Middle East

Chaos in Khan Younis: Kids’ Shoes Tell Tale of Fleeing – UN

The UN agency for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA, reached one of its now-abandoned schools in Khan Younis 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,” said Louise Wateridge, UNRWA Communications Officer. 

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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.

Lives upended

“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.’”

Lasting impact

According to UNRWA, the war in Gaza has impacted 165 of its installations in the enclave since Israeli strikes began in response to Hamas-led attacks on 7 October that killed some 1,250 people in southern Israel and left more than 250 taken hostage.

Latest data from the Gazan health authorities indicates that at least 34,480 Palestinians 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 0-17-year-olds.

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.


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  1. What measures are being taken to provide assistance to those who fled Khan Younis so abruptly?

    1. We are closely monitoring the situation and coordinating with local authorities to ensure essential aid reaches those who had to flee Khan Younis in a rush. Our focus is on providing immediate relief like food, shelter, and medical assistance to those in need. Rest assured, efforts are underway to support the displaced families during this chaotic time.

  2. Why did the people evacuate so quickly from the UNRWA school in Khan Younis? Was there a specific trigger for their sudden departure?

    1. People evacuated quickly from the UNRWA school in Khan Younis due to the immediate risk posed by intense Israeli bombardment. When danger strikes, swift action is often necessary to ensure safety and survival.

  3. “Seeing the abandoned children’s shoes and belongings left behind brings a heavy heart. The situation in Khan Younis is truly devastating.”

  4. Were the children’s shoes found at the school providing any clues about the urgency of the evacuation mentioned in the article?

    1. Yes, the abandoned children’s shoes scattered everywhere at the school do tell a poignant tale of the urgency of the evacuation described in the article. Their presence among the rubble and debris signifies the swift departure of the people, leaving behind personal belongings like hairbrushes, toothbrushes, and even bits of food. It’s a heartbreaking visual representation of lives disrupted by conflict.

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