March 13 2002
Critical situation in Rafah und Bethlehem
13/03/2002 - In spite of a massive intensification in the conflict, SOS Children's Villages is continuing to take care of its children and young people in the Palestinian Territories and is supporting neighbourhood families in need. So far no one has been injured at the SOS Children's Village facilities. However, the present situation in Rafah is alarming.
According to co-workers from the SOS Children's Village facilities in Rafah on the Gaza Strip, the situation is critical and public offices have closed. Responding to the wishes of the pupils' parents, the SOS Hermann Gmeiner School and the SOS Kindergarten did not open their doors yesterday and will remain closed today, as Israeli tanks have moved into position close by. However, hope at SOS Children's Village Rafah is unbroken: "Our children and SOS mothers are under pressure, but we are continuing our work because we are convinced that peace will come. We just don't know when."
Further, SOS co-workers reported that the SOS Youth Facility for girls, situated close to the Palestinian government buildings in Bethlehem, had to be evacuated last week. The girls left the facility during the night and took shelter at SOS Children's Village Bethlehem. Young men from the SOS Youth Facility are already living back at the village, which is at full capacity, after leaving their facility for security reasons in November 2000.
The SOS Hermann Gmeiner School in Bethlehem, situated next to the youth facility for girls had to remain closed for three days last week after a bomb attack. No one was injured. In the meantime the school has opened again. The atmosphere in the state schools in the Palestinian Territories continues to be tense.
In order to help alleviate needs in the local neighbourhood, SOS Children's Villages Bethlehem is providing hot meals to children and families who have lost their homes. With the intensification of conflict between Israelis and Palestinians, it is not only the death toll that has risen during the past two weeks, but also fear among the civilian population in the Gaza Strip and on the Westbank.