GAZA, July 24 (Xinhua) -- Four Israeli army tanks shells fired on Thursday at a school, run by the United Nations for Relief and Work Agency (UNRWA) in the northern Gaza Strip town of Beit Hanoun, killing 16 and wounded dozens of civilians who took refuge to the school, medics and witnesses said.
Ashraf al-Qedra, spokesman of the health ministry in Gaza told reporters that the death toll in the school's attack is expected to grow, adding that "there are so many casualties who are still in critical conditions. It was a real massacre committed against women and children who were in the school."
Witnesses said that the Israeli army tanks, stationed north of Beit Hanoun, fired four shells directly at the school, where dozens of civilians were sitting into the classroom and children were playing in the yard, adding that "the yard was full of blood and flesh."
Mohamed Kafarna, mayor of the town, said that the targeted school was hosting 1,200 homeless residents of the town who fled their homes and escaped from the tanks shelling, adding that while they were in the school, the army asked the people to evacuate.
"When the people were preparing to leave the school and go to another safe place, the tanks began to fire the shells and hit the school with four tanks shells that killed and wounded dozens of women and children," said Kafarna with anger, adding that "UNRWA and the Red Cross were supposed to protect the people."
Survivals, who had just arrived at hospitals, said they were stunned by the shells while they were picking up their stuffs from the classrooms and were preparing to leave the school after they received an Israeli army warning.
Fawzi Barhoum, Hamas spokesman in Gaza, said in a press statement that targeting an UNRWA school and "committing an awful massacre against children by the Israeli occupation is a big war crime. Israel will pay a very heavy price for committing all these crimes against women and children."
Yasser Abed Rabbo, the official in Palestine Liberation Organization said in a statement that targeting the school in Beit Hanoun and killing the civilians who took refuge to it "is a big shame for humanity and for this fascist Israeli government."
Adnan Abu Hasna, spokesman of UNRWA in Gaza condemned in a press statement the Israeli attack on the school. He said " bringing the civilians to the school was coordinated in-advance between UNRWA and the Israeli army, adding that "this is the fourth time that the Israeli army targets UNRWA's schools."
Meanwhile, the Health Ministry in Gaza said in a press statement that the ongoing Israeli offensive on the Gaza Strip, which started in July 8, had already killed around 780 Palestinians, two third of them were civilians, including women and children.