Children pay heavy price in Gaza's war

Gaza - All 11-year-old Yasmin Al-Bakri remembers is that her mother was baking bread.

Then she woke up in a hospital bed in Gaza to discover that both legs and her right arm were in bandages and she was suffering severe burns and fractures after her house was hit by an Israeli air strike. She also learned that she had lost most of her family.

Yasmin survived, but figures issued on Wednesday by UNICEF, the UN children's agency, showed that 419 Palestinian children have been killed in the nearly month-long Gaza war.

That compares with 350 children who died in Israel's three-week ground offensive in the enclave five years ago.

At least six Israeli children were reportedly injured due to rocket fire from Gaza in the past month, according to preliminary UNICEF figures.

Yasmin says she was told her mother, her six-year-old sister and her three-month-old brother were killed along with her uncle and her cousin when an Israeli missile hit their house two days ago.

Since then, Gaza has been quiet as Palestinians and Israelis observe a 72-hour ceasefire which, it is hoped, will lead to a more durable truce after a war that has devastated much of the densely populated enclave.

"I was helping my mother while she baked bread, then I don't know what happened. When I woke up in the hospital they told me what happened," Yasmin told Reuters as she was readied for surgery on her broken arm.

"My mother died, my sister, who was supposed to start first grade at school, and my baby brother. My uncle was also martyred and my cousin too," Yasmin said in a soft voice, struggling to breathe.

Military offensive

The Gaza health ministry says 1 869 Palestinians, mostly civilians, have been killed in Israel's military offensive on the Gaza Strip. On the Israeli side, 64 soldiers and three civilians have died.

In another bed in Gaza's Shifa hospital, 18-month-old Mohammed Wahdan cries whenever his cousin tries to remove her finger from his hand.

"These children lost their mother, their father was critically wounded and transferred to another hospital, their house was also destroyed," said Ahlam Wahdan, Mohammed's cousin, referring to the boy's two brothers lying in beds next to him.

Originally from the town of Beit Hanoun near Gaza's northern border with Israel, the family took shelter in a United Nations school after their home was bombed. But the school was shelled and 17 people seeking refuge there were killed.

Israel says it was firing at Palestinian militants.

"The family then rented a house in Jabalya refugee camp but that very night, the house was bombed and the tragedy occurred," Ahlam told Reuters.

Outside Shifa hospital, families displaced by Israeli forces in Shejaia district in eastern Gaza, where 72 people were killed two weeks ago, used blankets to set up makeshift tents on the sidewalks, in the garden and in the car park.

Children played barefoot, some slept in the shade of their tents and others were being fed by their mothers.

"What future do those children have? What memories has Israel implanted in them?" said an old woman sitting nearby.

"The children are afraid all the time, they do not sleep and sometimes they wake up in the middle of the night screaming," the woman said.

UNICEF estimates that nearly 400 000 children in Gaza are in need of psychological help.

Meanwhile, Yasmin does not want to cry for her lost family.

"They are in heaven," she said. "I have patience."

Read more on: palestine israel gaza
Imran Vorajee 2014/08/06 09:56:17 PM
Really hard to believe these people are such cowards,disgusting sick bunch of people...Palestine will be free
MeThinks 2014/08/06 10:11:10 PM
So sad for children and other innocents to be victims of the war between Hamas and the Israeli. Terrible really!!!
Oupa Madhlope 2014/08/06 11:15:46 PM
what is happening in our world, we have to pray, it's not good so sad
Daniel 2014/08/06 11:18:11 PM
By Palestine you mean Jordan, right?
Dennis van Aarde 2014/08/07 05:04:09 AM
Unfortunately children will suffer because it is so densely populated
Nicolas Kritzinger 2014/08/07 06:18:09 AM
Hamas killed their own children. And destoyed their own power stations. And their schools and hospitals. They determine their own future by continuing to deny the right to existence of another people!
Kirsty Prinsloo 2014/08/07 06:37:32 AM
It seems that in every war children are the ones that suffer the most. It is them who pay for their parents choices and ideals.
Azee 2014/08/07 08:53:09 AM
Everyone's talking & blaming Hamas here but what about Netanyahu ? It's him who's killing innocent civilians , not Hamas.
Mary Hinge 2014/08/07 10:58:56 AM
HAMAS uses the local civilians (including children) as human shields. Stop pretending that it's Israel's fault.
Andre James 2014/08/07 11:07:11 AM
Zionists have lost touch with reality. The longer they go on killing children and women intentionally the less support they will garner for their cause. The UN and the US should carry full responsibilty for the murder of these children as then UN fails to bring the zionist cabinet and generals to book for war crimes and the US for arming and aiding the genocide