Stranded in a school

The Palestine Technical College in central Gaza has become a place of shelter for people forced to leave their homes. 

Abubaker Abed

Ibrahim al-Batsh is shocked by the conditions at Palestine Technical College in Deir al-Balah, central Gaza.

“Nothing is clean here,” he said. “There isn’t even water for the bathrooms. Since we have come here, it has been nothing but torment.”

A physics teacher and a father of three, Ibrahim left his home in Jabaliya refugee camp as the surrounding area was being bombarded by Israel.

He is distraught at how schools and universities – at least those which have not been razed in airstrikes – are not being used for lessons and lectures but as refuges that are severely overcrowded.

“These classrooms are places where future generations should graduate from,” he said. “Now they are stagnant pools of filth. This hurts a lot.”

Along with his wife and children, Ibrahim has to sleep on the floor at the college. They have no blankets or mattresses.

Their 2-year-old daughter Siyam has developed a skin complaint – like many others in Gaza. They have been wrapping Siyam up in Ibrahim’s jacket during the nights, which are getting colder as winter approaches.

Risk of dying

Husam Abed-Rabu – a father of five – is also taking shelter at the Palestine Technical College. His family have very few of their belongings with them.

“We do not even have a bucket to collect water, which is very scarce.” he said. “We were forced out of our homes. These are the only pieces of clothing we have right now.”

His exhaustion can be heard in his voice. “We know the college is not an appropriate place. But where can we go? If there is something I want to ask for it is a blanket and a mattress.”

Fawzi al-Naqla is a high school student. His family’s home has been destroyed in an Israeli airstrike.

Since the attack, the family have been staying in different places.

His mother is staying with some relatives. His father spends much of the day on the streets and then sleeps at a hospital.

“I spend each night in one of my friends’ homes,” Fawzi said.

Fawzi is very worried about his future. Before Israel’s latest war on Gaza, he was doing well in school.

“My life was ordinary and that felt good,” he said. “Now I fear that my hopes of going to university have been destroyed.”

The onset of cold weather has made matters worse.

“Most of my winter clothes are under the rubble,” he said. “Even when we get them out, they are very dirty and full of gunpowder and dust. We are trying to clean them but we do not have enough water to do so. We may have to wear them as they are.”

A fragile truce has taken effect but people whose homes were bombarded will remain displaced.

The warplanes in Israel’s arsenal threatened everyone with immediate death. Living in schools, hospitals and colleges that are overcrowded and with very little food, water or medicine also carries the risk of dying, albeit more slowly.

Abubaker Abed is a journalist and translator from Deir al-Balah refugee camp in Gaza.