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Children’s shoes left behind illustrate chaos of fleeing Khan Younis: UN humanitarians
Khan Younis
Photo Courtesy: UNRWA

Children’s shoes left behind illustrate chaos of fleeing Khan Younis: UN humanitarians

| @indiablooms | 30 Apr 2024, 05:11 pm

The UN agency for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA, reached one of its now-abandoned schools in Khan Younis at the weekend, where thousands of people appeared to have left at a moment’s notice, fearing further intense Israeli bombardment.

“They used to shelter inside the school yard here, inside the classrooms, using all the external space. Now there’s nothing left. Everybody evacuated very quickly,” said Louise Wateridge, UNRWA Communications Officer.

Writing in a social media post on X that abandoned children’s shoes were “everywhere” at the school, the UNRWA officer also pointed to rubble and smashed concrete blocks that fell from the roof after a direct hit.

Lives upended

“There’s nobody here now but you can see how quickly people left. There’s shoes on the floor, there’s hairbrushes, toothbrushes, even bits of food just left behind,” Ms. Wateridge said, her mobile phone footage indicating massive damage to buildings next to the UNRWA facility, including a block whose entire top floor had been upended and smashed wide open.

And at a training centre in Khan Younis, where Ms. Wateridge said that at least 40,000 people sheltered when it came under direct fire and was subsequently besieged, she described “entire rooms burnt out, belongings scattered everywhere…Graves of children in the yard read, “Your sister misses you.’”

Lasting impact

According to UNRWA, the war in Gaza has impacted 165 of its installations in the enclave since Israeli strikes began in response to Hamas-led attacks on 7 October that killed some 1,250 people in southern Israel and left more than 250 taken hostage.

Latest data from the Gazan health authorities indicates that at least 34,480 Palestinians have been killed in the ensuing violence and more than 77,640 wounded. As part of the continuing UN humanitarian response, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) – which said that over 13,000 youngsters have been reportedly killed – has distributed more than 203,000 items of clothing for 0-17-year-olds.

UNICEF has reported that at least 17,000 children in Gaza are now unaccompanied or separated from their family after nearly seven months of war, with at least seven in 10 houses believed damaged or destroyed.

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