seems to be characterized by the bombardment of sheltered innocents immediately following announcements of a third party, such as the UN, of the presence of large numbers of noncombatants and their coordinates to Israeli officials. The pattern is so predictable that I’m surprised it hasn’t been used as a reverse psychological ploy to distract fire away from the most vulnerable targets.

  6. Holms says

    I wonder how our War Crimes Cheer Squad will spin this one? Maybe they simply deserve to be culled like an invasive species because OMG ROCKET ATTACKS. It would certainly be in keeping with past characterisations, what with the preposterous claim that the first Arab-Israeli war in 1948 was an Arab invasion (to reclaim lands annexed from their control).

    No doubt, the UN worker here is simply overcome by the magnanimity of Israel’s ‘unimaginable restraint.’

  7. Silentbob says

    @ Holms

    Nah, he’s a hate-filled anti-Semite who sleeps with a copy of Protocols of the Elders of Zion under his pillow (as they all do). Can’t you tell?

  8. Rob Grigjanis says

    It’s somehow comforting to see what I consider an appropriate response to this nightmare.

  9. rq says

    It is, isn’t it? I just hope it spreads further than one letter from the UN.
    I did read about several South American countries recalling their ambassadors from Israel, which isn’t getting a lot of publicity, but that seems like a step in the right direction, too.

    Israel was probably just too distracted by its war effort to take all those messages. You know how it is -- fog of war, telephone rings, no time to take those calls. Can’t be all that important, right?

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