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Christmas cheer at Gaza Catholic school as war damage repairs go on

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By Reuters
Christmas cheer at Gaza Catholic school as war damage repairs go on
Christmas cheer at Gaza Catholic school as war damage repairs go on   -   Copyright  Thomson Reuters 2021

By Nidal al-Mughrabi

GAZA – Seven months ago, Sister Nabila and two other nuns huddled in a Gaza Catholic school compound, shaken by the sound of explosions from Israel’s bombing of what it said were Palestinian militant targets nearby.

Now she is looking forward to some Christmas cheer in the Rosary Sisters’ school, where she serves as principal. Holiday decorations are going up even as repairs to the facility continue after last May’s 11-day Gaza war.

The explosions outside the school perimeter were still powerful enough to cause the structure to lean 8 centimetres (3 inches), Sister Nabila said. Engineers saved it from demolition and began fixing damaged classrooms.

No students were in the kindergarten-grade 12 school during the night-time attack on what Israel described as tunnels in the neighbourhood used by militants who fired rockets at its towns.

“War won’t stop us,” said Sister Nabila, who joined colleagues and students in decorating a Christmas tree. “We are determined to have a Christmas atmosphere inside the school because this symbolises continuity.”

With fewer than 1,000 Christians in Gaza, where two million people live, 95 percent of the 1,150 students are Muslim. Mainly Greek Orthodox, Gaza’s Christians celebrate Christmas on Jan. 7.

Sister Nabila said she was still “overcome with fear and horror” when she recalled the night of the bombing. She and two other nuns live in the school compound.

“I thought the entire school had collapsed,” she said. “I hope there will be no more wars because Gaza had enough – our children shouldn’t live through any more wars because they leave bad memories.”

Palestinian authorities said Israeli strikes on Gaza killed 250 people, while Israeli officials put the death toll in Israel from Gaza rocket salvoes at 13. The Hamas Islamist group, which has fought four wars with Israel since 2008, runs Gaza.