OPT: Gaza children's centres set alight

News and Press Release
Originally published
Two centres for children and teenagers in the Gaza Strip have been severely damaged in an arson attack, Christian Aid has learned.

Three masked and armed attackers broke into two buildings run by the Culture and Free Thought Association (CFTA) - a Christian Aid partner, based in the Khan Yunis refugee camp.

The armed assailants threatened the night guard and set fire to the two centres - the Bunat Il Ghad Teenagers Centre and the Palestinian Child Cultural Centre - causing severe damage.

The motive for the attack was unclear. 'This was committed by people who consider themselves above the law', said Majeda Al Saqqa, of CFTA. 'The type of people who want to destroy anything good in the world.'

Seventeen new computers, the Internet server, the administrative office, and the entire electric wiring system were destroyed. Part of the ceiling collapsed and wall murals painted by children were charred.

'Forty-eight per cent of Palestinian children have no place to play,' said Majeda. 'We were supposed to start our summer camp today but now we have to entirely renovate both centres. Bunat Il Ghad was the only place of its kind for Khan Yunis teenagers and now it is gone.'

Palestinian political and religious factions issued an official statement expressing their sorrow at the attack and hundreds of people visited the centres the morning after to show solidarity with the work of the organisation.

Bunat Il Ghad's teenagers are planning a renovation programme that will involve the entire community. Residents of Khan Yunis have also rallied around CFTA and volunteered to help with the clear up operation. 'It has been overwhelming and gives us strength' added Majeda.

'Our children and teenagers have the right to enjoy their summer holidays and their centre will soon be open again for them to express themselves and work on their issues. We are going to use the shells of the burnt computers to make a sculpture - we will rebuild from the ashes.'