In a school in northern Gaza, scores of families sweat in cramped classrooms. Babies cry, while restless kids draw on chalkboards and worried parents give thanks for their relative safety.
They are among more than 50,000 civilians taken in by the main United Nations agency in Gaza, UNRWA, as they flee heavy shelling amid an Israeli ground offensive into the border areas of the Gaza Strip.
UNRWA is now warning that its funds and supplies are running critically low. From Sunday, it says, it will no longer be able to provide enough mattresses for the flow of refugees, and has launched an urgent appeal for $60 million.
At least 341 Palestinians have been killed in the 12-day cross-border battle between Israel and Palestinians militants, according to Gaza officials. An Israeli soldier and civilian have also been killed.
Figures provided by the UN children’s agency, UNICEF, indicate 73 of the victims were under the age of 18.
Israel says its attacks target militants, whom they say use civilians as “human shields.”
Its ground operation aims to raze border tunnels from which guerrillas hope to attack Israel.