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Palestinians raise $10m to build shelters for Syrian refugees


RAMALLAH: Palestinian human rights activists have collected $10 million from Israel, the occupied West Bank and Gaza in less than a month to build homes for Syrian refugees, according to activists behind the campaign.

“Basic idea was to collect 100 heaters for 100 houses, but during the campaign, we realized that people are helping and we have lots of stuff,” Ibrahim Khalil, 33, a social activist from the city of Nazareth in northern Israel.

For the past six years, Palestinians have been donating food and other essentials to Syrian refugees in the Idlib region bordering Turkey through a non-profit group called Merciful Souls.

But the volume of donations this winter season was unprecedented, the head of the organization, Raed Badr, said.

The plan is to build around 3,000 housing units, he said.

Construction will also include clinics and schools, based on a model published on the organization’s website, with organizers hoping construction of the homes will be completed in six to eight months.

“One day, I hope they will move us into a home because the rain is drowning our tents,” 11-year-old Nada, an orphaned girl living with her grandmother, said in one video.

Badr believes videos that circulated on social media of children suffering from cold in the snow motivated people to open their pockets.

A call for contributions went viral on social media with the Arabic hashtag “houses instead of tents”.

The images of displaced families resonated with Palestinians because they had suffered as refugees living in tents for years, said Khalil after they were forced from their homes to make way for the establishment of a Jewish state in 1948.

The civil war in Syria, which spiraled out of an uprising against regime leader Bashar al Assad’s rule in 2011, caused the world’s biggest refugee crisis.

The war has killed an estimated half a million people and displaced several million more.


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