No shelter from war: The bombing of Block 2 at the UNRWA Nuseirat School

07 June 2024
A child sits among the ruins of the Nuseirat Preparatory Boys’ School. © 2024 UNRWA Photo by Fadi Thabet

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In yet another strike on a UN installation in the Gaza Strip, this time on the UNRWA Nuseirat Boys' Preparatory School, a bombardment by Israeli forces early on 6 June killed at least 35 people  and injured dozens more.

The UNRWA school-turned-shelter at Nuseirat refugee camp, in the central Gaza Strip, housed some 6,000 internally displaced people. Many hailed from Al-Bureij and Al-Maghazi refugee camps, which they were forced to flee because of the war.

The testimonies of the people at the shelter are horrifying, with the airstrike coming on top of what has already been an eight-month onslaught of displacement, death, and dispossession. Many have lost their relatives and friends, and have fear and anxiety etched deep in their faces. One person said, "We are in an UNRWA school, and we are being targeted! Where can we go when we have lost everything?"

Damage to the UNRWA Nuseirat Preparatory Boys’ School. © 2024 UNRWA Photo by Fadi Thabet
Damage to the UNRWA Nuseirat Preparatory Boys’ School. © 2024 UNRWA Photo by Fadi Thabet

 

Damage to the UNRWA Nuseirat Preparatory Boys’ School. © 2024 UNRWA Photo by Fadi Thabet
Damage to the UNRWA Nuseirat Preparatory Boys’ School. © 2024 UNRWA Photo by Fadi Thabet

 

A classroom lies in ruin. © 2024 UNRWA Photo by Fadi Thabet
A classroom lies in ruin. © 2024 UNRWA Photo by Fadi Thabet

 

Musab, photographed below, was hit by shrapnel and sustained injuries all over his body. His father was killed in the strike on the school that he and his family sought shelter in. “We have been displaced six times to save ourselves, seeking refuge in UNRWA schools, but this is the hardest situation I've ever experienced. Yesterday, we lost our father. Concrete slabs fell on us, and suddenly, we found ourselves surrounded by the dead and injured. All of my family members were either injured or killed,” said Musab, 17.

Injuries sustained in an Israeli airstrike on a shelter Musab was sheltering in. © 2024 UNRWA Photo by Fadi Thabet
Injuries sustained in an Israeli airstrike on a shelter Musab was sheltering in. © 2024 UNRWA Photo by Fadi Thabet

 

“I don't know what happened. We were sleeping, and at two in the morning, missiles rained down on us. They pulled us from under the rubble, and all we saw were shrapnel, debris, and dust. I am in shock and can't comprehend that my father is dead! How will we live? All my siblings are so young! Our support and backbone has been broken,” Musab lamented “We call on the world and the United Nations to provide us with protection.”

Since the war began last October, UNRWA’s schools and other facilities in Gaza have been transformed into emergency shelters for internally displaced people. Some 1.7 million people have been displaced by the war, many of them multiple times, and the shelters are massively overcrowded.

The UNRWA Nuseirat School and Emergency Shelter is one of more than 180 United Nations installations damaged since the start of the war, in over 435 separate incidents. At least 450 people sheltering in UNRWA facilities have been killed and over 1,470 injured.

UNRWA installations, like all United Nations facilities, are inviolable. UNRWA shares the coordinates of all its installations with the Israeli authorities and other parties to the conflict. UNRWA Commissioner-General, Philippe Lazzarini, has underscored that, “Targeting UN premises or using them for military purposes cannot become the new norm.” The Agency has called for an independent international investigation into the disregard for UN facilities and said that all those responsible must be held accountable.