Children swarm into the yard each time new visitors arrive at the UNRWA school sheltering displaced Palestinians in Beit Hanoun. There are dozens of tiny hands grasping, dozens of tired eyes pleading.
This school, known locally as el-Masreyyeen, has for months been home to scores of Palestinians displaced by Israel’s 51-day summer assault on the besieged Gaza Strip. The conflict killed more than 2,200 Palestinians, mostly civilians and damaged or decimated more than 96,000 homes.
Outside the classrooms-turned-living-rooms at Masreyyeen, laundry hangs off the turquoise balcony railings lining each floor. Children run after each other on the wet pavement below.
Watfa al-Althamna has been living here with her husband and their 11 children for four months, and says it is a challenge every day. “The cold in the winter, there are no mattresses; after having our own land and houses [destroyed], now we are considered poor,” Althamna told Al Jazeera.
Exacerbating matters, she has no idea when her family will be able to leave this place. “We don’t know when we are going home… No-one has provided enough money for us to rent a house,” she said.
Althamna’s frustration is echoed by many of Gaza’s displaced, who are running out of patience with overcrowded and underfunded temporary shelters and a lack of progress on reconstruction. Milina Shahin, a spokesperson for the UN refugee agency (UNRWA), acknowledged the difficult circumstances – but as for when displaced residents will be able to return home, “it is the question no-one can answer”.