Special report: Palestine-Israel Conflicts
JERUSALEM, Jan. 12 (Xinhua) -- The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) denied Monday a report that an errant mortar shell fired by its troops caused the casualties at a UN school in Gaza Strip.
Forty-six people were killed and some 150 injured last Tuesday when the school, run by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency(UNRWA) in the Jabalia refugee camp in northern Gaza, was stricken by Israeli fire.
Regarding the tragedy, which generated vehement international condemnation, some Israeli officials were quoted as saying in private that one of the three mortar shells the IDF fired at Hamas gunmen at that time missed the target and hit the school instead.
Yet in response to the report, local daily The Jerusalem Post on Monday quoted an IDF officer, Captain Ishai David, as saying that the Israeli army did not accept that the incident happened as a result of errant shelling.
"We are still sticking by our official position that according to our initial inquiry, the whole thing started when terrorists fired mortar shells from the school compound," said David.
"The IDF returned fire to the source, and the unfortunate result was the death of innocent civilians," he added.
The UN agency has insisted that there were no terrorists in the school compound. Its spokesman Christopher Gunness said last week that the Israeli army admitted in private briefings that the militant fire from Jabalia came from outside the school compound, not from inside.
As to the killing of a UN truck driver near the Erez crossing, UNRWA officials said Sunday that it was IDF gunfire that killed the Palestinian worker of the aid group.
"Given the location where the incident took place, the shots could only have come from the IDF," Aidan O'Leary, UNWRA's deputy director in Gaza, said at a press conference.
Yet David denied the accusation, saying that "the initial inquiry indicates that it was not IDF fire that killed him," which mirrors an allegation that he was killed by Hamas snipers targeting the aid workers.