Last update - 22:35 03/02/2009       
UN backtracks on claim that deadly IDF strike hit Gaza school   
By Amos Harel, Haaretz Correspondent   
Tags: israel news, IDF, gaza, hamas  

United Nations has reversed its stance on one of the most contentious
and bloody incidents of the recent Israel Defense Forces operation in
Gaza, saying that an IDF mortar strike that killed 43 people on January
6 did not hit one of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency schools
after all. 

It seems that the UN has been under pressure to put the record
straight after doubts arose that the school had actually been targeted.
Maxwell Gaylord, the UN humanitarian coordinator in Jerusalem, said
Monday that the IDF mortar shells fell in the street near the compound,
and not on the compound itself. 

Gaylord said that the UN "would like to clarify that the shelling
and all of the fatalities took place outside and not inside the

an agency whose sole purpose is to work with Palestinian refugees, said
in response Tuesday that it had maintained from the day of attack that
the wounded were outside of the school compound. UNRWA said that the
source of the mistake in recent weeks had originated with a separate
branch of the United Nations. 

Senior IDF officials had previously expressed skepticism that the
school had been struck, saying that two mortar shells could not kill 43
people and wound dozens more. 

Questions about the veracity of the claims that the school had been
hit by the IDF were also raised last week by the Canadian newspaper The
Globe and Mail. The newspaper said that a teacher in the UNRWA compound
at the time of the strike "was adamant" that no people had been killed
inside the compound. 

The newspaper quoted the teacher as saying that, "I could see some
of the people had been injured... But when I got outside, it was crazy
hell. There were bodies everywhere, people dead, injured, flesh

The newspaper said that the teacher had been told by the UN not to
speak to the media. "Three of my students were killed," he said. "But
they were all outside."  
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