Israeli strike on UN school kills 'at least 39 people' as IDF says it targeted 'Hamas compound'

Palestinians check the bodies of relatives killed in the strike on a UNRWA school (AP/Abdel Kareen Hana)

At least 39 people have reportedly been killed in an Israeli strike on a UN school in the Gaza Strip carried out early on Thursday morning.

Israeli forces the attack, which happened early on Thursday in the Nuseirat refugee camp area, was targeting what it called a "Hamas compound" inside the school.

Information about the strike in the Nuseirat area remained contradictory on Thursday morning, and details could not immediately be independently verified.

Hamas-affiliated media said 39 people had been killed and dozens wounded, but did not offer a source for the figures.

The Israeli military said its fighter jets struck the school run by the United Nations agency providing aid to the Palestinians, known by the acronym UNRWA.

The Israeli military claimed Hamas and the Islamic Jihad used the school as cover for their operations, but did not immediately offer evidence.

"Before the strike, a number of steps were taken to reduce the risk of harming uninvolved civilians during the strike, including conducting aerial surveillance, and additional intelligence information," the Israeli military claimed.

The Nuseirat refugee camp is in the middle of the Gaza Strip. It is a built-up Palestinian refugee camp in central Gaza dating back to the 1948 Arab-Israeli war.

The Israeli military published a graphic of the school, which clearly had ‘UN’ written on its roof. The graphic described the strikes targeting two areas of the building on its upper floors.

The war began with Hamas' October 7 attack inside Israel that killed at least 1,200 people with 250 others taken hostage.

The Israeli military campaign in the Gaza Strip has killed at least 36,000 Palestinians, with hundreds of others killed in operations in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

The Israeli military said on Wednesday that forces were operating "both above and below ground" in eastern parts of Deir al-Balah and the Bureij refugee camp in central Gaza.

It said the operation began with airstrikes on militant infrastructure, after which troops began a "targeted daylight operation" in both areas.

Doctors Without Borders said at least 70 bodies and 300 wounded people, mostly women and children, were brought to a hospital in central Gaza on Tuesday and Wednesday after a wave of Israeli strikes.

The international charity said on Wednesday in a post on X that Al-Aqsa Martyrs Hospital in Deir al-Balah is struggling to treat "a huge influx of patients, many of them arriving with severe burns, shrapnel wounds, fractures, and other traumatic injuries".

Israel has routinely launched airstrikes in all parts of Gaza since the start of the war and has carried out massive ground operations in the territory's two largest cities, Gaza City and Khan Younis, that left much of them in ruins

The military waged an offensive earlier this year for several weeks in Bureij and several other nearby refugee camps in central Gaza.

Troops pulled out of the Jabaliya camp in northern Gaza last Friday after weeks of fighting caused widespread destruction.

First responders have recovered the bodies of 360 people, mostly women and children, killed during the battles.

Israel sent troops into Rafah last month in what it said was a limited incursion, but those forces are now operating in central parts of Gaza's southernmost city.

More than one million people have fled Rafah since the start of the operation, with many heading towards central Gaza.