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PHOTOS: Amid rubble and trauma, Gaza goes back to school

With displaced families still living in some schools, and despite severe damage to classrooms, Gaza’s children return to school after a summer of Israeli bombardment.

Photos by: Anne Paq and Basel Yazouri/Activestills.org
Text by: Ryan Rodrick Beiler

The high school certificate of Adeel,Balata in the ruins of the home of her father Abdelkarim Balata, which was destroyed during an Israeli strike which killed eleven members of the family, Jabalia refugee camp, September 14, 2014. Adeel (17) whose nickname was 'Delo' was killed during the attack. She was a brillant student and wanted to be a doctor. Amid the victims were the almost entire family of Naim Balata who was killed together with his wife and 6 of his children. Only Ala Balata, 18, survived out of the family of Naim who were actually taking refugee in the home of Naim's brother, Abdelkarim. Also killed was the brother of Abdelkarim, Nasme together with his wife (Wafa) and his 1 year and an half son (Abdelkarim). During the seven-week Israeli military offensive, 2,131 Palestinians were killed, including 501 children, and an estimated 18,000 housing units have been either destroyed or severely damaged, leaving more than 108,000 people homeless.

The high school certificate of Adeel Balata lies in the ruins of the home of her father Abdelkarim Balata, which was destroyed in an Israeli strike that killed 11 members of the family, Jabalia Refugee Camp, September 14, 2014. Adeel (17), whose nickname was ‘Delo,’ was killed during the attack. She was a brilliant student and wanted to be a doctor, her family says. Among the victims was almost the entire family of Naim Balata, who was killed together with his wife and six of his children. Only Ala Balata, 18, survived.

Despite damaged classrooms and destroyed schools, Gaza’s school year began this week after delays due to the recent Israeli offensive known as Operation Protective Edge. According to Gaza Education Ministry official Ziad Thabet, the first weeks of classes will focus on recreational activities and psychological counseling to help children recover from the trauma sustained during this summer’s attacks.

During the seven weeks of military strikes, 29 schools were totally destroyed and about 232 damaged. According to the UN, Israel’s attacks killed least 2,131 Palestinians, including 501 children. Rockets launched from Gaza killed six civilians in Israel, including one child, and 66 Israeli soldiers died during the ground invasion. The destruction of homes in Gaza left some 110,000 people seeking emergency shelter, including some 64,000 Palestinians still being housed in about 20 UN schools.

This week also saw the release of a report by Human Rights Watch condemning Israeli attacks on three UN schools, which killed some 45 Palestinians, including 17 children. Fred Abrahams, special adviser at Human Rights Watch, said in a statement: “Israel has offered no convincing explanation for these attacks on schools where people had gone for protection, and the resulting carnage.”

HRW’s report came shortly after the Israeli military announced its own investigations into at least one attack on a UN school this summer. This, just days after human rights groups B’Tselem announced that it had refused to share information with an Israeli military investigation, declaring the army’s internal investigation system a “whitewash” and “a complete failure… marred by severe structural flaws that render [the military] incapable of conducting professional investigations.”

Throughout its offensives on Gaza in recent years, the Israeli military has claimed that activity by Palestinian militants in civilian areas justified strikes that resulted in civilian deaths. International humanitarian law (IHL), however, does not support the premise that two wrongs make a right.

“Israeli officials have argued that part of the harm to civilians was justified by the conduct of armed Palestinian groups, which included firing at Israel from locations adjacent to civilian homes and concealing explosives in civilian homes,” states a B’Tselem analysis of Israeli attacks on Gaza in 2012. “Nevertheless, although the conduct of the Palestinian groups undeniably creates additional difficulties for the Israeli military, their violations of IHL cannot serve as justification for IHL violations by the Israeli military.”

A classroom lies damaged following the overnight Israeli shelling of an UNRWA school where some 3,300 Palestinians were seeking shelter, Jabalia, Gaza Strip, July 30, 2014. At least 20 people were killed in the attack which injured more than 100. So far, Israeli attacks have killed at least 1,300 Palestinians and injured more than 6,900. At the same time, 56 Israeli soldiers have been killed, as well as three civilians in Israel.

