Childhood Outside the Temple Walls: Revelation 11

Feature: Childhood in shadow of Gaza-Israel conflict

by Sanaa Kamal

GAZA, Sept. 18 (Xinhua) — Mohammed Shaaban, a Palestinian child from the village of Beit Lahia in Gaza Strip, used to play with his siblings and friends for many hours a day.

However, the 8-year-old child has lost his passion for playing as he became disabled and now needs assistance even in the most basic activities, including using a bathroom.

Israel and Gaza’s Hamas fought a 11-day-long fighting in May, the most intense round since 2014 that left more than 250 Palestinians and 13 Israelis dead. During the wave of fierce fighting, Israeli warplanes carried out hundreds of air raids on the Gaza Strip. Palestinian armed factions in Gaza fired thousands of rockets at Israel.

Shaaban was wounded on the first day of the hostilities when the Israeli war jets attacked a man driving motorbike in Jabalia in the north of the coastal enclave. While Shaaban and his mother were walking in the street as they finished shopping for Eid al-Fitr, a festive dinner that marks the end of the Ramadan fast.

Recalling that day, his mother says Shaaban was happy as he got to wear his new shoes but his happiness did not last long as he fell due to a heavy explosion that shattered the area.

“The only thing I remember was that I carried a small bag containing my new shoes. I headed to the house with my mother, but suddenly I heard a heavy explosion that flew me into the sky,” he recalled.

Then there was darkness and Shaaban became blind.

Talia Sakallah, another child from Gaza City, was luckier than Shaaban as she was not wounded after the Israeli war jets attacked the Hanadi Tower, a major residential building in Gaza.

Sakallah and her family evacuated their house after an Israeli soldier called them, ordering them to leave the place before it explodes.

“When I heard the hugest explosion in my life, I thought that all of us (my family members and I) would die as many of Palestinian families have lost their lives,” the 12-year-old girl told Xinhua.

Sakallah says she doesn’t know how they all managed to stay alive.

On May 21, Egypt mediated a ceasefire between the two sides that ended the fighting between the Palestinians and Israel.

Despite the fact that the conflict ended four months ago, children in both Gaza and Israel still suffer psychological consequences.

According to mothers of Shaaban and Sakallah, the children have become more introverted and are reluctant to play with their mates.

“Mohammed became more stubborn and he does not accept any perspectives from others, even from his father,” Sumaia Shaaban, Mohammed’s mother, told Xinhua.

“He prefers to stay at home and avoids playing with other children, including his siblings,” the 36-year-old mother of eight said, adding that he is scared when he hears any noise around him.

Sakallah also suffers from similar problems, said her mother Fateyah. “In addition, my youngest daughter keeps silent all the time especially when surrounded by strange people,” the 36-year-old mother of four said.

The mothers said neither their kids or themselves have any feeling of security or hope as Gaza is still under the threat of yet another confrontation.

Fadel Abu Hein, a Gaza-based psychologist, believes that children are the primary victims of all military tensions.

He told Xinhua that wars have disastrous effects on children’s psyche. They suffer from panic, terror, lack of confidence or sense of safety in life, making them more introverted or more aggressive towards others.

Abu Hein added that there are psychological treatment programs for the victim and those around them.

Meanwhile, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said that children in Gaza live “under constant terror,” warning that they will suffer psychological effects of the recent tensions for many years ahead.

Its report titled “Hidden Scars in Gaza” said that the latest tensions were among the “most severe hostilities we have seen in the region in years.”

It added that access to mental health services during and after stress is necessary to support the social fabric of societies experiencing conflict.

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