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US calls Israeli attack on United Nations school in Gaza 'disgraceful'

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WASHINGTON — The United States declared Sunday it is "appalled" by Israel's "disgraceful" attack on a United Nations school sheltering some 3,000 displaced people in southern Gaza.

In language that was rare in its directness and severity, the U.S. denounced the attack earlier Sunday, which killed 10 people. The statement released by the U.S. State Department noted that the school had been designated a protected location.

"The coordinates of the school, like all UN facilities in Gaza, have been repeatedly communicated to the Israel Defense Forces," State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said. "We once again stress that Israel must do more to meet its own standards and avoid civilian casualties."

The State Department referred to the attack on the U.N. school as a "shelling," although U.N. and Palestinian officials in Gaza called it an airstrike.

The U.S. condemnation follows one by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who depicted the attack near the Rafah school as both "a moral outrage and a criminal act."

Earlier, a senior Palestinian diplomat expressed outrage over killings and bloodshed on both sides in Gaza and called for negotiations to end the savage fighting that has gone on for nearly a month. "What we need now is to stop this fighting, to address the tragic humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip," Riyad Mansour, the Palestinian ambassador to the U.N., said on NBC's "Meet the Press."

PHOTO: An Israeli solder looks on the site near the Israeli Gaza border, where a man was injured from a mortar shell fired from the Gaza Strip, Sunday, Aug. 3, 2014. (AP Photo/Tsafrir Abayov)
An Israeli solder looks on the site near the Israeli Gaza border, where a man was injured from a mortar shell fired from the Gaza Strip, Sunday, Aug. 3, 2014. (AP Photo/Tsafrir Abayov)

He said putting the people of Gaza "in a continuous situation of confrontation and fighting" will only lead to more violence, adding, "This is an excellent atmosphere for radicalism."

"But if you give them (Palestinians) hope, you open the borders, you let them go to school, let them look for good jobs, let them look for moderation," Mansour said. "And we will succeed in allowing all those who want to have peace ... to have the upper hand."

Pierre Krahenbuhl, head of the U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees, called the shelter attack a clear violation of international law. "These are premises that are protected, the sanctity of which has to be respected by all parties," he said Sunday on CBS' "Face the Nation."

About 1,800 Palestinians and 60 Israelis have been killed nearly a month into Israel's forceful assault on Hamas in the Gaza Strip.


Online:

State Department release: http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2014/230160.htm

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