A classroom is damaged following the Israeli shelling of an UNRWA school where some 3,300 Palestinians were seeking shelter, Jabaliya, Gaza Strip, July 30, 2014. At least 20 people were killed in the attack, which injured more than 100.

 

Palestinian school students stand in a destroyed classroom in the damaged Sobhi Abu Karsh Basic school in a destroyed quarter of the Shujayea neighborood, Gaza city, September 15, 2014. The school year has started with a three-week delay, due to the latest Israeli offensive during which 29 schools have been totally destroyed, and around 190 damaged. The first weeks are dedicated to recreational activities to help children to overcome the trauma due the the seven-week Israeli military offensive. 2,131 Palestinians were killed, including 501 children, and an estimated 18,000 housing units have been either destroyed or severely damaged, leaving more than 108,000 people homeless.

Palestinian students stand in a destroyed classroom in the Sobhi Abu Karsh school in Shujaiya neighborhood, Gaza City, September 15, 2014. The school year started after delays due to the latest Israeli offensive during which 29 schools were totally destroyed, and around 230 damaged.

 

Palestinian school students clean hallways on their second day of school, in the damaged Sobhi Abu Karsh Basic school in a destroyed quarter of the Shujayea neighborood, Gaza city, September 15, 2014. The school year has started with a three-week delay, due to the latest Israeli offensive during which 29 schools have been totally destroyed, and around 190 damaged. The first weeks are dedicated to recreational activities to help children to overcome the trauma due the the seven-week Israeli military offensive. 2,131 Palestinians were killed, including 501 children, and an estimated 18,000 housing units have been either destroyed or severely damaged, leaving more than 108,000 people homeless.

Palestinian students clean hallways on their second day of school in the damaged Sobhi Abu Karsh school, Shujaiya neighborhood, Gaza City, September 15, 2014.

 

Boys walk to school on the first day of classes after Israeli attacks, Shujayea neighborhood, Gaza City, September 15, 2014. The school year has started with a three-week delay, due to the latest Israeli offensive during which 29 schools have been totally destroyed, and around 190 damaged. The first weeks are dedicated to recreational activities to help children to overcome the trauma due the the seven-week Israeli military offensive. 2,131 Palestinians were killed, including 501 children, and an estimated 18,000 housing units have been either destroyed or severely damaged, leaving more than 108,000 people homeless.

Boys walk to school on the first day of classes after Israeli attacks, Shujaiya neighborhood, Gaza City, September 15, 2014.

 

Boys line up in the morning to practice daily exercises an UNRWA school in Shujayea neighborhood, Gaza City, September 15, 2014. The school year has started with a three-week delay, due to the latest Israeli offensive during which 29 schools have been totally destroyed, and around 190 damaged. The first weeks are dedicated to recreational activities to help children to overcome the trauma due the the seven-week Israeli military offensive. 2,131 Palestinians were killed, including 501 children, and an estimated 18,000 housing units have been either destroyed or severely damaged, leaving more than 108,000 people homeless.

Boys line up in the morning to practice daily exercises at an UNRWA school in Shujaiya neighborhood, Gaza City, September 15, 2014. The first weeks of classes will be dedicated to recreational activities to help children overcome the trauma suffered during the the seven-week Israeli military offensive.

 

A Palestinian school student draws an home on fire during one of the activities conducted in the damaged Sobhi Abu Karsh Basic school in a destroyed quarter of the Shujayea neighborood, Gaza city, September 15, 2014. The school year has started with a three-week delay, due to the latest Israeli offensive during which 29 schools have been totally destroyed, and around 190 damaged. The first weeks are dedicated to recreational activities to help children to overcome the trauma due the the seven-week Israeli military offensive. 2,131 Palestinians were killed, including 501 children, and an estimated 18,000 housing units have been either destroyed or severely damaged, leaving more than 108,000 people homeless.

A Palestinian school student draws a home on fire during one of the activities conducted in the damaged Sobhi Abu Karsh school, Shujaiya neighborhood, Gaza City, September 15, 2014.

