In the latest Photo of the Week, 3-year-old Mohammed Fakhri Naim sits on a cot in a Gaza hospital. With his head wrapped in gauze bandage, he recovers from wounds he sustained during missile fire on a school where he and his family had taken shelter. “There’s no safe place,” said his father. “I left my home, and it was bombed. I took my family to the school, and it was bombed. There’s no way to go.”
The school – run by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) and serving as a shelter for displaced families – is part of the UN premises protected under the Convention on the Privileges and Immunities of the United Nations. Still, five such schools have come under shelling during the recent escalation of violence between Israel and Gaza, with one of those emergency shelters having been struck twice, according to the latest reporting from UNRWA.
The most recent of these attacks occurred yesterday next to a school in Rafah, in southern Gaza. In a statement released by his Spokesperson, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon reiterated that “United Nations shelters must be safe zones not combat zones” and referred to the latest incident as “a moral outrage and a criminal act.”
Children and other civilians continue to bear unacceptable consequences of the recent conflict. The risks of displacement, of losing one’s home or loved ones, and of suffering injury or even death have come to characterize the daily reality of life in Gaza. By 3 August, 377 children had lost their lives amid the recent hostilities, while many more like Mohammed had been injured. The unrest is also exacting a heavy psychological toll.
Surviving, developing, playing, attending school, living in safety – these are not mere aspirations for the future. They are the rights of every child. They are the reality we must create now.
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