On Wednesday, a crowded U.N. school sheltering displaced Gazans due to fighting was hit with Israeli Tank shells killing 15 and wounding 90 after tearing through the walls of two classrooms, a U.N. aid agency spokesman and a health official said, according to the Associated Press article Shelling of UN school kills 15 as Gaza war rages. In addition, 27 Palestinians were killed elsewhere in the territory Wednesday as hope for a ceasefire dims. The strike happened as Israel conducted its heaviest air and artillery assault in the more than three week long war with Hamas. In Jebaliya, the shells hit the U.N. school before dawn according to Adnan Abu Hasna, a spokesman for the U.N. Relief and Works Agency. The agency is sheltering more than 200,00 people displaced by fighting at dozens of these schools across the strip. He said: “We were scared to death. After 4:30 a.m., tanks started firing more. Three explosions shook the school. One classroom collapsed over the head of the people who were inside.” Four of the dead were killed outside the school compound, two in their home and two in the street after pre-dawn praters, their relatives said. Abu Hasna said the international community must step in: “It’s the responsibility of the world to tell us what we shall do with more than 200,000 people who are inside our schools, thinking that the U.N. flag will protect them. This incident today proves that no place is safe in Gaza.” Ashraf al-Kidra, a Gaza health official, said in all 42 Palestinians were killed by airstrikes and tank shelling in different areas of Gaza Wednesday. The total now stands at 1,269 Palestinians killed since July 8 and 7,100 Palestinians wounded, al-Kidra reports, while Israel has lost 53 soldier and three civilians. Gaza militants have fired 2,600 rockets toward Israel the past three weeks and the Israeli military has hit targets linked to militants, about 4,100 targets in Gaza over 23 days, according to the Israeli military. On Wednesday, aircraft dropped leaflets with contact phone number and email over Gaza City’s Rimal neighborhood warning resident to stay away from Hamas militants and report possible rocket launches. The leaflets said: “The Israeli Defense Forces are going into a new phase in the coming operation and does not want to harm civilians. The army is warning residents in the areas where the operation will take place that for your safety, you have to keep away from terrorists and the locations from which they operate.” Karin Laub and Peter Enav report, 15 killed at Gaza UN school; Israel holds fire, the mortar shells fired at the school by the soldiers was in response to mortar shells fired near the school according to the Israeli military. Later Wednesday, the Israeli military declared a four hour humanitarian ceasefire in parts of Gaza beginning at 3pm Hams had no immediate comment. In a statement, the military said: “In response, soldiers fired toward the origins of fire. And we’re still reviewing the incident.”
While the battle ground continues to run with the blood of many innocent people caught in the crossfire, the tide of public opinion may be turning against Israel around the world with Iran calling for Muslims to take up arms and fight Israel. In its fourth week now, the current Israeli operation in Gaza will not end anytime soon as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said he will not leave until the tunnels between Israel and Gaza are destroyed to prevent Hamas fighters from attacking Israeli civilians. As the Associated Press asks in their article, Are images from Gaza turning public opinion against Israel? : “But can the Israeli government stand a long conflict, or, as many pundits question, is the country in danger of losing a battle for public opinion on the world stage?” Several outlets already have claimed that the Palestinian death toll and rapid spread of images and victims’ stories from Gaza are turning the tide against Israel e.g. PR week, Haaretz and Mashable. According to Israel’s progressive paper Haaretz, Israel’s Ambassador to the U.S. Ron Dermer told a conference call of American Jewish leaders, “Israel is being routinely portrayed in both conventional and social media as an angry, well-armed giant leaving many innocent victims in its wake.” The difference this time is that there are more Western journalists in Gaza than previous operations giving media coverage to the other side of the conflict than Western audiences are use to seeing. The response to this coverage has been a steady stream of protests around the world against Israel’s operations. A Pew poll this week said among Americans, twice as many blame Hamas in the latest conflict than Israel and half think Israel’s military operation is an appropriate response. According to the Pew Research Center, a majority of unfavorable views toward Israel happen in Germany, France, China and all Arab and Muslim countries. Part of this, the Associated Press reports, many do with the overwhelming unpopularity of Israel’s total blockade of Gaza and strict control of the West Bank that former President Jimmy Carter calls an apartheid state and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry fears it will become if it isn’t already. In Israel where support was once 90 percent in the last two wars in Gaza, a 2010 poll found a quarter of Israelis felt the blockade did more harm than good. However, on Sunday, the Israeli prime minister said that Israel will not cede national security for the sake of public relations. Meanwhile, on Tuesday, Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, called on Muslims to help arm Gaza Palestinians in their fight against Israel during the ongoing ware between Gaza’s Hamas rulers and Israel, the Associated Press article, Iran’s Ayatollah Khamenei Calls For Arming Gaza To Fight Israel, reports. Khamenei claims that while Israel and America want to disarm Hamas, Iran says “the opposite … the Muslim World has a duty to arm the Palestinian nation by all means.” Iran does not recognize Israel and as an ally to Hamas supports militants anti-Israeli groups such as Lebanon’s Shiite Hezbollah group. Iran considers the Jewish state its archenemy since the 1979 Islamic Revolution that toppled the Western back monarchy and brought clerics to power.