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Nearly two years after the devastating Israeli invasion of Gaza that left 1400 dead and over 30,000 families without homes, many of the schools that were destroyed in the invasion have yet to be rebuilt. Now a United Nations effort to rebuild schools in Gaza has been cut short by the Israeli military, which refuses to give the UN permission to build several schools.
The Israeli military claims that the schools could be used by Hamas to plan terror attacks against Israel. This, despite the fact that multiple UN and international investigations have found no evidence that Hamas has ever used a school in this way, and the fact that the armed wing of Hamas has not knowingly attacked Israeli civilians for over 5 years.
According to UNRWA spokesman Adnan Abu Hasna, over 40,000 students were kept out of school this year due to a lack of facilities, and Israel’s refusal to allow the construction of needed facilities merely exacerbates this problem.
Since June 2007, when the elected government of Hamas took office in accordance with the Palestinian Constitution, the Israeli government has refused to recognize the elected government, and has imposed a devastating siege on the entire population of the Gaza Strip. The United Nations and other international agencies have called this siege ‘collective punishment’, which is a direct violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention.
Building materials, even for schools and hospitals, have been among the many items forbidden from entering the Gaza Strip. Hundreds of tons of building materials donated by international aid groups and foreign governments were seized by the Israeli military and sold for profit inside Israel.
The Israeli military said that the sites selected for the new schools are too close to Palestinian government buildings in Tel Al-Hawa neighborhood of Gaza City. Since Israel considers Hamas to be a terrorist organization, any government building in Gaza (where Hamas is the ruling party of the government) is considered by Israel to be a ‘terror’ location, and thus a legitimate target for bombing raids.