Hamas fired mortar shells from a United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) school in Jabalya before the IDF retaliated with aerial bombing that killed Hamas terrorists as well as children, according to an initial IDF investigation.
"Amongst the dead at the Jabalya school were Hamas terror operatives and a mortar battery cell who were firing on IDF forces in the area," the IDF said. "We face a very delicate situation where the Hamas is using the citizens of Gaza as a protective vest," according to IDF spokesman Brig. General Avi Benayahu.
The military said that it appeared "a number of mortar shells were fired at IDF forces from within the Jabalya school. In response to the incoming enemy fire, the forces returned mortar fire to the source." The IDF added that most probably a secondary explosion from explosives within the building added to the destruction.
"This is not the first time that Hamas has fired mortars and rockets from schools, in such a way deliberately using civilians as human shields in their acts of terror against Israel," according to the military. "This was already proven several months ago by footage from an unmanned plane depicting rockets and mortars being fired from the yard of an UNRWA school."
A number of mortar shells were fired at IDF forces from within the Jabalya school.
Israel faces a new flood of protests over the bombing. The IDF's initial conclusions were released four hours after international media blamed Israel and showed the bodies of children buried under rubble.
The U.N. used the school to shelter children, and before the IDF was able to report its initial report, Hamas used the incident to appeal to the U.N. for a ceasefire.
CNN quoted UNRWA director John Ging, as saying that "everybody here is terrorized by the situation [and] "there is no place that you can be safe if you're a civilian here."
Despite the IDF clarification, foreign media played down the Hamas' use of the school and emphasized the IDF shelling. Reuters reported, "The Israeli military said its forces fired mortar rounds on a school in the Gaza Strip where about 40 Palestinians were reported killed on Tuesday, but said troops were responding to mortar fire from the U.N. premises."