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Israel destroys hundreds of educational institutions in Gaza since the war started

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

As they respond to the October 7 attack by Hamas, Israeli forces have destroyed many Palestinian schools and universities. The places flattened include Israa University in Gaza City. Ahmed Alhussaina is vice president at that university. He and his family were recently able to get out of Gaza, and we found him in Cairo, where he told us that Israeli forces have bombed his home block in Gaza City, killing many of his relatives. In total, he tells A Martínez, he has lost 102 family members.

AHMED ALHUSSAINA: What makes it more grieving - are they still under the rubble? There is no equipment. The body decomposed or whatever, though (ph). We don't even know. We can't even get them out.

A MARTÍNEZ, BYLINE: Doctor, tell me about the university. No longer there. It's now destroyed. It was established in 2014. What was the vision of the university when it was established?

ALHUSSAINA: Our vision was poverty would not stand an obstacle in front of anybody who wants to get their college education. Sixty-five percent of the students were there, females. We just almost finished with a university hospital. It was built and next to it - also was destroyed. That's the first university hospital will be in Gaza. And that was all gone, too. And we had a museum there. You know, we had almost 3,000 pieces of artifacts from all over Gaza. Some of them goes back to Roman Empire. And that was all gone.

MARTÍNEZ: Wow. When you consider all the things you are offering to the young people of Gaza and to know that that is not there anymore - and who knows if it were - ever be rebuilt? - I mean, how does that make you feel to know that the next generation of young people in Gaza might not have a place to go learn anything?

ALHUSSAINA: After the loss of the people that we love, our family, this is the second thing, or maybe even more than that. We feel in despair. We don't know what to think, what to do anymore. Gaza is not livable anymore. Like, 70% of the buildings are all rubble. The streets are rubble. When I was, you know, try - when I just went from the north to the south walking, there was bodies on the street decomposed. The massive destruction is so enormous that you can't even imagine.

MARTÍNEZ: Doctor, right now, things, I'm sure, feel as bleak as possible. But what do you hope for? Do you hope to return to Gaza? Do you hope that the university gets rebuilt again? What are your hopes at this point?

ALHUSSAINA: Of course. Well, I hope this thing stops, I mean, there be a permanent cease-fire and there is no more wars and no more destruction. I mean, we had so many hopes. We built this, and we will have so many plans for the future. In a blink of an eye, everything just vanished - destroyed and disappeared. I hope thing will end and we can rebuild again. That's the only thing you can hope for, it's rebuilt and people can have a chance to go to school.

MARTÍNEZ: How could universities being destroyed the way they've been destroyed in Gaza - how could that possibly affect the way young people think?

ALHUSSAINA: This generation, let's call it Z Generation, since 2000, and they haven't seen nothing but wars on Gaza. It's been on blockades since 2007. So it's, like, 17 years or 18 years. These are the ages that went through their whole life through this blockade. They had so many wars - all they seen but wars. But actually, they were trying to live. They were trying to, you know, let things go. But God knows what their psychology is, how - what their emotion. I think most - 99% of them needs mental health therapy.

INSKEEP: Ahmed Alhussaina, who was speaking there with A Martínez. Alhussaina is vice president of Israa University, which was destroyed by the Israeli military. Now, in a statement, the IDF, the Israeli military, says the demolition of the building is under investigation, and they claim Hamas was using the compound for military purposes. For more coverage and differing views, as well as analysis of this conflict, you can go to npr.org/mideastupdates. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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