World

Gaza war: ‘Direct hits’ on more than 200 schools since Israeli bombing began

March 27, 2024
A young girl walks through destroyed streets in Khan Younis, in the southern Gaza Strip. — courtesy UNICEF/Eyad El Baba
A young girl walks through destroyed streets in Khan Younis, in the southern Gaza Strip. — courtesy UNICEF/Eyad El Baba

GAZA — The intense Israeli bombardment of Gaza in response to Hamas-led terror attacks in Israel has included “direct hits” on 212 schools in the enclave, UN-partnered analysis indicated on Wednesday.

Satellite imagery pointed to at least 53 schools “totally destroyed” since conflict erupted on Oct. 7, 2023 and a near nine percent increase in attacks on school premises since mid-February, according to a report by the UN Children’s Fund, (UNICEF) and NGOs the Education Cluster and Save The Children.

The “high trend of attacks on school facilities” has worsened the already dire humanitarian situation in Gaza, the report’s authors noted, amid “intense Israeli bombardment from air, land, and sea across much of the Gaza Strip”.

Of the 563 school buildings in Gaza, 165 of the 212 that received a direct hit are in areas designated for evacuation by the Israeli military. This includes 62 schools in southern Khan Younis governorate and 76 out of 94 schools in Gaza governorate, to the north.

More than one in two school premises run by the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA have also been hit (57 percent) since Oct. 7, according to the report, along with government buildings targeted by Israeli shelling or during the ground operation.

“No education is happening in Gaza at all for nearly six months,” UNRWA said on Wednesday, upon publication of the UN-partnered report, which pointed to more than 625,00 students and 22,000 teachers attending school before Oct. 7.

Additional findings derived from the satellite imagery and other sources “provide evidence for military use of schools” by Israeli Security Forces (ISF) “since the beginning of the escalation”.

This includes “several concerning reports, pictures and videos showing that schools are being used for military operations by ISF, including use as detention, interrogation centers and military bases”.

Satellite pictures in the report also showed military tanks, their tracks and craters from shelling in school premises in February.

The UN-backed report also noted that more than 320 school buildings have been used by displaced people as shelters since the Oct. 7 escalation. Of these facilities, 188 have been either directly hit (90) or damaged (98).

Once conflict ends, at least 67 percent of schools in Gaza “will either need full reconstruction or major rehabilitation work to be functional again” the report’s authors maintained. — UN News


March 27, 2024
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