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More than 30,000 people are still living in UNRWA schools in Gaza. What does that look like?

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It’s been two-and-a-half months since Operation Protective Edge ended. During the operation, thousands of Gaza residents took shelter in United Nations (UNRWA) schools. Many have since returned to their homes, and others, whose homes were destroyed, were put up by family and friends. However, 18 UNRWA schools still house more than 30,000 people who have no home or temporary solution. They are waiting for Gaza’s promised reconstruction while living in classrooms that were modified into small one-room apartments.



Despite extensive damage to homes and other buildings throughout the Gaza Strip, the coming winter and the promises of reconstruction, the Gaza Reconstruction Mechanism, which was meant to facilitate the entrance of construction materials into the Gaza Strip, has not yet been finalized. Only 33,465 tons of construction materials entered Gaza for international organizations in September and October. Though 2,516 tons designated for private use entered in October, this is a miniscule amount, being distributed through a long, slow process to a few people whose homes require relatively minimal repairs, not necessarily rebuilding. Many people in Gaza who meet the criteria set out in the mechanism have not received any construction materials as of yet, and for those whose homes were obliterated or badly damaged, there is no solution.

For the sake of comparison, in the first half of 2013, roughly 420,000 tons of construction materials entered Gaza via Kerem Shalom, the tunnels, and Rafah Crossing (for Qatar funded projects) every month. This amount of construction materials, more than 11 times the amount that entered over the last two months, was being used to meet the routine needs of a population of more than 1.7 million and even that amount didn’t come close to meeting need. Today, after Operation Protective Edge, the need for construction materials in the Gaza Strip is on an entirely different scale.

Eid Abd al-Aziz al-Masri is one of the displaced living with his family in a UN school. “We’re innocent civilians whose homes were destroyed even though we didn’t take part in the fighting. They put us in shelters like this one, which aren’t inhabitable. There aren’t enough bathrooms, and there’s nowhere to cook or wash. We do everything inside the classroom. The kids wash using pots, and this is also where we cook, eat and sleep”.

Al-Masri lived with his parents, his pregnant wife and their ten children in Beit Hanoun. They had to leave their home during the military operation because of the fighting in the area. When al-Masri and his eight-year-old son Ahmad returned to Beit Hanoun after 50 days of fighting, they discovered that their house had been obliterated.

“When I went back home, and saw that it was destroyed, I felt my life had lost its meaning. I inherited the house from my father, who inherited it from my grandfather”, says al-Masri. When his son Ahmad looked through the rubble for whatever few objects could be salvaged, he found his bicycle, broken and unusable. He began to cry.

Every school has only two bathrooms, one for men and one for women. Sewers often back up and there is a strong stench in the air. Al-Masri’s young son has a rash. “It’s filthy”, says al-Masri, “and it’s causing skin diseases”.

So far, al-Masri has received no information about the reconstruction program. He does not know when the rubble of his home will be cleared away or who might rebuild the homes that were destroyed. Two-and-a-half months later, al-Masri is still waiting.

This post originally appeared on Gisha’s website Gaza Gateway


Gisha is an Israeli not-for-profit organization, founded in 2005, whose goal is to protect the freedom of movement of Palestinians, especially Gaza residents. Gisha promotes rights guaranteed by international and Israeli law.

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16 Responses

  1. Walid on November 18, 2014, 12:25 pm

    The al-Akhbar article of a couple of days back is saying there is no reconstruction program on the horizon and a 3-way affair is in progress involving the UN, Israel and Abbas to prolong the siege over Gaza. Abbas is agreeing to conditions imposed on Gaza by Israel with the consent of the UN without having cleared them with the people of Gaza.

    • Walid on November 18, 2014, 12:49 pm

      Just noticed that Marc Ellis on his “weenie” thread is also into the same discussion about the expanding of the Israel-Egypt-PA siege on Gaza and he throws in Europe for good measure:

      “… That the threat to Israel would become a huge international firestorm if the secret deliberations became public, passed and implemented, is also telling. Unasked is what these sanctions would mean on the ground. Forbidding foreclosure of a two-state solution that everyone knows has already been foreclosed isn’t bold at all. Such a debate and policies if implemented would only buy Israel more time to consolidate its occupation. Perhaps the EU’s not-so-secret deliberations are really about forcing Israel to finalize what is left over from Israel’s expansion – a truncated, dependent, Israel-Egypt-United Nations-NATO occupied Palestinian autonomy. – See more at:

    • Bumblebye on November 18, 2014, 3:09 pm

      Walid, could the excessive conditions applied to delivery of rebuilding materials have anything to do with the US having finagled a place on the appropriate committees for Israel? Iirc that was in the news on this site some months back.

  2. seafoid on November 18, 2014, 12:40 pm

    And in 1948 it was so urgent to give the bots a state because there were all those Jews in DP camps with no homes of their own. And now? Well, loads of Palestinians in DP schools and nobody in Israel cares.

