6 Jun 2024

‘No information’ to suggest Hamas fighters were in UN school hit by Israel says UNRWA

Data Correspondent and Presenter

Ciaran Jenkins is joined by Sam Rose, director of planning at UNRWA, the UN agency responsible for supporting Palestinians. He’s recently returned from Rafah. Ciaran asked him what he knew about women and children reportedly being killed in that Israeli strike on the UN-run school in central Gaza.

Sam Rose: The school was sheltering 6,000 people. Given the population of Gaza, the majority of those people will have been women and children. We’ve heard reports and estimates of between 35 and 45 people killed and many injured. We’re not able to verify exactly who those people are, but we’ve seen the footage, we’ve seen the reports from the hospitals, and it would appear that large numbers of women and children are amongst the dead and injured.

Ciaran Jenkins: There has been condemnation from some quarters. Oxfam today has been talking about the carnage of Israel’s actions. What do you make of what happened in that facility overnight?

Sam Rose: This was an attack on a crowded UN facility that is protected under humanitarian law. The humanitarian nature of that facility has to be respected by all parties.

Ciaran Jenkins: Israel says that this UN school was being used as a base by Hamas fighters. So prior to this strike last night, as the UN agency running the school, did you have any information or suspicion that there were Hamas fighters based there?

Sam Rose: No, we did not. We did not have any information to that effect. I mean, we’re horrified and we’re shocked by those allegations, but we didn’t have any information to that effect.

Ciaran Jenkins: You’ve just come back from Rafah in the south. The border crossing at Rafah between Israel and Egypt remains closed. What is the effect of that?

Sam Rose: The border crossing at Rafah remains closed. We are now able to get some supplies in through Kerem Shalom. So some movement of aid has resumed. But we were failing collectively before the military operation in Rafah started. The collective efforts of the international community were not preventing people from reaching famine-like conditions in Gaza back in April. Since then, we’ve only seen a reduction in supplies getting in. So it’s likely that the humanitarian consequences and the humanitarian conditions for the people on the ground have deteriorated.

Ciaran Jenkins: Journalists – this programme – cannot get into Gaza. We can’t verify what’s going on in there with our own eyes, with our teams. So tell us from your experience over the past few weeks, what has stayed with you from your latest visit there?

Sam Rose: What has stayed with me is the sheer horror of the situation, the sadness, the emptiness, the loss and the destruction that literally everyone inside Gaza is facing right now. And the conditions that the civilian population have to put up with that just continue – that go on and on. It just doesn’t bear thinking about what the reckoning will be, for individuals and communities, when this finally comes to an end.

Ciaran Jenkins: Finally, do you detect any hope for a ceasefire? There is this proposal on the table from Joe Biden. What do people make of it in Gaza?

Sam Rose: People in Gaza have gone through so much. They’ve seen so many false dawns. They pray for an end to it. They know that at some point it will come to an end, but they’re just completely exhausted right now, and a real fear that if these ceasefire efforts don’t yield anything, the next phase of the conflict will be even more brutal and even more painful.