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Gaza Grieves the Loss of Libraries: Symbols of Culture and Unity

In the midst of the destruction and loss of life in Gaza City, one casualty often overlooked is the region’s cultural institutions, particularly its libraries. During the two months of war aimed at destroying Hamas, the militant group that controls the Gaza Strip, both the Gaza Municipal Library and the Rashad al-Shawa Cultural Center have been reduced to rubble.

The local government described the destruction as an attempt to spread ignorance in society. While it is unclear when exactly the institutions were destroyed, as access to the city has been limited due to the fighting, the photos taken by the municipality show the devastating effects on the libraries.

Credit: Depositphotos

The Israeli assault, in response to a Hamas attack on southern Israel, has resulted in the deaths of thousands of people in the Gaza Strip, with civilians bearing the brunt of the response. Amid all the destruction, the loss of cultural institutions like libraries has been a devastating blow for residents. These libraries were regarded as refuges and important centers of culture.

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When questioned about the strikes, the Israeli Defense Forces did not address whether they had targeted the libraries and only stated that they followed international law and took precautions to minimize harm to civilians. Museums, archaeological sites, and university campuses have also been damaged or destroyed in the Israeli attacks.

According to a survey conducted in 2010, there are 13 public libraries operating in the Gaza Strip, but most of them are poorly equipped. The first English-language library in Gaza, named after Palestinian literary critic Edward Said, was established in 2017.

The library relied on donations and crowdsourcing for its book collection, which included contributions from Edward Said’s widow, Mariam Said, and funding from Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Viet Thanh Nguyen.

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Credit: DepositPhotos

Gazan residents have taken to social media to express their grief and shock over the destruction of the libraries. The Gaza City municipality has called on UNESCO to protect Gaza’s cultural institutions, emphasizing that they are protected under international humanitarian law.

UNESCO expressed deep concern over the adverse impact of the fighting on cultural heritage in Palestine and Israel and urged all parties to respect international law, highlighting that cultural sites should not be targeted or used for military purposes.

The loss of these libraries is not just a loss of books but also a loss of gathering spaces and safe havens for students and residents. The memories and experiences shared within these libraries cannot be replaced.

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Malik is a skilled writer with a passion for news and current events. With their keen eye for detail, they provide insightful perspectives on the latest happenings. Stay informed and engaged!