Gaza schools reopen after cross-border conflict

Thousands of children returned to school on Saturday in the Gaza Strip after eight days of cross-border fighting between Israel and the Palestinian militant group Hamas, which rules the coastal enclave. Schools were closed during the Israeli strikes on Gaza and children appeared to be happy being able to resume their studies. "Today thank god, we returned to school during the last few days, some of the nearby buildings were destroyed because the Ministry of Interior is in the same neighborhood. All the nearby schools buildings were damaged," headmistress of Zaitoun School, Naheda Silmi, said. "We tried to renovate the school and keep the students away from the damage. Windows and doors were broken. We are trying to create a real school day for students after what happened," Silmi added. Students like Muhammad Issa were relieved to see their friends safe in Gaza. Alexy Makhlof, head of the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) office in Gaza, visited Al Shojaia primary school on Saturday to see the damage. "We're making our assessment estimate now but I think the psychological trauma for the kids is very, very serious here in Gaza. So what I said, it comes back and back so practically it repeats itself and it's an extremely sad story so recovery not only the building but of the soul." Al Shojaia student Nour Hosary said she had been ready to go back to class on Saturday but was left looking at the damage instead. Some 220,000 students are receiving education at U.N. schools in Gaza. The majority of students suffer from overcrowding and are "double shifted" when one school building serves two different sets of teachers and students. Israel carried out about 1,500 airstrikes against what it described as Hamas-linked targets in Gaza, while militants fired about as many rockets into Israel during the eight-day conflict. The ceasefire agreement brought an end to eight days of the fiercest fighting in years and possibly signaling a new era of relations between the bitter enemies.

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