The State Department on Sunday condemned an Israeli airstrike just outside a United Nation’s school and shelter in Gaza as “disgraceful,” its strongest language to date in response to the military offensive.
The missile strike killed 10 Palestinian civilians in a zone operated by the U.N. to shield noncombatants from the surrounding violence.
“The United States is appalled by today’s disgraceful shelling outside an UNRWA [United Nations Relief and Works Agency] school in Rafah sheltering some 3,000 displaced persons, in which at least 10 more Palestinian civilians were tragically killed,” said State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki.
Psaki reminded Israeli military commanders that the coordinates of all U.N. facilities in Gaza have been repeatedly communicated to the Israeli Defense Forces.
“We once again stress that Israel must do more to meet its own standards and avoid civilian casualties. U.N. facilities, especially those sheltering civilians, must be protected, and must not be used as bases from which to launch attacks,” she said.
Psaki warned that the suspicion that militants are operating nearby a shelter does not justify strikes “that put at risk the lives of so many innocent civilians.”
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Sunday called the attack a “moral outrage and criminal act.”
“United Nations shelters must be safe zones not combat zones. The Israel Defense Forces have been repeatedly informed of the location of these sites,” he said in a statement.
Valerie Jarrett, one of President Obama’s closest advisers, on Sunday said the administration “can’t condone the killing of all of these innocent children.”
She said that is why the president backed the 72-hour cease-fire that was broken after only a little more than an hour, when three Israeli soldiers were killed in surprise raid. The Israeli military announced the death of the third casualty, 2nd Lieutenant Hadar Goldin, Sunday morning, ending speculation that he had been captured.
Haaretz reported after the attack that Israeli officials said they would not negotiate another cease-fire.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a press conference Saturday vowed to press on with the offensive, despite mounting international criticism.
"We promise the citizens of Israel to bring back calm and order, and we will continue to operate until this goal is reached no matter how much time it takes," he said.
Three U.N. shelters have been struck since the military offensive started earlier last month.
More than 1,700 Palestinians have died in Gaza and at least 64 Israeli soldiers have died along with a few Israeli civilians.
— Meghashyam Mali contributed.