Last Updated: Thursday, 26 May 2016, 08:56 GMT

Education under Attack 2010 - Israel/the Palestinian Autonomous Territories

Publisher UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO)
Publication Date 10 February 2010
Cite as UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), Education under Attack 2010 - Israel/the Palestinian Autonomous Territories, 10 February 2010, available at: [accessed 26 May 2016]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

During the Israeli military operation in Gaza at the turn of 2008-2009, ten schools and eight kindergartens were destroyed and at least 262 other schools and kindergartens were damaged or severely damaged. Six university buildings were destroyed and 16 were damaged.538 An Israeli air strike also destroyed the American International School in Gaza, killing the guard.539 According to the Ministry of Education and Higher Education (MoEHE), 250 students and 15 teachers were killed, and 656 students and 19 teachers were injured.540 According to the UN, the main causes of the killings included shootings during Israeli Defence Force raids, missile strikes and tank shellings by Israeli forces, and armed clashes between Palestinian factions. Ninety-six per cent of the killings resulted from Israeli military action, while four per cent were caused by Palestinian factional fighting. The UN Secretary-General reported 27 incidents of raids on government and UNRWA schools by the Israeli Defence Force and Israeli settlers from September 2007 to December 2009.541 There have been allegations that Hamas used children as shields and used schools, or areas in their proximity, to launch rockets into Israel. The UN Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict reported one incident of Israeli Defence Forces using an 11-year-old boy as a shield even when fired upon.542

Gaza's 346 government-run schools, 214 UNRWA schools and 28 private schools closed, leaving approximately 441,452 students without access to education during the Israeli military operation.543 The UN schools re-opened on 24 January.544 By 24 February attendance was up to 80 per cent in UNRWA schools and 89 per cent in MoEHE schools.545

Between 281 and 337 Palestinian children were being held in Israeli prisons and detention centres at any given point from September 2007 to December 2008. There were unconfirmed reports of children being trained or used by Palestinian militant groups in Gaza.546

In Israeli territory, nine schools were hit and damaged by rockets launched by Hamas during the same period. Four Israeli children were killed by a Palestinian gunman in an attack on a Jewish seminary in West Jerusalem.547

Under the Fourth Protocol of the Geneva Convention, article 50, occupying powers shall "facilitate the proper working of all institutions devoted to the care and education of children". The ICRC's interpretation is that the occupying power must not only refrain from hindering the operation of education institutions, it must seek to "support them actively and even encourage them if the responsible authorities of the country fail in their duty".548

According to the Right to Education Campaign in the Palestinian Autonomous Territories, Palestinian child detainees held in seven detention camps in the West Bank are being denied education. Only two out of five prisons in Israel provide any form of education: one offers two hours a week and the other, nine hours a week.549

In 2007, an alleged 3,000 young Palestinians detained in Israeli prisons were not allowed to sit the final-year examination for secondary schooling.550

The International Court of Justice's Advisory Opinion on the Wall (the 703 km-long Israeli West-Bank Barrier, being built to prevent suicide attacks) found that it illegally impeded the exercise of Palestinians' right to education by cutting off teachers and students from their schools in east Jerusalem.551

Since 2004, the Israeli army has arrested more than eight elected representatives of the Student Council of Birzeit University, five of whom were presidents of the Council at the time of arrest. Their role was to represent the interests of some 7,000 students before the university administration, take responsibility for welfare programmes for students, provide sports and cultural activities and help with registration, fee payment and their studies. Fadi Hamad, who as president was arrested by Israeli military special forces on 25 November 2007, said: "The arrested students who worked for the Student Council focused solely on providing local academic support for students and nothing else".552

In 2008, the Right to Education Campaign noted that 21 of 40 cases represented by Birzeit University's lawyers involved political prisoners who were jailed solely for belonging to student societies or political parties; many of them held positions of leadership in the Student Council at the time of arrest. They were being denied their freedom, their freedom of association, and their education.553

