Children’s shoes highlight Gaza’s Khan Younis city exodus chaos: UN

Apr 29, 2024

The UN agency for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA, reached one of its now-abandoned schools in Khan Younis, a city in the Gaza Strip, at the weekend, where thousands of people appeared to have left at a moment’s notice, fearing further intense Israeli bombardment.

“They used to shelter inside the school yard here, inside the classrooms, using all the external space. Now there’s nothing left. Everybody evacuated very quickly,” Louise Wateridge, UNRWA Communications Officer, said in a statement.

Writing in a social media post on X that abandoned children’s shoes were “everywhere” at the school, the UNRWA officer also pointed to rubble and smashed concrete blocks that fell from the roof after a direct hit.

“There’s nobody here now but you can see how quickly people left. There’s shoes on the floor, there’s hairbrushes, toothbrushes, even bits of food just left behind,” Ms Wateridge said, her mobile phone footage indicating massive damage to buildings next to the UNRWA facility, including a block whose entire top floor had been upended and smashed wide open.

And at a training centre in Khan Younis, where Ms Wateridge said that at least 40,000 people sheltered when it came under direct fire and was subsequently besieged, she described “entire rooms burnt out, belongings scattered everywhere…Graves of children in the yard read, ‘Your sister misses you’.”

According to UNRWA, the Israeli attacks in Gaza has impacted 165 of its installations in the enclave since October 7.

Latest data from the Gazan health authorities indicates that at least 34,480 Palestinians, mostly women and children, have been killed in the ensuing violence and more than 77,640 wounded. As part of the continuing UN humanitarian response, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) – which said that over 13,000 youngsters have been reportedly killed – has distributed more than 203,000 items of clothing for children.

UNICEF has reported that at least 17,000 children in Gaza are now unaccompanied or separated from their family after nearly seven months of war, with at least seven in 10 houses believed damaged or destroyed.