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Terrified Gaza children are well aware that Israeli bombs are stealing their joy | News from Gaza

Gaza strip – In the Gaza Strip, the age of children is measured by the number of Israeli attacks they have suffered.

About half of Gaza’s 2.3 million residents are under 18, and the current offensive is Israel’s fifth major offensive in 15 years.

The constant trauma has left four out of five children in Gaza living in depression, grief and fear, according to a 2022 report from Save the Children.

More than half of them struggle with suicidal thoughts and the trauma of witnessing the deaths of other children.

As the death toll rises – around 500 children have been killed so far in seven days – parents are doing their best to create a sense of normalcy to help their children cope.

Relentless shelling in the current assault has killed more than 1,500 Palestinians in total, the Palestinian Health Ministry said.

Half of the Gaza Strip’s 2.3 million residents are under 18 (Abedelhakim Abu Riash/Al Jazeera)

Samah Jabr, 35, a mother of four in Gaza City, worries about her eldest son, Qusay, 13.

“He’s very agitated and lashing out a lot these days. He jumps at any noise,” she said. “He can’t stand it when someone speaks loudly, even if they’re joking. I try to tell him that this war will end.

Jabr hugs Qusay as often as she can, holding him close and speaking soothingly to him about what they will do after the war. She hopes this will give her the strength to get through this ordeal.

“The sound of the missiles is terrifying and our house shakes very hard,” Jabr said.

She taught her children, who never leave her side, how to spot the light that accompanies a missile so that they can prepare for the deafening noise that will follow.

In the southern city of Rafah, Ahlam Wadi says her son Omar, 10, sleeps with his hands covering his ears.

“I’m worried about him,” the 30-year-old said. “I’m afraid it will be damaged in the long term. I try to distract him by constantly talking to him, but all he hears is bombs and missiles. »

Wadi and her children stay together in the same room and her husband tries to distract them by telling them about his own childhood.

“He tells them that he lived through these events before he got married and that he was very strong and not afraid,” she said.

“My second son, Saeed, aged seven, asks me if I was that strong and fearless. I tell him I tried to be brave.

“I’m afraid he’ll have these panic attacks for the rest of his life,” she said of her little boy’s attacks.

Children of Gaza face war
(Abedelhakim Abou Riash/Al Jazeera)

Fear of losing

Manal Salem, who lives in Gaza City, said she asks her three children to talk to their grandparents every day to tell them what they heard during the night and whether it scared or frightened them. if they felt brave.

“Their grandmother tells them that they have to endure these difficult days because it is only temporary and that they will overcome this war and be happy together again,” Salem said.

“They respond by telling their grandparents to be careful because they love them so much and want to see them again.”

Salem’s six-year-old daughter Mai suffers from separation anxiety because her father, a doctor who works in the emergency room at Al-Shifa Hospital, doesn’t come home every night.

“Mai thinks her father will be hit by a missile every time he’s not home with her,” Salem said. “I keep reassuring her that he’s okay, that she needs to stay strong.

“I also try to calm her down by letting her talk to her father on the phone, but sometimes he can’t answer because there are so many victims. »

Children of Gaza face war
(Abedelhakim Abou Riash/Al Jazeera)

In Khan Younis, Rawand Khalaf tries to distract his five children, aged 9 to 14, by playing.

“I sit with them all in a room and make up games with their toys, so they don’t focus too much on the sounds of the explosions,” Khalaf said.

“My kids always have their toys with them for comfort, and I keep telling them everything will be fine.”

His eldest son, Aaed, told Al Jazeera that he could not shake off images of children killed or under rubble, let alone images of injured children screaming in pain.

“I can’t imagine how children with such a small body can handle these huge missiles,” he said. “I don’t understand how no one is doing anything to help them. The children of Gaza have the right to live.

“They took everything from us.”

Displaced children

A child at war has all sense of security ravaged – and must flee the familiarity of a home in the middle of the night as neighbors cry and scream in fear and raining missiles pile trauma upon trauma.

Naima Fares, who lives in Beit Hanoun, a heavily affected town in the northern Gaza Strip, experienced this situation with her six children.

“We used to tell our children there was no place safer than home,” she said. “But this war has broken all the rules. On the second day, we ran out of our house with nothing, not even a change of clothes.

Children of Gaza face war
(Abedelhakim Abou Riash/Al Jazeera)

Fares managed to retrieve an emergency bag containing the family’s documents.

“My children have been in shock since that night,” she said, speaking from the United Nations school where they were sheltering.

According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), more than 400,000 people have fled their homes in Gaza.

“No matter what I do to calm my kids down, being here doesn’t help,” Fares said. “The schools are crowded. There are so many families. The sound of missiles is still constant and children scream day and night. We cannot have a minute of peace or rest.

Palestinians in Gaza often find shelter in schools run by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA) when fighting breaks out, but Fares’ daughter Haneen says living in a school is not enough. does not allow him to feel safe.

“Every war we have to come to UNRWA schools, but they are not safe. Missile fragments can fall everywhere,” said the 16-year-old.

“I cried because I left my memories and everything I loved at home,” she said. “I cried because I was afraid of losing my family while we ran in the darkness.

“It was terrifying. They killed my childhood and my dreams. I no longer have anything that makes me happy.

Children of Gaza face war
(Abedelhakim Abou Riash/Al Jazeera)


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