Gaza strife: Suffer the little children

Gaza strife: Suffer the little children
Casualties of war: Palestinian children wounded in Israeli shelling.

For many children in Gaza, war is all they know.

"In the past six years, three wars happened in Gaza," Mr Rifat Kassis, director of Defence for Children International, told CNN. "So we are talking about a generation who only experienced war and violence."

And there are a lot of children in Gaza. About 43 per cent of the population is under the age of 12.

The United Nations says that more than 200 children have been killed in the conflict that has been going on for three weeks and has taken more than 1,300 lives.

Said Mr Kassis: "When there is no place in Gaza where you can feel secure, when you lose your parents or one of your parents - this loss of the protection, this loss, the separation feeling from your parents, this is actually worse than the war activity itself."

AFP Middle East correspondent Sara Hussein recently completed an assignment in Gaza.

"Children are everywhere in Gaza," she wrote on her blog.

"They gather around you in refugee camps and at the schools run by the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA, where more than 160,000 people have sought shelter after fleeing their homes.

"Some of them are bold and inquisitive, reaching out a hand to shake yours, asking your name, about your family, your home country.

"Two sisters at a school in Gaza City rifled through my handbag looking for something to play with, and then played a clapping game with me."

Sat quietly

Ms Hussein wrote about a little girl with big eyes and red hair who put her hand out for her, but instead of shaking it, she just held on to Ms Hussein.

"She told me her name was Yasmin, but she wouldn't say anything else. She followed me around the school as I did interviews and then came and sat next to me as I waited in the shade for a press conference.

"She didn't want to talk, just to sit quietly by my side."

At the morgue at Gaza City's Shifa hospital, employees have seen dozens of dead children.

There was stoicism in the way they swabbed and cleaned the bodies in front of them - Afnan, Jihad and Wissam Shuheiber.

Ms Hussein wrote: "It was hard to remain composed in the morgue as the staff flitted around the three children and a fourth who had been transferred after dying at another hospital.

"I slipped inside before the scrum of journalists entered, and I stood quietly in the corner as the team worked and three family members inside swung between anger and extreme pain.

"I continued to take notes and observe, but I cried as I did so. And when I wrote about it later, I cried again."

This article was first published on August 2, 2014.
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