On 10 January 2008, Palestinians launched a rocket attack on the American International School in Gaza. Large parts of the school were damaged by RPG mortar and other explosive devices.554

On 6 March 2008, eight students were killed when an armed gunman attacked a Jewish religious school in Jerusalem.555

On 16 May 2008, a bomb detonated outside of Zahwa Rosary School in Gaza City.556

On 31 May 2008, assailants entered El-Manera School in Gaza City and beat two school guards before stealing a bus. It was a copy of a similar attack against the same school on 21 February 2008.557

In June 2006, Hizbollah shelling of northern Israel resulted in damage to 23 schools and 11 kindergartens and the deaths of seven children, though it is not known if the schools were deliberately targeted.558

A Gazan boy, aged 17, told the Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict that many boys had been approached by Palestinian militant organizations outside their school in Gaza to join paramilitary training. They resisted but feared they would be taken by force one day.559

[Refworld note: The source report "Education under Attack 2010" was posted on the UNESCO website ( in pdf format, with country chapters run together. Original footnote numbers have been retained here.]

538 United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) and Association of International Development Agencies (AIDA), The Gaza Blockade: Children and Education Fact Sheet (July 28, 2009), The earlier figures used by the Secretary-General in March 2009 were 7 schools destroyed and 157 government schools damaged in Gaza.

539 Ameera Ahmad and Ed Vulliamy, "In Gaza, the Schools Are Dying Too," The Guardian, January 10, 2009; and OCHA, "Gaza Humanitarian Situation Report," January 3, 2009.

540 AIDA/OCHA, The Gaza Blockade: Children and Education Fact Sheet.

541 UNSC, Report of the Secretary-General on Children and Armed Conflict (2009), 18.

542 Ibid., 18.

543 OCHA and AIDA, The Gaza Blockade: Children and Education Fact Sheet; UNICEF, "As UN aid operations are suspended, a Gaza teenager describes his life amidst conflict," January 8, 2009.

544 "UN reopens schools in Gaza," BBC, January 24, 2009.

545 Save the Children, "Children of the Gaza Crisis: Education Fact Sheet," February 24, 2009,

546 UNSC, Report of the Secretary-General on Children and Armed Conflict (2009), 19.

547 Ibid., 18-19.

548 ICRC, Commentary on the Fourth Geneva Convention Relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War (Geneva: ICRC, 1958), 286.

549 Defence for Children International/Palestine Section (DCI/PS), Submission to the Special Rapporteur on the Right to Education in Advance of the Annual Report to Be Presented to the Human Rights Council in 2009 (December 2008), 5.

550 Palestinian Ministry of Detainees and Ex-Detainees Affairs, as cited in The Right to Education Campaign, Submission to the United Nations Human Rights Council's Universal Periodic Review of Israel, December 2008 (July 2008), 2.

551 International Court of Justice (ICJ), Legal Consequences of the Construction of a Wall in the Occupied Territory, ICJ Rep 136, Advisory Opinion (July 4, 2004), para. 111.

552 The Right to Education Campaign, Submission to UNHRC, December 2008, 4. The Right to Education Campaign promotes and defends the right to education of Palestinians in the Occupied Territories.

553 Ibid.

554 Reports aggregated on, July 10, 2008.

555 United Nations Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General (SRSG) for Children and Armed Conflict, "Middle East: The Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict Calls for All Parties to Protect Schools and Children," March 7, 2008, conflict/pr/2008-03-07179.html.

556 Compass Direct News, "Unknown Assailants Attack Christian School in Gaza," June 5, 2008, 557 Ibid.

558 Office of the SRSG for Children and Armed Conflict, Report: Visit of the Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict to the Middle East: Lebanon, Israel and Occupied Palestinian Territory, 9-20 April 2007 (July 2007), as cited in Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers, Child Soldiers Global Report 2008, 185.

559 Office of the SRSG for Children and Armed Conflict, Report: Visit of the Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict to the Middle East, 15.

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