Untold stories lie buried in the rubble

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The Independent Online

As the guns fell silent in Gaza, the terrible human cost of the three weeks of bloody carnage began to be tallied.

After 22 days of air strikes and shelling, residents began emerging to search for the dead and the lost and pick over what was left of their shattered homes. The death toll at the time of ceasefire, according to the Hamas-run Ministry of Health, stood at 1,300, among them at least 410 children. Another 5,300 people were wounded.

Chris Gunness, the spokesman for the UN relief agency UNRWA, said: "We have untold stories literally buried under the rubble, each one of them will have to be found and what happened accounted for, it is impossible to say how long that will take.

"We have faced a huge amount of destruction – 53 out of our 200 facilities have been damaged, our headquarters was destroyed when the Israelis opened fire and the main workshop burned to a cinder when it was hit by white phosphorus shells.

"We have 50,000 people to feed and look after inside Gaza and we are still having problems getting to them."

The Shahadeh family was preparing to leave Gaza City and return home to the northern town of Beit Lahiya, targeted by the Israeli military. "I've been told that the devils have left," said Riyadh Shahadeh. "I'm going back to see how I'm going to start again ... I have no other option."

Classes were supposed to resume in Gaza this week but many schools, including the UN ones, have been damaged. "We found our books scattered, our desks broken," said Mohammed Yayya, 15.

"The Israelis did this because they do not want us to have an education, they see us as the enemy."

Kate Redman, from Save the Children in Jerusalem, said: "Children have borne the brunt of this conflict. Too many have lost their lives and loved ones. Many have spent weeks cold, hungry, afraid and deprived of food, clean water and health care."