Children Within the Conflict: the Gaza War
Over the last few weeks, fresh waves of violence between Israelis and Palestinians have swept across the region. Child casualties are far from uncommon in this war and many children live in constant fear of the fragile situation and consequently imminent threat of danger.
Sadly, the conflict within Israel and Gaza has endured for decades and taken thousands of lives. When considering the casualties of the war it is easy to simply look at the numbers of lives lost, but to really understand the devastating effects, the individual stories of the children at the heart of the conflict must be considered.
Just last summer, more than 500 children were killed. The overwhelming majority of these were Palestinian, with only one Israeli child being killed. Children are often caught up in the conflict. Take Syed as an example, a 12-year-old Palestinian boy living in Gaza. Last year, he was playing football on the beach with his siblings when rockets began crashing into the beach. The Israeli air force, which fired these rockets, claimed it mistook the children for Palestinian Hamas fighters. This profound misjudgement on its part resulted in Syed’s younger brother and cousin being killed in front of his eyes.
On the Israeli side, air raid warnings blast through the streets every few hours as civilians rush to the safety of bomb shelters. It is said that in some cities in Israel, you are never more than 30 seconds away from a shelter. This is not the case in Palestinian areas, which may be reflected by the number of children losing their lives.
The reality is that many more children will be killed in this new wave of conflict and those who survive will be driven to become vengeful fighters. Both sides know that the opposition is worried about the new fighters and this is epitomized by one child stating, “They don’t want us to grow up and kill them, so they hit us when we are young.”
Attacks from either side fuel revenge attacks from the other side. This constant retaliation has not only left thousands dead but forced many more to flee their homes and left even more traumatized. Syed’s mother tells that “Those left behind are like those who are dead” and the United Nations estimates more than a third of children in Gaza are traumatized. It is further estimated that by the age of six, a child in Gaza has had to live through cycles of war three times.
Many children receive psychological therapy, however the huge scale of destruction and loss means that there are simply not enough resources to provide the level of care needed. To put the loss in context, it is thought that nearly every single child in Gaza has lost a loved one. This pushes new generations to seek revenge and justice for their lost relatives, most often through war.
A great number of older people remember a time when the border was open and there was even friendship between the two sides. Now there is a barbed wire border with armed patrols. It is, sadly, thought that this generation’s memories will not allow them to live in peace with the opposition.
For those children born into a life of war, the only way their emotional scars will ever heal is for war to cease. Due to the conflict, houses have been left in ruins, cities are crumbling, and numerous lives have been lost. Sadly, there is no foreseeable end to this violence, and therefore it is almost certain that future generations will continue to live in constant fear.
To find out more about the stories of children stuck in the middle of the conflict watch the BBC documentary, Children of the Gaza War.
Global Seven News