Gaza's children mark first day of school as conflict drags on
Josh Elliott, CTV News
Published Sunday, August 24, 2014 11:48PM EDT
Last Updated Sunday, August 24, 2014 11:50PM EDT
Children in Gaza lined up in schoolyards on Sunday, but it was anything but a normal return to school, as Israeli airstrikes and Hamas rockets continued to fly in a conflict that has dragged nearly seven weeks.
Following the death of a four-year-old Israeli boy, Israel has set its sights on new targets in Gaza. On Sunday, office towers, shopping malls and apartment buildings in Gaza were bombed by air.
As the schools fill up and the buildings come down, peace and quiet remain elusive for Gaza’s children.
“We want a ceasefire and we want all our rights,” Palestinian student Sondus al Toum told CTV News. She, along with 250,000 other students, can’t have lessons because the schools in the region are serving as shelters to families during the fighting.
“We want to go back to our school to complete our education and to guarantee our future,” she said.
The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is taking its toll on both sides.
Israeli President Reuven Rivlin was among hundreds of attendees at the funeral for four-year-old Daniel Tragerman on Sunday, two days after the boy was killed by a mortar fired from Gaza. Daniel Tragerman is the fourth Israeli civilian to die in the conflict with Hamas. Sixty-four Israeli soldiers have also been killed.
Jerusalem Post reporter Ben Hartman says Tragerman’s death was traumatic for the Israeli population.
“It brought the fighting in a more painful way to a lot more people,” he told CTV News Channel from Israel on Sunday. “It also seems to, for many people, kind of sum up what’s going on in some of these communities on the border with Gaza.”
In Gaza, a funeral was held on Sunday for 18-month-old Zainah Abu Taqiya, who was killed earlier in the day when an Israeli airstrike destroyed her family’s home.
A total of eight people were killed in Gaza on Sunday, including Mohammed al-Ghoul, whom Israel officials say helped Hamas with its financial transactions.
Nearly 500 Palestinian children and an estimated 1,600 adults have been killed since the conflict with Israel began on July 8, according to Palestinian officials and UN statistics.
Israeli airstrikes continue to pummel the city of Gaza, striking at any building believed to be associated with the militant group Hamas. On Sunday, airstrikes levelled a seven-storey office building and severely damaged a shopping mall in Gaza. Another strike toppled a 12-storey apartment building that housed a Hamas operations centre on the fourth floor, according to Israeli media.
Speaking ahead of Israel’s weekly cabinet meeting, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned Palestinians on Sunday to stay away from Hamas militants and any buildings where they operate. He also vowed to exact a heavy price against Hamas for the death of Daniel Tragerman.
“I call on the people of Gaza to immediately evacuate any structure that Hamas is using to commit acts of terror,” he said. “Every one of these structures is a target for us.”
Over the weekend, the Israeli military began sending automated phone calls to Gaza residents, warning them that buildings linked to Hamas will be targeted, and telling them to flee for their safety.
A senior Israeli military official told the Associated Press on Sunday that the government will only approve an airstrike after citizens in the target area have been warned. However, the military has now been permitted to strike at a wider range of targets, the official said.
Hamas has continued to launch rockets at Israel throughout this latest series of airstrikes. At least 10 rockets were fired on Sunday and three Israelis were injured in one attack.
Despite multiple sessions at the negotiating table and ceasefire periods, Israel and Hamas have yet to come to an agreement to end the fighting.
Israel has launched an estimated 5,000 airstrikes against Gaza since the conflict began, while Hamas has fired about 4,000 rockets and mortars, according to the Israeli military.
The UN estimates 17,000 Palestinian homes have been destroyed or damaged beyond repair.
The conflict started in early July after three Israeli teens were killed by Hamas operatives in the West Bank.
With files from the Associated Press and a report from CTV’s Daniele Hamamdjian