White House: UN School Shelling 'Unacceptable' and 'Indefensible'

But US stops short of blaming Israel.

ByMARY BRUCE
July 31, 2014, 2:59 PM
PHOTO: A displaced Palestinian child stands in a classroom at the Abu Hussein U.N. school in Jebaliya refugee camp on July 30, 2014.
A displaced Palestinian child stands in a classroom at the Abu Hussein U.N. school in Jebaliya refugee camp on July 30, 2014.
Lefteris Pitarakis/AP Photo

— -- In its strongest statement yet, the White House today said there’s little doubt that Israeli artillery hit a U.N. school in Gaza Wednesday and called the deadly strike “totally unacceptable and totally indefensible.”

“While we underscore the importance of a full and prompt investigation of this tragic incident, as well as a shelling of other U.N. facilities and schools that have been hit, it does not appear there’s a lot of doubt about whose artillery was involved in this incident,” White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest told reporters at the daily briefing.

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While stopping just short of blaming Israel, Earnest said the “Israeli military can and should do more to protect the lives of those innocent civilians.”

“There is a difference in approach between what Hamas is perpetrating on the Israeli people and what Israel is doing to defend their country,” he said. "But the shelling of a U.N. facility that is housing innocent civilians who are fleeing violence is totally unacceptable and totally indefensible. And it is clear that we need our allies in Israel to do more to live up to the high standards that they have set for themselves."

While State Department spokesperson Marie Harf went further in assigning responsibility than she did Wednesday, she, like Earnest, refrained from actually blaming Israel for the attack.

“We’ve condemned the shelling of the school and we’ve said there’s not a lot of doubt about whose artillery was involved,” she said.

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