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Right to Education

War-shocked Gaza children ‘want to die’

Written by admin  •  Monday, 13.04.2009, 14:08

Little has changed in Gaza since the war in January, with thousands of families still living in tents and homes and schools still just rubble and ruins.

But life for many children has never been the same since Israel launched its offensive three months ago.

In January, Israeli bombs flattened the main building of this school in northern Gaza, destroying eight of the school’s 20 classrooms.

Caught in the middle: Palestinian boys wounded by an Israeli tank shell wait for treatment at Shifa hospital in Gaza in January (Reuters: Suhaib Salem)

The students had already evacuated but the three-storey block was crushed; the top floor still dangles dangerously over the schoolground and giant slabs of jagged concrete hang precariously in mid-air.

And the 22-month blockade imposed on Gaza means few if any materials are getting in to rebuild shattered areas.

English teacher Ghada Abu Ward still sees the daily impact on her students.

“They are hesitant, frustrated, depressed, thinking and dreaming all the time – daydreams – then after that we lose concentration, and [have] the bad achievements,” she said.

“At the bravest times they’ve thought, ‘I want to die. My father was dead in the Israeli attack – I want to be with them. So I want to die. There’s nothing good about this life. At least when I die, I will be with my parents, and it will be heaven and paradise’.”

Brother ‘executed’
Twelve-year-old Omsyat Awaja faces a tougher ordeal than many; days before the school was hit, her family home was bombed.

Through a translator, she says her nine-year-old brother was shot dead by Israeli soldiers. Her parents too were shot and injured and now they live in a tent in a nearby camp.

“When my brother was between the hands of my father, and they executed him on purpose; they meant to kill, to shoot him,” she said.

“I remember also when my parents got wounded and they were bleeding for five days.

“I hope that in the future there will be opening of border crossings, so the construction material will come in so I will have my house again. But the future will never bring me back my brother.”

Israel’s military has repeatedly described its armed forces as the “most moral in the world”, saying they take care not to kill civilians.

It has justified the bombing campaign as retaliation for ongoing rocket fire into Israel by Hamas militants.

But Omsyat Awaja’s father, Kamal, questions why his son had to die.

“The Israelis claimed through the whole war that they are democratic, they are civilised society,” he said through a translator.

“But why did they execute my son? So all those, all the people, all the army, who’s doing that, is not [civilised].”

For the Palestinians, there can be no peace while Gaza remains cut off from the outside world – a two-year blockade has kept Palestinians effective prisoners, and stopped essential supplies from reaching them.

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