An Israeli air strike on a school (Picture: Unrwa)

There’s talk of deals and ceasefires, but the Israeli military forces are stepping up massacres.

In Abbasan, southern Gaza, an Israeli air attack on the al-Awdah school killed at least 30 people and wounded 53, many of them children, on Tuesday. It’s the fourth time in a week that Israel has blasted schools being used by desperate people as shelters.

Footage from the school, obtained by Al Jazeera news, shows young Palestinians playing football in the building’s yard as dozens of people watch on.

The BBC has spoken to witnesses who said the area was teeming with displaced people at the time, and who recounted the bloody aftermath in graphic detail.

The explosions scattered body parts across the site and injured many people staying in tents outside the school.

Ayman Al-Dahma said there had been as many as 3,000 people packed into the area at the time, which he said housed a market and residential buildings. Describing the number of casualties as “unimaginable”, he said he had seen people whose limbs had been severed by the blast.

He added, “They said it was a safe place—that there were water and food, there were schools and everything. Suddenly a rocket comes down on you and all the people around you.”

Mohamed Awadeh Anzeh told the BBC the area had been busy with people and market traders “going about their normal lives” when the strike hit.

A Palestinian boy told Al Jazeera he lost several relatives in the attack. “We were sitting and a missile fell and destroyed everything,” he said, sobbing. “I lost my uncle, my cousins and my relatives.!

The attacks come as United States CIA spy chief William Burns and Israel’s Mossad spy chief David Barnea met in Qatar on Wednesday.

In an effort to secure a ceasefire deal, Hamas is reported to have made concessions last week. They included dropping a key demand that Israel commit—in advance—to an end to the war before signing an agreement. Instead, Hamas said it would push for the move in negotiations planned during an initial six-week ceasefire.

But Ismail Haniyeh, the leader of the group, said on Monday that Israel’s escalating assault has threatened talks at a crucial time and could bring negotiations “back to square one”.

Haniyeh, who spoke with Qatari and Egyptian mediators, issued a statement. It warned “of the disastrous repercussions of what is happening in Gaza City, Rafah and other areas across the Gaza Strip”.

He stressed that Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu and “his army bear full responsibility for the collapse of this negotiation path”.

Meanwhile, in northern Gaza City, residents said Israeli tanks had pushed into the Tal al-Hawa, Shujayea and Sabra neighbourhoods. They shelled roads and buildings, and forced people to flee their homes.

Again, as has happened repeatedly, these are areas the Israelis declared clear of Hajmas fighters. But the resistance returns.

The armed wings of Hamas and its ally, Islamic Jihad, said their fighters were battling Israeli forces with machine guns, mortar fire and anti-tank missiles.

Three previous Israeli strikes on schools

Israel killed 16 people last Saturday in a missile strike on a UN-run school in the urban Nuseirat refugee camp, in central Gaza. It was home to about 2,000 displaced people, according to Gaza’s health ministry
An Israeli attack last Sunday on a church-run school in Gaza City killed four people.
On Monday night, several people were wounded in a strike on another UN-run school in Nuseirat.

Philippe Lazzarini, commissioner general of the Unrwa refugee agency said, “Four schools hit in the last four days. Since the war began, two-thirds of Unrwa schools in Gaza have been hit, some were bombed out, many severely damaged.

“Schools have gone from safe places of education and hope for children to overcrowded shelters and often ending up a place of death and misery.

“Nine months in, under our watch, the relentless, endless killings, destruction and despair continue. Gaza is no place for children.

“The blatant disregard of international humanitarian law cannot become the new normal. Ceasefire now before we lose what is left of our common humanity.”

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