Israel faced with international criticism after UN school strike
By Michael Mainville, AFP
August 5, 2014, 12:00 am TWN
PARIS--Israel faced growing international condemnation of its actions in Gaza on Monday after a strike near a U.N. school sheltering civilians left 10 people dead and sparked widespread outrage.
As Israel's operation in the besieged territory entered its 28th day, the international community appeared to be losing patience with a confrontation the Palestinians say has left more than 1,800 dead in Gaza.
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius led the charge, issuing one of the most strongly worded condemnations yet from a Western official.
“How many more deaths will it take to stop ... the carnage in Gaza?” Fabius said in a statement.
“Israel's right to security is total, but this right does not justify the killing of children and the slaughter of civilians,” Fabius said.
“A political solution is essential ... and should in my opinion be imposed by the international community,” he said.
Fabius's statement prompted some to praise Western officials for at last taking a tougher line with Israel.
“Finally! This is very, very good. The systematic targeting of civilians and schools must be denounced,” said Yves Aubin de la Messuziere, a retired French diplomat and expert on the Middle East.
“We should be brave enough to point the finger of blame, of course at Hamas but also at Israel,” he said.
'Very serious' Attack
The United Nations condemned Sunday's strike at the school, where around 3,000 homeless Palestinians had been sheltering, with Secretary General Ban Ki-moon calling the attack “a moral outrage and a criminal act.”
State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said Washington was also “appalled,” demanding a “full and prompt” investigation into the strike — the third time in 10 days a U.N. school had been hit in the fighting.
The Israeli army acknowledged targeting three Islamic Jihad militants on a motorbike in the “vicinity of an UNRWA school,” saying it was investigating.
Israel declared a seven-hour unilateral truce on Monday, after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said its forces did not intentionally hit civilians and apologized for any harm done to them.
But outrage continued to mount.
Spain roundly criticized the strike, with the foreign ministry in a statement calling it a “very serious” attack.
“Spain reiterates its urgent call for strict respect of International Humanitarian Law and in particular the obligation to avoid hurting the civilian population as well as to respect the inviolability of U.N. sites,” it added.
“Israel's armed forces should intensify their efforts to avoid the loss of innocent lives.”
British Prime Minister David Cameron said the United Nations was “right” to condemn the shelling, though he declined to say whether it breached international law.