Gaza children return to school after war

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Gaza children return to school after war
In this Monday, July 14, 2014 photo, a Palestinian girl sits on the wall of the New Gaza United Nations School, where dozens of families have sought refuge after fleeing their home in fear of Israeli airstrikes. Twenty U.N. schools took in more than 17,000 displaced Gazans, many of them children, after Saturday's warnings by Israel that civilians must clear out of northern Gaza. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)
In this Monday, July 14, 2014 photo, a donkey cart belonging to displaced Palestinians sits parked in front of a mural painted at the New Gaza United Nations School, where dozens of families have sought refuge after fleeing their home in fear of Israeli airstrikes. 20 U.N. schools took in more than 17,000 displaced Gazans, many of them children, after Saturday's warnings by Israel that civilians must clear out of northern Gaza. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)
A Palestinian girl rests next to a painting with Arabic writing that reads "Palestine," in a United Nations school where dozens of families have sought refuge after fleeing their home in fear of Israeli airstrikes, in Gaza City, Friday, July 18, 2014. Israeli troops pushed deeper into Gaza on Friday to destroy rocket launching sites and tunnels, firing volleys of tank shells and clashing with Palestinian fighters in a high-stakes ground offensive meant to weaken the enclave's Hamas rulers. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)
In this Monday, July 14, 2014 photo, young Palestinian girl Fulla Attar, 10, rests in a classroom of the New Gaza Boys United Nations school, where dozens of families have sought refuge after fleeing their home in fear of Israeli airstrikes. 20 U.N. schools took in more than 17,000 displaced Gazans, many of them children, after Saturday's warnings by Israel that civilians must clear out of northern Gaza. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)
In this Monday, July 14, 2014 photo, a boy cools off on a hot summer day at the Gaza Boys United Nations School, where dozens of families have sought refuge after fleeing their home in fear of Israeli airstrikes. 20 U.N. schools took in more than 17,000 displaced Gazans, many of them children, after Saturday's warnings by Israel that civilians must clear out of northern Gaza. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)
In this Monday, July 14, 2014 photo, a Palestinian family displaced by ongoing violence clean a classroom where they now live in the New Gaza United Nations School, where dozens of families have sought refuge after fleeing their homes in fear of Israeli airstrikes. In Gaza, about one-fourth of the over 170 Palestinians killed in the past week were children, according to U.N. figures. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)
In this Monday, July 14, 2014 photo, Ahmed Attar, 12, stands in the stairwell of the New Gaza Boys United Nations School, where dozens of families have sought refuge after fleeing their home in fear of Israeli airstrikes. The children of the Attar clan have lived through three wars in just over five years, each time fleeing their homes as Israel bombarded their neighborhood in the Palestinian Gaza Strip. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)
In this Monday, July 14, 2014 photo, sisters Mariam Attar, center right, and Sada Attar, center left, rest with their children inside the New Gaza Boys United Nations School after fleeing their home in fear of Israeli airstrikes in Gaza City. The children of the Attar clan have lived through three wars in just over five years, each time fleeing their homes as Israel bombarded their neighborhood in the Palestinian Gaza Strip. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)
Palestinians flee their homes to take shelter at the United Nations school in Gaza City, Sunday, July 13, 2014. Israel briefly deployed ground troops inside the Gaza Strip for the first time early Sunday as its military warned northern residents to evacuate their homes, part of a widening campaign against militant rocket fire that's seen more than 160 Palestinians killed. Israel accuses Hamas of using Gaza's civilians as human shields by firing rockets from there. Critics say Israel's heavy bombardment of one of the most densely populated territories in the world is itself the main factor putting civilians at risk. (AP Photo/Hatem Moussa)
An elderly Palestinian takes shelter at the United Nations school after his family fled their homes in Gaza City on Sunday, July 13, 2014. Israel briefly deployed ground troops inside the Gaza Strip for the first time early Sunday as its military warned northern Gaza residents to evacuate their homes, part of a widening offensive that has killed more than 160 Palestinians. (AP Photo/Adel Hana)
Palestinians take shelter at the United Nations school after they fled their homes in Gaza City on Sunday, July 13, 2014. Israel briefly deployed ground troops inside the Gaza Strip for the first time early Sunday as its military warned northern Gaza residents to evacuate their homes, part of a widening offensive that has killed more than 160 Palestinians. (AP Photo/Adel Hana)
Palestinians take shelter at the United Nations school after they fled their homes in Gaza City, Sunday, July 13, 2014. Israel briefly deployed ground troops inside the Gaza Strip for the first time early Sunday as its military warned northern Gaza residents to evacuate their homes, part of a widening offensive that has killed more than 160 Palestinians. (AP Photo/Adel Hana)
Palestinians take shelter at the United Nations school after they fled their homes in Gaza City on Sunday, July 13, 2014. Israel briefly deployed ground troops inside the Gaza Strip for the first time early Sunday as its military warned northern Gaza residents to evacuate their homes, part of a widening offensive that has killed more than 160 Palestinians. (AP Photo/Adel Hana)
Palestinian youths play on a school desk after they fled their homes with their family to take shelter at the United Nations school in Gaza City, Sunday, July 13, 2014. Israel briefly deployed ground troops inside the Gaza Strip for the first time early Sunday as its military warned northern Gaza residents to evacuate their homes, part of a widening offensive that has killed more than 160 Palestinians. (AP Photo/Adel Hana)
Displaced Palestinians seek refuge in a United Nations school in Gaza City after fleeing their homes Sunday, July 13, 2014. Israel has called on residents of the northern Gaza Strip to evacuate their homes, suggesting a coming attack after its troops earlier launched a brief raid. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)
