Palestinian children find some moments of joy at Gaza shelter school

(NEW YORK) — Rawan, a 10-year-old Palestinian girl, said she is fearful living in Gaza amid the Israel-Hamas war. But she can find moments to be a kid again and cheer on others at her shelter school.

“We play to forget the pain we experienced,” Rawan, who lost a cousin in the war, told ABC News on Wednesday during a visit to a shelter school run by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East.

Volunteers at the school organize things like soccer games, and children can play with toys like hula hoops and balls. Volunteer Filastin Zoroub said the children are thrilled to just hold a toy.

“They forgot the joy, they forgot the smile, they forgot that they could play with each other,” Zoroub told ABC News. “Their great reaction when they saw the toys is evidence that they miss them a lot, because they were only seeing missiles, seeing violence, always killing, death.”

In the Gaza Strip, at least 20,915 people have been killed and more than 54,900 others have been injured since the Israel-Hamas war began, according to figures from the Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry and Government Media Office. In Israel, more than 1,200 people have been killed and 6,900 others injured by the Hamas terrorist organization and other Palestinian militants since Oct. 7, according to the Israel Defense Forces.

About 70% of those killed amid Israel’s bombardment and ground operations in Gaza since Oct. 7 are reported to be women and children, according to the UNRWA.

Humanitarian agencies have repeatedly warned of an unprecedented humanitarian crisis unfolding in Gaza.

The IDF has said it is only targeting Hamas and other militants in Gaza and alleges that Hamas deliberately shelters behind civilians, which the group denies.
MORE: Israel-Gaza live updates

Zoroub said the children at the shelter school are “exposed to great pressures: occupation, psychological pressure, fear and terror.”

“We do what we can to put a smile on their faces, take them out of the pressures and fear they are in, for a little while, so that they feel that they are living a little of their childhood that is already missing,” she said.

One young boy at the UNRWA shelter school told ABC News the staff focuses on trying to improve the lives of the children.

“There is a team that works to make the children happy here at school,” the boy, Karam, said.


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