The Globe’s Patrick Martin was in Gaza City on Wednesday, observing how Palestinian residents are coping with the escalating violence. Read his full report here.
The Girls Prep School in Gaza City is another makeshift UN centre for displaced Gazans. The people here have arrived only in the past two days and appear to have been more or less dumped in the place.
There was no sense of order here – certainly no school master or UN officials to be seen – and certainly no neat Boy Scouts as there were at the Fakhoura School, another shelter I visited.
Rather, the scene encountered on walking through the steel gates was one of young boys – aged 10 to 12 – fighting. Seriously fighting. And I noticed a number of young men walking about carrying wooden sticks.
When I approached one of the older men to ask where he and other people came from, I barely got the words out of my mouth before I was swarmed by a large group, made up mostly of women and children.
It happened often in Gaza on Wednesday that groups would gather around whenever my interpreter and I stopped to talk to people. They were often just curious and had little else to do.
Some were simply annoying, repeatedly asking, “What’s your name?” – the only sentence in English they knew. Others wanted to hear word of “the situation” and when this journalist thought the conflict will be over.
But the group at Girls Prep were different. They were menacing.
It was clear they thought I was some kind of UN official who finally was going to talk to them or bring them some provisions; some held their hands to us, palms up, demanding money.
Some 50 per cent of Gaza’s population is unemployed or unpaid; half of its 1.8 million people are on United Nations food aid.
I would happily have gone off with some of the displaced Gazans at the Girls Prep School to inspect the facilities about which they complained, but as I began to suggest that, I found that some of the boys were trying to unzip my backpack slung over one shoulder, while others were reaching into my pockets.
“It’s time to go,” I announced loudly and looked around for Jihad, my interpreter. She too was fending off a mob. I pushed my way toward her, and Mahmoud, our tall strong driver, came toward her from the other side. Together, and with great effort, we made our way through the steel gate to where our car was parked.
Even there, kids jostled the car and reached through the open windows to try to grab things, until we rolled up the windows and drove off.
The people of Gaza are becoming desperate.