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Gaza children return to rubble-strewn schools

Nov. 24, 2012 7:02 A.M. (Updated: Nov. 29, 2012 2:24 A.M.)
GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- Pupils returning to schools in the Gaza Strip on Saturday found many had been reduced to rubble after Israel's eight-day bombardment of the coastal enclave.

Gaza's ministry of education said 52 schools had sustained moderate to severe damage during the Israeli bombing campaign.

Ministry director Mahmoud Matar said after visiting schools on Saturday that the scale of the wreckage was close to that of Israel's 2008-9 war on the Gaza Strip.

He said reconstruction of Gaza's schools would cost approximately $4 million. Some were hit directly by Israeli airstrikes, while others were damaged by hits on nearby buildings, Matar said.

Aid group Oxfam said earlier this week that an Israeli airstrike had destroyed one kindergarten it has funded in Gaza City, and left another damaged.

The UN Mine Action Service is surveying damaged schools and found one unexploded F16 missile next to a severely damaged school in Tal El-Rabee on Thursday, the UN humanitarian affairs office said.

The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child on Thursday expressed "deep concern at the devastating and lasting impact the crisis in Gaza and Israel is having on children." At least 33 Palestinian children were killed in Israel's aerial bombardment.

"Destruction of homes and damage to schools, streets and other public facilities gravely affect children and deprive them of their basic rights," the committee added.

Gaza ministry official Matar said the first day back to school on Saturday was dedicated to psychological support and voluntary work to clean the schools and remove rubble.

Meanwhile, pupils in schools that have been destroyed will take afternoon classes in other school buildings until their facilities are repaired or rebuilt, Matar said.

Headmistress of UN-sponsored al-Bureij girls preparatory school, Hanan Abu Yousif, was stunned when she found her school in pieces on Saturday morning.

"The school that used to win competitions has been turned into rubble," she said.
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