Displaced Palestinians seek refuge at a United Nations school in Gaza City after fleeing their homes. Sunday, July 13, 2014. Israel has called on residents of the northern Gaza Strip to evacuate their homes, suggesting a coming attack after its troops earlier launched a brief raid. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)
Displaced Palestinians seek refuge in a United Nations school in Gaza City after fleeing their homes Sunday, July 13, 2014. Israel has called on residents of the northern Gaza Strip to evacuate their homes, suggesting a coming attack after its troops earlier launched a brief raid. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)
Displaced Palestinians seek refuge in a United Nations school in Gaza City after fleeing their homes Sunday, July 13, 2014. Israel has called on residents of the northern Gaza Strip to evacuate their homes, suggesting a coming attack after its troops earlier launched a brief raid. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)
Displaced Palestinians seek refuge in a United Nations school in Gaza City after fleeing their homes Sunday, July 13, 2014. Israel has called on residents of the northern Gaza Strip to evacuate their homes, suggesting a coming attack after its troops earlier launched a brief raid. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)
In this photo taken Tuesday, May 20, 2014, two Palestinian school children walk past a mural depicting late Palestinian activist Ahmed Mosleh, who was killed during an Israeli army operation in 2006, with his name in Arabic and the names of other killed Palestinians, in an alley of the Dheisheh Palestinian refugee camp, in the West Bank city of Bethlehem. Pope Francis will spend less than half an hour in this Palestinian refugee camp during a jam-packed Holy Land tour this weekend, but residents hope even a brief visit will shine a light on what they say is their forgotten plight. Some 190,000 of the West Bank's 2.4 million Palestinians live in refugee camps and face tougher conditions _ including higher unemployment and overcrowding _ than their neighbors in towns and villages. (AP Photo/Nasser Nasser)
A displaced Palestinian sits in a roon at a UN School where she takes refuge during the heavy fighting in the Gaza Strip on September 7, 2014 in Beit Hanun in northern Gaza strip. Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas has threatened to break off a unity agreement with Hamas if the Islamist movement does not allow the government to operate properly in the Gaza Strip. AFP PHOTO/MAHMUD HAMS (Photo credit should read MAHMUD HAMS/AFP/Getty Images)
Displaced Palestinian children lay on mats at a UN School where they took refuge during the heavy fighting in the Gaza Strip on September 7, 2014 in Beit Hanun in northern Gaza strip. Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas has threatened to break off a unity agreement with Hamas if the Islamist movement does not allow the government to operate properly in the Gaza Strip. AFP PHOTO/MAHMUD HAMS (Photo credit should read MAHMUD HAMS/AFP/Getty Images)
Displaced Palestinians walk in the courtyard of a UN School where they took refuge during the heavy fighting in the Gaza Strip on September 7, 2014 in Beit Hanun in northern Gaza strip. Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas has threatened to break off a unity agreement with Hamas if the Islamist movement does not allow the government to operate properly in the Gaza Strip. AFP PHOTO/MAHMUD HAMS (Photo credit should read MAHMUD HAMS/AFP/Getty Images)
Displaced Palestinian children play in the courtyard of a UN School where they took refuge during the heavy fighting in the Gaza Strip on September 7, 2014 in Beit Hanun in northern Gaza strip. Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas has threatened to break off a unity agreement with Hamas if the Islamist movement does not allow the government to operate properly in the Gaza Strip. AFP PHOTO/MAHMUD HAMS (Photo credit should read MAHMUD HAMS/AFP/Getty Images)
GAZA CITY, GAZA - AUGUST 24: A Palestinian child looks from the balcony of Al Bahreyn Secondary School of United Nations in Gaza city, Gaza on 24 August, 2014. Some Palestinian families take shelter at UN schools after fleeing Israeli attacks. (Photo by Mohammed Talatene/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
GAZA CITY, GAZA - AUGUST 24: Palestinian children play in a clasrrom of Al Bahreyn Secondary School of United Nations in Gaza city, Gaza on 24 August, 2014. Some Palestinian families take shelter at UN schools after fleeing Israeli attacks. (Photo by Mohammed Talatene/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
GAZA CITY, GAZA - AUGUST 24: Palestinian children play at corridor of Al Bahreyn Secondary School of United Nations in Gaza city, Gaza on 24 August, 2014. Some Palestinian families take shelter at UN schools after fleeing Israeli attacks. (Photo by Mohammed Talatene/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
GAZA CITY, GAZA - AUGUST 24: Palestinian children play in a clasrrom of Al Bahreyn Secondary School of United Nations in Gaza city, Gaza on 24 August, 2014. Some Palestinian families take shelter at UN schools after fleeing Israeli attacks. (Photo by Mohammed Talatene/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
GAZA CITY, GAZA - AUGUST 24: A Palestinian child sits at a school desk at the corridor of Al Bahreyn Secondary School of United Nations in Gaza city, Gaza on 24 August, 2014. Some Palestinian families take shelter at UN schools after fleeing Israeli attacks. (Photo by Mohammed Talatene/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
GAZA CITY, GAZA - AUGUST 24: A view of Al Bahreyn Secondary School of United Nations that Palestinian families take shelter at after fleeing Israeli attacks in Gaza city, Gaza on 24 August, 2014. (Photo by Mohammed Talatene/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
A Palestinian man sits among other displaced people sleeping on mats at a UN school in Gaza City early on August 23, 2014. Hundreds of thousands of Gazans have been displaced by fighting between Israel and Hamas since the latest hostilities began on July 8. The UN recently said that 460,000 Palestinians have been displaced by the violence which is more than a quarter of the population of the Gaza Strip. Some 280,000 of those displaced have taken shelter in UN schools. AFP PHOTO/ROBERTO SCHMIDT (Photo credit should read ROBERTO SCHMIDT/AFP/Getty Images)
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By IBRAHIM BARZAK

