The Qatar-based organisation EAA had established the Al Fakhoora programme following the deadly 2009 Israeli war on Gaza.
Education Above All (EAA) Foundation’s Al Fakhoora House in Gaza was destroyed by Israel’s ongoing bombing of the besieged city on Tuesday, the Qatar-based entity confirmed on Tuesday.
“EAA’s Al Fakhoora House in the Southern part of Al Rimal, Gaza, was destroyed in Israel’s ‘Operation Iron Swords’ bombing. Al Fakhoora House was a safe space for students and families in an area that hosts civil society and international organisations,” the Qatari entity confirmed in a statement.
Al Fakhoora was founded in 2009 following deadly attacks in Gaza and was aptly named after a school in the Jabaliya refugee camp. Civilians used the school, which was under the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA), as a shelter from the Israeli occupation forces’ (IOF) attacks.
The programme was created as “a direct response to honour the victims of this attack on education,” EAA added.
EAA’s Al Fakhoora programme rebuilt educational facilities destroyed by previous Israeli attacks while providing children and youth with much-needed psycho-social support following the traumatic event.
Sheikha Moza bint Nasser, the founder of EAA, posted an image of the destroyed Al Fakhoora building on Instagram with the caption: “Eradicating education is an unforgivable crime.”
EAA also stressed “that collective punishment, reprisals and attacks on civilians and civilian infrastructure are serious violations of international humanitarian law, and if deliberate, they are war crimes.”
Israel has been bombing the besieged Gaza Strip for five consecutive days in what has been declared as the deadliest attack in at least 15 years. The occupying force has mainly targeted residential buildings, schools, and medical facilities across the besieged enclave.
As of Wednesday morning, Israel has killed at least 950 Palestinians, including at least 260 children, though the figure is expected to rise amid the ongoing IOF attacks. Around half of Gaza’s 2 million population are children.
The bombardment on Gaza has also displaced at least 180,000 Palestinians, per recent figures published by UNRWA.
Earlier, EAA said that the majority of the Palestinians displaced by the attacks are seeking shelter in schools, including the popular UNRWA school, which is still unsafe from the bombings.
“These attacks must cease immediately,” EAA said.
Palestinians in Gaza have witnessed five sleepless nights as Israel continues to pummel the Strip. The Israeli occupation has further exacerbated their suffering by imposing a complete embargo on Gaza, which has already been blockaded since 2007.
Announcing the siege on Monday, Israel’s Defence Minister Yoav Gallant described Palestinians in Gaza as “human animals”.
“I have ordered a complete siege on the Gaza Strip. There will be no electricity, no food, no fuel, everything is closed. We are fighting human animals and we act accordingly,” Gallant said.
The shocking comments were met with condemnations by a number of rights groups, including Human Rights Watch (HRW), which slammed the use of starvation as “a weapon of war” against Palestinians.
“Depriving the population in an occupied territory of food and electricity is collective punishment, which is a war crime, as is using starvation as a weapon of war. The International Criminal Court should take note of this call to commit a war crime,” Omar Shakir, Israel and Palestine Director at HRW, said.
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Turk has condemned the Israeli decision, which he said “risks seriously compounding the already dire human rights and humanitarian situation in Gaza.”
“The imposition of sieges that endanger the lives of civilians by depriving them of goods essential for their survival is prohibited under international humanitarian law,” Turk said in a statement on Tuesday.
The besieged enclave heavily relies on vital crossings that allow the passage of basic necessities. On Tuesday, Israel attacked the shared Egypt and Gaza crossing of Rafah, which has long served as a crucial lifeline for millions of Palestinians in the city.
An Egyptian source told Germany’s DPA news agency that the Rafah crossing has been shut until further notice.
Home to more than two million Palestinians, Gaza has faced an illegal Israeli air, land and sea blockade since 2007 and has been widely described as the world’s “largest open-air prison”.
The UN said the siege on Gaza “will undoubtedly cost civilian lives and constitute collective punishment”. It also said there is “clear evidence” of war crimes committed by both sides.
“Reports that armed groups from Gaza have gunned down hundreds of unarmed civilians are abhorrent and cannot be tolerated. Taking civilian hostages and using civilians as human shields are war crimes,” the UN Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem and Israel said.
Qatar, which hosts a Hamas political office, has been at the forefront of de-escalation efforts in Gaza since the onset of the latest events. Earlier this week, the Gulf state confirmed communications “with the relevant parties, as part of regional and international efforts to de-escalate the situation”.