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UNICEF in Emergencies & Humanitarian Action

‘Everything is destroyed’: Siblings describe destruction of their school in Gaza

© UNICEF/NYHQ2009-0043/El Baba
Children amidst the rubble of destroyed buildings in the refugee camp in Rafah, southern Gaza, a few days after a ceasefire was declared.

NEW YORK, USA, 22 January 2009 – When Gaza’s schools reopen in the coming days, Maram, 12, does not know where she’ll go. “I want to see what happened to my school,” she said in a telephone interview with UNICEF Radio. “I saw pictures of it – It was very, very destroyed.”

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Maram and her brother Muhammed, 16, both attended the American International School, one of the most prestigious private schools in Gaza. In early January, the school was bombed. According to the Associated Press, the Israeli army said Palestinian militants were launching rockets from the campus.

Now the school’s 250 students don’t know where they’ll start the second semester. “I’m in this school from grade three, from the first time it was built,” said Muhammed. “I don’t know what I’ll do.”

Muhammed said the United Nations has offered to help rebuild the school. Both he and Maram have heard that the school might set up tents so some classes can resume.

Still dangerous in the streets

Neither Muhammed nor Maram has visited the ruins of the school yet. They said it was still too dangerous to go out in the streets around the building. In spite of the ceasefire, Muhammed said he still hears sporadic bomb blasts, and he worries there are still tanks in the streets.

© UNICEF/NYHQ2009-0049/El Baba
Families walk past the ruins of homes in the northern Gaza Strip.

Both siblings found out that the school was bombed through the Facebook pages of their classmates.

On Tuesday, the family left home for their first shopping trip since the ceasefire took effect, but the devastation they saw around them saddened Maram. “I saw Gaza, it was all, all destroyed. Everything was destroyed,” she said. “I feel very sad about Gaza and I hope that they will rebuild everything again.”

‘What we want to do is learn’

Muhammed has decided to channel his outrage at the destruction into his studies. “I want to study medicine,” he said. “Lots of people got killed. What we want to do is learn and help our country.”

UNICEF and its partners are working to open up Gaza’s schools as soon as possible. UNICEF Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa Sigrid Kaag described the situation in Gaza as “dire” and has made the repair of schools UNICEF’s first infrastructure priority.




21 January 2009: Muhammed, 16, and his sister Maram, 12, talk about the destruction in their neighborhood in the Gaza Strip.
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