Sun, Jan 25, 2009 - Page 6 News List

UN reopens schools in Gaza in wake of Israeli ceasefire


Around 200 UN-run schools in Gaza opened their doors yesterday for the first time since a ceasefire halted Israel’s largest-ever assault on the Hamas-ruled territory.

Some 200,000 children attend schools run by the UN refugee agency, which operates 221 schools in the 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 conflict, 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 Jan. 6. Israel claimed it had been fired upon by militants near the building.

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 retore a “sense of normalcy” by reopening the schools.

“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.

Israel and Hamas have observed their own ceasefires since last Sunday.

UN Secretary-General 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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