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Egypt condemns Israeli targeting of UNRWA shelter in Gaza

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Israel insists people were warned, asked to evacuate before launching strike

Fifteen people were killed and 200 injured in an Israeli airstrike on a United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) shelter in Beit Hnaoun, in the north of Gaza, an act that Egypt has described as “a flagrant violation of international norms and conventions”.

A spokesman for Egypt’s foreign ministry stressed in a Thursday statement the “need to immediately stop targeting innocent civilians, stop the firing and all acts of violence”.  The spokesman also called for all sides to accept the Egyptian ceasefire initiative, which has previously been accepted by Israel but rejected by Hamas.

The spokesman stressed that the incident only serves to “complicate matters further and deepen the hatred [and] does not pave the way for a peaceful settlement to stop shedding the blood of innocent citizens”.

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said on Thursday that it had “told the Red Cross to evacuate civilians from UNRWA’s shelter in Beit Hanoun between 10am and 2pm. UNRWA & Red Cross got the message”. The decision to target the shelter, where hundreds had taken refuge, was taken because “Hamas continued firing from Beit Hanoun”, said the IDF adding: “The IDF responded by targeting the source of the fire”.

Spokesman for UNRWA Chris Gunness said the UN agency tried to “coordinate with the Israeli Army a window for civilians [to] leave [and] it was never granted”. He added: “Civilians yet again caught between two sides paying an unimaginable price”.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon, who returned to Cairo on Thursday night, condemned the attack stressing that it “underscores the imperative for the killing to stop – and to stop now”.

Ban met with US Secretary of State John Kerry and Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry on Thursday night. Kerry and Ban are scheduled to give a join press conference on Friday afternoon.


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