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) -- Some half million Gaza children made a delayed return to school on Sunday after a devastating 50-day war with Israel that killed more than 2,100 Palestinians and damaged hundreds of school buildings.

Gaza Education Ministry official Ziad Thabet said the opening is for 230,000 1st to 12th graders attending public schools, 200,000 going to United Nations-run schools and tens of thousands enrolled in private institutions.

The opening was delayed for two weeks because of damage to schools and the diversion of U.N. school buildings for use as temporary centers to house tens of thousands of displaced people. Some 50,000 people are still being housed in the U.N. schools, the U.N. Palestinian refugee agency said.

Early Sunday the Gaza City streets were crowded with children dressed in a broad array of school uniforms, many accompanied by parents or older siblings.

In the Al-Zaitoun boys elementary school, students pasted stickers with the names of fellow students killed during the war, as teachers struggled to cope with the badly damaged facilities - a hole in a ceiling here, a partially collapsed wall there.

"I'm not as excited coming to school as I was in the past," said student Tamar Toutah, 11. "I feel that something is missing. I asked about my fellow students, but some were killed or wounded."

Thabet said that unlike in previous years the first week of instruction in government schools will be given over to providing psychological counseling and recreational activities to help the war-weary children transition to learning.

"We gave special training to more than 11,000 teachers and 3,000 principals and administrators about how to address students after the war," he said.

Thabet said 26 Gaza schools were destroyed during the war, and another 232 sustained damage.

He said government funding for education remains spotty, with no money provided for operational expenses since the formation of a unity government earlier this year between Hamas, the Islamic militant group that runs Gaza, and the Western-backed Palestinian Authority based in the West Bank.

UNICEF official June Kunugi echoed his concerns.

"Investing in education is an investment for the future," she said. "Without increased support and commitment to their education and protection, an entire generation in Gaza could be lost."

The U.N. Palestinian refugee agency says it is providing 130,000 school bags and teaching aids for government schools, and that it has carried out training programs for nearly 12,000 school counsellors, teachers and supervisors.

Despite the assistance, teacher Akram al-Fares, 45, said the mood among his colleagues was dour.

"We are in the same boat with the kids, we lived through the same very difficult days," he said. "But we are here together to prove that life continues, and not only can we teach, but also our kids can learn."

The war between Israel and Hamas-led militants stemmed from the abduction and killing of three Israeli teens in the West Bank in June. Israel blamed the attack on Hamas and carried out a wave of arrests, which was followed by an increase in rocket fire from Gaza that prompted Israeli airstrikes and then a ground invasion.

The fighting ended with an Egyptian-brokered cease-fire on Aug. 26.

The Gaza war -- the third in just over five years -- left more than 2,100 Palestinians dead, the majority of them civilians, including hundreds of children, according to Palestinian and U.N. officials. Israel says the number of militants killed was much higher and accuses Hamas of using civilians as human shields. On the Israeli side, 66 soldiers and six civilians were killed.

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