Chris Gunness, spokesman for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), appeared on Al Jazeera Arabic to discuss an Israeli air strike that killed at least 13 Palestinians at a U.N. school in the Jabaliya refugee camp in Gaza Wednesday morning.
Gunness began to describe the incident — and then broke down in sobs live on camera:
Gunness told BuzzFeed from Jerusalem that UNRWA is "completely overwhelmed" and "at a breaking point," having lost five UNRWA workers in Gaza in the fighting.
But Gunness said he had no intention of leaving his work at UNRWA.
"I'm not emotionally drained," he said. "I'm made of a sterner stuff, as my English grandmother would say."
He added, "My feelings pale into insignificance compared to the enormity of the tragedy confronting each and every other person in Gaza at this time. It's important to humanize the statistics and to realize that there is a human bing with a heart and soul behind each statistic and that the humanity that lies behind these statistics should never be forgotten."
At least 1,300 Palestinians, mainly civilians, and over 50 Israelis, mainly soldiers, have died since fighting between Israel and Hamas militants in Gaza escalated into war on July 8. Gunness has been a major voice on the refugee situation in Gaza. He declined to comment on the interview.
The Israeli army said that Hamas militants fired rockets into Israel from nearby the school on Wednesday, and they fired back in retaliation. UNRWA has found rockets hidden in two U.N. schools since the start of the conflict. Wednesday's strike was the second Israeli airstrike this week on a U.N. school in Gaza; hundreds of thousands of Palestinians have sought shelter in U.N. schools and compounds in Gaza. On July 24, Israeli air strikes hit a U.N. compound in Beit Hanoun, killing at least 16 people. Attacking a U.N. facility or using it to store weapons is illegal under international law.
Gunness sent the following tweet later Wednesday:
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