Israel has long accused Palestinian groups of using schools and hospitals as launching or storage areas for weapons. The practice effectively uses patients, children, and others as human shields and increases civilian fatalities when Israel retaliates after rocket attacks. It is obviously a despicable practice that violates basic rules of international law as well as the law of war. On Thursday, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency confirmed this practice when it found 20 rockets at a UN-funded school in Gaza in “the course of the regular inspection of its premises.”
The UN issued a statement that “UNRWA strongly condemns the group or groups responsible for placing the weapons in one of its installations. This is a flagrant violation of the inviolability of its premises under international law.” It added that the callous action “endangered civilians including staff and put at risk UNRWA’s vital mission to assist and protect Palestinian refugees in Gaza.” The UNRWA has been one of the most outspoken critics of Israel’s attacks and its treatment of Palestinians.
The most pressing question is whether the school officials and teacher knew of the use of the school for military purposes. It is hard to hide 20 rockets and they were obviously apparent when the UN inspection occurred.
It was not only an act that endangered these children but it was remarkably stupid. Those responsible have alienated the chief supplier of aid and further alienated the world community at a time when public sentiment was shifting in their favor.