Testimonies from al-Nour Centre for the Rehabilitation of the Blind, March 2002
On 5 March 2002, Israeli combat aircraft bombarded the Gaza civil police headquarters, located in a densely populated civilian residential area of Gaza city. The nearby al-Nour Centre for the Rehabilitation of the Blind, run by the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) and flying a UN flag, was severely damaged and rendered unusable during the raid.
The al-Nour Centre serves approximately 350 children from throughout the Gaza strip and is the only facility of its kind in the Gaza strip. UNRWA Commissioner General Peter Hansen visited the Centre after the attack and, after meeting with children there, promised to seek compensation from the Israeli government for the damage done to the building.
PCHR is alarmed at the increasing regularity of Israeli air strikes in densely populated civilian residential areas in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT) and condemns attacks against civil installations carried out without regard to the effects on nearby individuals or buildings, especially schools. Such air strikes, often aimed at empty Palestinian National Authority (PNA) institutions but also damaging nearby homes and civilian facilities, are an indiscriminate and disproportionate use of force, and are not justified by military necessity.
PCHR reiterates that Palestinian children, a particularly vulnerable part of the civilian population, have not been immune from Israeli attacks during the al-Aqsa Intifada. Nearly a quarter of all Palestinians killed by Israeli occupation forces since October 2000 have been under age 18. Shelling of schools and hospitals, as well as Israel’s comprehensive siege and closure policy, have also dramatically restricted access to education and health facilities badly needed by Palestinian children. Moreover, Palestinian children have suffered widespread mental and emotional trauma and stress from Israeli attacks.
Below are testimonies taken from students and staff of the school:
Duniya Fuad Suweisi, 6:
“The Israelis have broken our schoolrooms, our toys, our books…It was Sharon who did this, and his soldiers, because they hate Palestine and hate all of us…I’m very sad because they hit my school. My father has told me that I would have to stay at home for many days until the school reopens because there is no other school like mine [in the Gaza strip]. I love my school because it is where I learn, write, and play…We haven’t done anything to their schools, why have they attacked ours?”
Fatih Heydar Doghmosh, 7:
“[The Israelis] shelled the school and broke the walls of the classrooms…I would like to say to children all over the world: Look at what the Jews are doing to our schools and our land. They have destroyed our school…I’m blind, where shall I go now? Where will I get my education? Where will I play, now that they have destroyed my school and my classroom?”
Abdel Minam Abu Jarbuweh, director of the Centre:
“I would never imagine that they would shell a place like this, despite all the things that they’ve done…They say that they only target police buildings. But the police headquarters are empty and have been shelled many times before. Israel, through the media, makes people believe that they are only attacking police outposts and security installations but in fact they are attacking these empty places to terrify civilians living nearby…What is the point of attacking police headquarters that have already been bombed? The psychological effects of these attacks are very very serious. Do you know how much effort will be needed to convince them that they should not be afraid to come back to school? I’m calling upon the whole world to try to know about our experiences, recognise the injustice under which we live, and to see who is the victim.”
|Duniya Suweisi and Fatih Doghmosh speak about their school, damaged by Israeli combat aircraft (l)|
|Playground facilities at the school destroyed by Israeli bombardment|