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Gazans trudge back in fear to U.N schools

Palestinians who have been displaced due to Israeli bombardments on the Gaza Strip, talk as they stand in the corridor of a United Nations school that has been turned into a temporary shelter in Gaza City on August 8, 2014 as thousands of Palestinians were fleeing their homes east of the city in fear of Israeli attacks, after a 72-hour truce ended. AFP PHOTO/ROBERTO SCHMIDT

GAZA CITY, Palestine: Cradling his baby daughter, Saeed Masri took flight Friday from renewed Israeli bombardment of Gaza with little faith that even a U.N. facility could protect his family.

Three hours after a temporary cease-fire between Israel and Hamas ended, a missile hit the roof of a building opposite the apartment in Jabaliya where he was staying with relatives, after his own neighborhood was shelled.

“We were in Beit Hanun and were there during the war and the shelling, so after that I came to stay here with my cousins,” Masri said as he trudged down the street with his family in tow.

It was only a small rocket fired by a drone, intended as a warning for civilians to leave, residents said.

It shattered the roof of the building and left no casualties, but an ambulance was parked around the corner in case it was followed by more attacks.

Masri heeded the message immediately, packing some food into plastic bags, gathering his wife and five children and setting off down the street to find safety.

His eyes darted as he spoke, looking back at the building just hit by the strike, his daughter silent in his arms and with the four other children milling around his legs.

He planned to take shelter in a U.N.-run school to keep his family safe, but he had little hope it would guarantee protection.

“The schools aren’t safe either, they hit the schools,” he said.

At least 153 schools in Gaza, including 90 run by the U.N., have been damaged by Israeli airstrikes or shelling during the conflict, the U.N. children’s fund UNICEF says.

Three deadly strikes on U.N. schools in the Gaza Strip since Israel launched its assault on July 8 have stirred international fury.

“Why is the whole world sleeping, why?” asked Masri quietly. “Children and women are being targeted, and the world is sleeping.”

As talks in Cairo aimed at reaching a lasting truce failed to achieve concrete results, Palestinian militants fired two rockets at southern Israel before the 72-hour cease-fire ended at 8 a.m. Dozens more rocket attacks followed.

Israel retaliated, saying it was targeting terror sites in the coastal enclave, where the Islamist militant group Hamas is the de facto ruler.

Palestinian emergency services said one of the strikes killed a 10-year-old boy.

The rocket fire prompted Gazans who had gone home during the cease-fire to return to the hospitals and schools, to which some 200,000 people had fled to before the three-day reprieve.

In Beit Hanun, a steady stream of families trudged along the road to a school. Others riding donkey carts and cars packed with mattresses and clothes rattled past, just half an hour after the cease-fire ended.

Umm Abdullah, 50, who did not give her real name, said she was reluctantly returning to the school she and her family had sheltered in. “We were waiting for a second truce, but it did not come,” she sighed. “We waited until the last minute, until 8 a.m., but it did not come.”

She had only been able to pack a small bag of clothes and another with some flatbread and tomatoes before fleeing again.

She would now stay in the school until a lasting truce was reached.

In the Tuffah neighborhood of Gaza City, families trickled back to another U.N.-run school after receiving news of the failed truce.

Hundreds of refugees from some of the worst-damaged areas have sheltered in the classrooms overlooking a central courtyard.

Laundry was hanging from the rooms overlooking the courtyard, where there was a strong smell of sweat and waste.

In the courtyard, Abdullah Abdullah, 33, had just arrived back after spending the truce at home.

Like Masri, Abdullah was worried for his wife and children.

“I’m afraid because the schools were targeted, because young people died, women and children,” he said. “We’re all scared. I’m scared, my children are scared, my wife is scared.”

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on August 09, 2014, on page 11.

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Summary

Gazans trudge back in fear to U.N schools

Cradling his baby daughter, Saeed Masri took flight Friday from renewed Israeli bombardment of Gaza with little faith that even a U.N. facility could protect his family.

Three hours after a temporary cease-fire between Israel and Hamas ended, a missile hit the roof of a building opposite the apartment in Jabaliya where he was staying with relatives, after his own neighborhood was shelled.

At least 153 schools in Gaza, including 90 run by the U.N., have been damaged by Israeli airstrikes or shelling during the conflict, the U.N. children's fund UNICEF says.

As talks in Cairo aimed at reaching a lasting truce failed to achieve concrete results, Palestinian militants fired two rockets at southern Israel before the 72-hour cease-fire ended at 8 a.m. Dozens more rocket attacks followed.

The rocket fire prompted Gazans who had gone home during the cease-fire to return to the hospitals and schools, to which some 200,000 people had fled to before the three-day reprieve.


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