Saturday 24 January 2009

UN Schools Reopen in the Wake of Gaza War

Around 200 UN-run schools in Gaza opened their doors Saturday for the first time since Israel's largest-ever assault on the Gaza Strip ended.

Some 200,000 children attend schools run by the UN refugee agency, which operates 221 schools in the impoverished territory where more than 1,330 people, including 437 children, were killed. Many of the schools had been used as shelters for some of the 100,000 people displaced during the war, and at least three were hit by Israeli fire, prompting a wave of international criticism.

In the deadliest bombing more than 40 people were killed when an Israeli shell struck a crowd of people sheltering in a UN school in Gaza's Jabaliya refugee camp on January 6.

Christopher Gunness, a spokesman for the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), said 53 UN installations had been damaged or destroyed in the conflict, including more than 30 schools. But he said the agency hoped to restore a "sense of normalcy" by reopening the schools, many of which have not been completely repaired.

"UNRWA's commitment to restoring a sense of normalcy for the next generation in Gaza is a test of our humanity and we are determined to rise to the challenge," Gunness said.

UN chief Ban Ki-moon has called for those responsible for bombing UN compounds and buildings to be held accountable and accused Israel of using "excessive force."

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