Israel Bombs Gaza School, Killing 33 People

( – Early Thursday morning, an Israeli airstrike on a school sheltering displaced Palestinians in central Gaza resulted in the deaths of at least 33 people, including 12 women and children, according to local health officials. The Israeli military stated that Hamas militants were operating from within the school.

This tragic incident is the latest in a series of mass casualties among Palestinians seeking refuge as Israel intensifies its offensive. Just a day earlier, the Israeli military announced a new ground and air assault in central Gaza, targeting Hamas militants they claim have regrouped in the area. Despite nearly eight months of continuous assault, Hamas remains resilient, prompting repeated invasions by Israeli troops into the Gaza Strip.

Witnesses and hospital officials reported that the predawn strike hit the al-Sardi School, managed by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA). The school was filled with Palestinians fleeing Israeli operations and bombardment in northern Gaza.

Initially, hospital records indicated nine women and 14 children were among the dead. Later, the hospital morgue revised the records to show three women, nine children, and 21 men were killed. The reason for the discrepancy remains unclear. An Associated Press reporter counted the bodies but could not look beneath the shrouds.

Separate airstrikes in central Gaza killed another 15 people, nearly all men.

Ayman Rashed, a displaced man from Gaza City sheltering at the school, described the chaos as missiles struck classrooms on the second and third floors where families were staying. He recounted carrying out five dead bodies, including an elderly man and two children. “It was dark, with no electricity, and we struggled to get out the victims,” Rashed said.

Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari, the Israeli military spokesman, said the strike was “precise,” targeting three classrooms based on intelligence that militants were planning and conducting attacks there. He claimed the military confirmed the presence of around 30 suspected militants and displayed a slide with their names and photos but provided no additional evidence.

Casualties were taken to the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Hospital in nearby Deir al-Balah, already overwhelmed by the influx of injured since the central Gaza incursion began. Videos online showed wounded people being treated on the hospital floor due to overcrowding and electricity shortages. “You can’t walk in the hospital — there’s so many people. Women from the victims’ families are massed in the hallways, crying,” said Omar al-Derawi, a photographer working for the hospital.

The school was located in Nuseirat, a refugee camp dating back to the 1948 Arab-Israeli war. Footage showed bodies wrapped in blankets or plastic bags lined up in the hospital courtyard. Mohammed al-Kareem, a displaced Palestinian, described the heartbreaking scenes of people searching for loved ones among the bodies.

Philippe Lazzarini, UNRWA commissioner-general, stated on X that 6,000 people were sheltering in the school when it was hit without prior warning. He noted that UNRWA could not verify claims that armed groups were inside.

UNRWA schools have been serving as shelters throughout the conflict, which has displaced most of Gaza’s 2.3 million residents. Last week, Israeli strikes near an UNRWA facility in Rafah killed at least 45 people, causing international outrage. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the incident a “tragic mishap,” and the military suggested secondary explosions might have caused the fire, though the exact cause remains undetermined.

Israel’s campaign in Gaza began after Hamas’s attack on October 7, which killed around 1,200 Israelis and took 250 hostages. Gaza’s Health Ministry reports at least 36,000 Palestinians have been killed since, though the figures do not differentiate between fighters and civilians. Israel attributes civilian casualties to Hamas’s strategy of embedding fighters in residential areas.

The United States has supported a phased ceasefire and hostage release plan, but Israel insists on continuing its campaign until Hamas is destroyed. Far-right members of Netanyahu’s government have threatened to collapse the coalition if a ceasefire is agreed upon.

Israeli airstrikes have targeted all parts of Gaza since the conflict began, with massive ground operations devastating major cities like Gaza City and Khan Younis. Troops recently withdrew from the Jabalia camp in northern Gaza after weeks of fighting resulted in the deaths of 360 people, mostly women and children.