Airstrikes blast UN shelters, official says, as Israel announces complete encirclement of Gaza city

A spokesman from the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in the Palestinian territories (OCHAoPt) confirmed on Friday that Israeli airstrikes had blasted through two UN-run shelters in the Gaza Strip.

The attack happened on Thursday night, shortly after Israel announced its complete encirclement of Gaza City. According to UN figures, the shelters were housing around 250 Palestinians who had been displaced by the fighting.

No casualties were reported in the attack, though material damage was reported.

The UN condemned the strikes, with OCHAoPt’s spokesman calling the “incident shameful, inexcusable, and unjustified. It is unacceptable that civilians, who were already vulnerable and traumatized by their displacement, were once again subjected to the indiscriminate use of force.”

The spokesman noted that they are now “working to assess the material and psychological damage done to those who had been placed in the shelters.”

The Israeli military has claimed that they were targeting a site where militants of Hamas, the Palestinian faction governing the Gaza Strip, were present.

Israeli officials released a statement on the airstrikes, stressing that the site had “no commercial, educational or social facilities for the civilian population.” In other words, they are claiming that the shelters had been militarized and thus presented a legitimate target for the airstrikes.

Israeli forces have intensified their presence in Gaza, with some reports of a full-scale ground invasion being heavily discussed. A full-scale ground invasion is likely to result in heavy casualties, including civilians, something that the UN urged Israel to avoid at all costs.