Classroom massacre: Survivors say Israel executed innocents in Gaza school

At least seven bodies of displaced Palestinians, including women, children and babies ‘shot point-blank’ were recovered at the Shadia Abu Ghazala School.

Palestinians react at the damages at a UN-run school sheltering displaced people, following an Israeli strike, in Jabalia on Thursday
Dozens of displaced Palestinians have been killed in Israeli attacks on schools in Gaza [Fadi Whadi/Reuters]

Jabalia, Gaza Strip – Bodies were piled up instead of books in the classroom. Bullet holes pockmarked some walls. Others were charred, apparently by fire.

Displaced families were sheltering in the United Nations-run Shadia Abu Ghazala School west of the Jabalia refugee camp in northern Gaza when Israeli soldiers entered the building. What followed was a massacre, according to witnesses and families of those who were killed in the early December assault.

Videos and images obtained by Al Jazeera showed bodies discovered on December 13 piled up inside the school. Since then, survivors of the attack, and family members of the victims who have returned to the school to look for their loved ones, have come forward to recount the horror of those moments.

Witnesses said several people, including women, children and babies, were killed execution-style by Israeli forces while they were sheltering inside the school.

A father of one of the victims said he was asleep with his wife and six children when Israeli soldiers “suddenly stormed” the school.

“They entered the classroom we were in and fired directly at those present without uttering a word,” he said.

“They prevented me from speaking, asking questions, or commenting on anything, and every time I tried to talk to them, they silenced me,” he recalled.

The man believes he was ordered to then leave the school because of his “old age”.

“They expelled about 20 people from the school, stripped them of their clothes, and interrogated them,” he said.

‘Shot at directly’

The footage shows traces of blood and remnants of the victims’ belongings that were with them before they were killed, while bullets had pierced the classroom walls where bodies were found.

Saeed Jumaa’s sister was among those killed along with her husband and children.

Jumaa said he was able to return to check on his relatives in the school several days later when Israeli forces left, but was “shocked to find that everyone in it had been executed in a brutal manner”.

“In the room were my sister’s husband and next to him, their sons Maysara and Ahmed. My sister in the corner was hugging her remaining children,” Jumaa said.

Israeli forces killed them by “firing at them point-blank”, he said. Their bodies were “swollen and filled with worms”, he added.

According to Jumaa, Israeli soldiers had “written something in Hebrew” on his nephew’s face.

“We did not understand the meaning, and we were in a hurry to bury them days later as their bodies had decomposed,” he said.

Another witness who found the bodies in the classrooms said there were no signs of a missile strike or any shells inside the classrooms, adding that the victims were “shot at directly” by ground troops.

In total, at least seven bodies were found inside three different classrooms. Four were in one room, two in the second room and one was in the third.

Dozens of displaced Palestinians have been killed in Israeli attacks on schools in Gaza, including at least three in Jabalia.

At least 50 people were killed in an attack on Al Fakhoura school last month. An air attack on Abu Hussein School just days later killed at least 30 people.

Nearly 1.9 million people of Gaza’s total 2.3 million population have been displaced across the Strip since the start of the war, according to the United Nations.

UN-run schools have become overcrowded shelters for thousands of displaced Palestinians. Many had believed that the UN designation of these buildings would keep them safe from the constant Israeli bombardment.

Israel’s relentless attacks have killed more than 20,000 people in Gaza since October 7, according to Palestinian health officials. Most of those killed are children and women.

Source: Al Jazeera