 

Wedhad a Palestinian girl from Shujaiya, stands in front of  the UNRWA school in zeitoun area which is used as temporary shelter for displaced Palestinians following the latest Israeli offensive , Gaza city, September 14, 2014. Wedhad said that she could not go to school as her school in Shujaiya, was destroyed, and that her mother is still looking for another school for her to register.  The school year start with a three-week delay, due to the latest Israeli offensive during which 29 schools have been totally destroyed, and around 190 damaged.  During the seven-week Israeli military offensive, 2,131 Palestinians were killed, including 501 children, and an estimated 18,000 housing units have been either destroyed or severely damaged, leaving more than 108,000 people homeless.

Wedhad, a Palestinian girl from Shujaiya, stands in front of the UNRWA school in the Al Zeitoun area of Gaza City, which is being used as temporary shelter for displaced Palestinians following the latest Israeli offensive, September 14, 2014. Wedhad said that she could not go to school as her school in Shujaiya was destroyed, and her mother is still looking for another school for her to register at.

 

Palestinian children use water reservoirs to drink in an UNRWA school in zeitoun area which is used as temporary shelter for displaced Palestinians following the latest Israeli offensive , Gaza city, September 14, 2014. During the seven-week Israeli military offensive, 2,131 Palestinians were killed, including 501 children, and an estimated 18,000 housing units have been either destroyed or severely damaged, leaving more than 108,000 people homeless.

Palestinian children use water tanks to wash and drink from in an UNRWA school in the Al Zeitoun area of Gaza City which is being used as a temporary shelter for displaced Palestinians following the latest Israeli offensive, Gaza City, September 14, 2014.

 

A Palestinian schoolgirl enjoys jumping on a trampoline after her first day of school, Gaza city, September 14, 2014. The school year start with a three-week delay, due to the latest Israeli offensive during which 29 schools have been totally destroyed, and around 190 damaged. During the seven-week Israeli military offensive, 2,131 Palestinians were killed, including 501 children, and an estimated 18,000 housing units have been either destroyed or severely damaged, leaving more than 108,000 people homeless.

A Palestinian schoolgirl jumps on a trampoline after her first day of school, Gaza City, September 14, 2014.

 

Palestinian school students buy snacks after their first day of school, Gaza city, September 14, 2014. The school year start with a three-week delay, due to the latest Israeli offensive during which 29 schools have been totally destroyed, and around 190 damaged. During the seven-week Israeli military offensive, 2,131 Palestinians were killed, including 501 children, and an estimated 18,000 housing units have been either destroyed or severely damaged, leaving more than 108,000 people homeless.

Palestinian students buy snacks after their first day of school, Gaza City, September 14, 2014.

 

Palestinian school students pass by some destroyed buildings and homes in the Shujayea neighborood, Gaza city, September 15, 2014. Shujayea was heavily attacked during the latest Israeli offensive, and some areas are totally destroyed; leaving many Palestinians homeless. During the seven-week Israeli military offensive, 2,131 Palestinians were killed, including 501 children, and an estimated 18,000 housing units have been either destroyed or severely damaged, leaving more than 108,000 people homeless.

Palestinian students pass by destroyed buildings and homes in the Shujaiya neighborhood, Gaza City, September 15, 2014. Shujaiya was heavily attacked during the latest Israeli offensive, and some areas totally destroyed, leaving many Palestinians homeless.

 

Classrooms in an UNRWA school are stil l inhabited by people whose houses are completely destroyed by Israeli attacks, Shujayea neighborhood, Gaza City, September 15, 2014. The school year has started with a three-week delay, due to the latest Israeli offensive during which 29 schools have been totally destroyed, and around 190 damaged. The first weeks are dedicated to recreational activities to help children to overcome the trauma due the the seven-week Israeli military offensive. 2,131 Palestinians were killed, including 501 children, and an estimated 18,000 housing units have been either destroyed or severely damaged, leaving more than 108,000 people homeless.

Classrooms in an UNRWA school are still inhabited by people whose houses were completely destroyed by Israeli attacks, Shujaiya neighborhood, Gaza City, September 15, 2014.

Related:
PHOTOS: Living in the ruins of a shattered Gaza neighborhood
In Gaza, justice delayed is justice denied
PHOTOS: Losing your home twice in one war

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