    • Walid on November 18, 2014, 12:54 pm

      Seafoid, the urgency was in not wanting to resettle the Jews themselves; it was more expedient to dump them on the weak Palestinians. The West did not want the Jews before the war, during the war, and after the war. It looks like the Jews are too embarrassed by this fact to admit it.

      • DaBakr on November 18, 2014, 2:43 pm

        yes, entirely embarrassed. thats it. so embarrassing. and there you have the conflict in a nutshell

  3. Kay24 on November 18, 2014, 1:21 pm

    The world does not care how many unfortunate people who had their homes destroyed by Israeli weapons live in these schools. The UN does not care, and certainly not Israel’s staunchest supporters the US and the EU.

    The entire reconstruction will be under the control of Israel, who will be calling the shots.
    They destroyed Gaza, and will try to financial benefit from that too, if possible.
    They are an out of control nation of mercenaries, who lie, kill, and steal.

    • just on November 18, 2014, 3:40 pm

      other nations ‘funded the reconstruction’. israel– who did it– nada, but will benefit.

      where else on this planet does this occur?

  4. ritzl on November 18, 2014, 1:35 pm

    And those are just the 30K living in UN schools. God knows how many don’t have that relative luxury.

    30,000 people of a population of 2M puts the equivalent societal pressure of 4,500,000 homeless in the US. But then it’s not really equivalent with all the unconstrained reconstruction materials in the world available to a 4.5M homeless population in the US.

  5. ritzl on November 18, 2014, 1:40 pm

    Does anyone really believe at this point, that if Hamas was not in charge this intentional deprivation would NOT be happening.

    I think the Israelis, ever so cheerily, just want the Palestinians to suffer (and die), whoever is in charge.

    • just on November 18, 2014, 2:20 pm

      no I don’t, ritzl!

      they want the Palestinians gone. period.

      So this horror continues, imposed by Israel, Egypt and supported by every other country in the entire world.

      I can only assume that:

      “School’s out for summer
      School’s out forever
      School’s been blown to pieces”

      monstrous Israeli terrorists.

    • Pat Tibbs on November 19, 2014, 12:37 pm

      I fear you are right but this is also an opportunity for Hamas to step up and demonstrate a willingness to be a positive government for its people. It’s past time to rebuild homes for these people.

      If they haven’t imported building materials they should be up front as to why: Is it a funding problem? Are they being prevented from importing materials?

      They’ve had 10 weeks without bombs and missiles and it would be smart to demonstrate to the world that they want to live in peace next to Israel. If they rebuild these homes Israel will have no possible excuse for attacking them militarily.

      • Maximus Decimus Meridius on November 19, 2014, 1:56 pm

        ”Are they being prevented from importing materials?”

        Either you’re trolling us or you’ve somehow managed to coast through life entirely unaware that Gaza is under siege from air, land and sea.

        ”If they rebuild these homes Israel will have no possible excuse for attacking them militarily.”

        Do you do stand up too?

      • ritzl on November 20, 2014, 4:41 pm

        @Pat Tibbs- Do you work in the Israeli construction or building materials industry? You do know that Israel is now preventing materials from entering Gaza unless they are bought in Israel. What does Hamas have to do with that?

        As far as “stepping up” goes, Hamas has offered, repeatedly offered and unilaterally kept, truces and ceasefires. That is what at least I would call “stepping up.” The Israeli response has always been assassinations and slaughter of children based upon glaringly apparent first-violence and lame pretexts used to obscure the proven non-involvement of Hamas. The world acquiesces to this, the US advocates it, and US media cheerfully adopts Israeli terminology like “mowing the lawn” as they wink at each other as they collectively forget what happened the day before and approvingly/dutifully report each slaughter-fest.

        There is ZERO Hamas or any Palestinian faction (witness Abbas) can do to “step up.”

        My personal view is that Hamas would moderate over time or be replaced if Israel actually acted in good faith to solve the mutual problem. That’s just the way the world works. But Israel never acts in good faith. It just kills Palestinians en masse, because there is no downside for them.

        So perhaps it is you who should “step up” and figure out a way to pressure Israel to, at the very least, stop slaughtering childrenn on a regular basis to score political points at home and abroad. Perhaps that involves not buying Israeli products, as in BDS. Just a thought.


  6. eljay on November 18, 2014, 1:51 pm

    >> ritzl: I think the Israelis, ever so cheerily, just want the Palestinians to suffer (and die) …

    … or to:
    – suffer and submit; or
    – suffer and leave.

    (Crush.Cleanse.Kill: Edge of Tomorrow)

    However they go about it, the end game is to preserve Jewish supremacism in as large a supremacist “Jewish State” as possible.

  7. just on November 18, 2014, 3:48 pm

    i forgot to say thank you, Gisha.

    another article up at EI by Rami Almeghari on this very issue.

    “Will “reconstruction” prolong the siege of Gaza?”

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