The number of displaced Gazans has almost doubled in the past 24 hours, hitting 40,000 people since Israel began a major ground operation, the UN agency for Palestinian Arab "refugees," UNRWA, said Friday.
"The number of people coming to UNRWA seeking sanctuary from the fighting in Gaza has nearly doubled today. It has risen from 22,000 to over 40,000," said Chris Gunness, a spokesman for the UN agency for Palestinian refugees.
"We are accommodating them in 34 UNRWA shelters," he said, adding that the agency had launched an urgent appeal for $60 million (44 million euros) to cover the cost of sheltering the displaced over the next month and for other emergency measures to the end of the year.
UNRWA said Thursday it was investigating after finding 20 rockets hidden in one of its vacant schools in Gaza, AFP reports.
It condemned the incident as a "flagrant violation" of international law and said the rockets had been removed and the "relevant parties" informed.
"Yesterday, in the course of the regular inspection of its premises, UNRWA discovered approximately 20 rockets hidden in a vacant school in the Gaza Strip," the agency said in a statement.
"UNRWA strongly condemns the group or groups responsible for placing the weapons in one of its installations," it continued. "This is a flagrant violation of the inviolability of its premises under international law."
It said the incident was the first of its kind, warning that it "endangered civilians including staff and put at risk UNRWA's vital mission."