Israel strikes another school building as it advances into Gaza

The Israeli army continued its offensive in central Gaza on Friday, saying it had killed dozens of militants, including some who had holed up on the premises of a former United Nations school that had been turned into a shelter in the area.

The army said it targeted Hamas fighters at a school compound in Shati, a coastal neighborhood northwest of central Gaza City. The number of victims was unclear.

“Hamas systematically, intentionally and strategically positions its infrastructure and operates from within civilian areas in full violation of international law and putting the lives of civilians in Gaza at risk,” the Israeli military said in a statement after the attack .

Friday's attack came a day after a strike at a similar school complex near Nuseirat, where displaced civilians had taken refuge. Gaza health authorities said women and children were among the victims of the strike.

Israel on Friday offered a full-throated defense of Thursday's raid, saying its forces had targeted 20 to 30 militants who it said were using three classrooms at the former school as a base.

The attacks on United Nations compounds in central Gaza reflect Israel's laborious efforts to pacify areas where officials had previously said Hamas had been largely suppressed.

The number and identity of those killed Nuseirat remained controversial on Thursday. Different figures were provided by the Gaza Ministry of Health and by officials of the hospital where the victims were taken. And an Israeli military assessment offered a third explanation.

Palestinian officials gave a death toll ranging from 41 to 46. Yasser Khattab, an official who supervises the morgue at the Al Aqsa Martyrs' Hospital in nearby Deir al Balah, said 18 of the victims were children and nine were women.

The Israeli military on Friday released the names of eight more Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad fighters who were reportedly killed in the attack, adding them to the list published Thursday and bringing the total number of suspected militants to 17 so far.

Later Thursday, an Israeli airstrike on Nuseirat municipality killed at least five people, including mayor Iyad al-Maghari. Video shared by Palestinian media showed numerous bodies on the floor of a morgue, including some who appeared to be children.

The death toll from all these attacks could not be independently confirmed.

With 36,000 people killed in Gaza during the war between Israel and Hamas, according to Gaza health officials, the United Nations announced Friday that it would place Israel on a global list of offenders who commit violations harmful to children. Hamas was also on the list.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu condemned the report, saying in a statement that the country's army “is the most moral army in the world, and no delusional decision by the United Nations will change that.”

Israeli troops also continued their offensive on Friday in the southern Gaza city of Rafah, where the army seized much of the area on the border with Egypt. The army said it was carrying out “targeted operations based on intelligence”, without providing further details.

The fighting began as American officials continued to press for a ceasefire. The State Department announced Friday that Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken will travel next week to Egypt, Israel, Jordan and Qatar to push for a deal.

Since fighting began, prompted by Hamas-led attacks on October 7, Hamas and other Palestinian militants in Gaza have used a vast labyrinth of underground tunnels to fight a guerrilla war, ambushing Israeli forces with booby traps. Israeli troops have returned to previously under attack areas such as Bureij in central Gaza, in a bid to quell what the military says is a renewed Hamas insurgency there.

“We are seeing that Hamas still exists, and still has capabilities above and below ground,” Peter Lerner, an Israeli military spokesman, told reporters Thursday, describing continued attacks by “smaller cells” of militants using rocket-propelled grenades. rocket, small arms and booby traps.

On Thursday, Hamas militants emerged from a tunnel a few hundred meters from Israeli territory in an attempt to attack inside the country, the Israeli military said. According to the military, fire from Israeli drones and tanks aimed at the militants, killing three of them. An Israeli soldier was also killed in the firefight.

After Israel's military offensive in Rafah, the number of trucks carrying desperately needed international aid has fallen – despite an increase in commercial trucks – amid a humanitarian crisis that aid workers say remains dire.

The U.S. military said Friday it had reattached a pier designed to funnel humanitarian shipments to the enclave to the Gaza coast. The $230 million floating dock, which American authorities have praised as part of a solution to bring more aid to the hunger-stricken territory, broke apart in stormy seas more than a week ago.

Farnaz Fassihi AND Michael Crowley contributed to the reporting.

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