Published: 2021-05-23 17:57
Last Updated: 2023-09-29 00:12
When the bombing began in northern Gaza City, a 10-year-old girl, Zeina Dabous, wrote a letter in red ink and placed it under her mother's pillow. The message said, "Mama my love, I am very afraid. If we are martyred, put us together in the same grave to stay in your lap. I want to wear Eid clothes."
Despite the ceasefire agreement that came into effect at dawn on Friday, experts warn of the psychological effects of the bombing that will accompany children for years.
Psychiatrists say that children in the Gaza Strip suffer from a series of psychological symptoms related to fear of bombing, such as depression, anxiety, behavioral disorders, bedwetting, nervous moods, and others.
Zeina told AFP that she began writing the letter out of her feeling of "fear and terror. They were bombing the perimeter of our house, and all the streets. Before going to sleep, I wrote a paper to my mother and placed it under the pillow because I was afraid that I would die."
In the Gaza Strip, which witnessed four Israeli Occupation military operations in 2008, 2012 and 2014, many children grew up to the sounds of shelling and air strikes.
There are one million children in Gaza, according to figures issued by the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF).
"The generation of children is being destroyed by the successive wars in Gaza," said the girl's grandfather, Saeed Al-Dabous.
The recent trauma erupted after the Israeli Occupation began forcibly removing Palestinians from their homes in Sheikh Jarrah, and harassing peaceful worshippers at Al-Aqsa Mosque, with the Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) using stun grenades, tear gas and skunk water on Palestinians.
In turn, Hamas retaliated, firing rockets at the Hebrew state in solidarity with the Palestinians, who for days had been locked in confrontations with the IOF in East Jerusalem which caused more than 900 injuries.
The artillery and air strikes on the Gaza Strip, which lasted for eleven days, killed 248 people, including 66 children, according to figures issued by the Ministry of Health in Gaza.
Notably, Save the Children warned Friday that children in Gaza will suffer for years to come.
According to the organization, "Children in Gaza suffer from fear, anxiety, lack of sleep and show signs of anxiety such as constant shaking and bedwetting."
In another house, Maysa Abu Al-Aof, 22, is trying to calm her two-and-a-half-year-old brother after they lost a large number of their family members in an Israeli Occupation airstrikes.
"When he hears the sound of any explosion, he starts screaming and crying. He tells me 'I love you and I want to be with you'," she said.
Maysa tries to calm him, saying, "Don't be afraid, this is the sound of a balloon."
"Everyone needs psychological support. My cousin Omar (16 years), all of his family members were killed and he was pulled from the rubble after spending 12 hours there. From the horror of the shock, he still cries and does not want to speak," she continued.
Due to the complete destruction of the four-storey house in Al-Rimal neighborhood, Maysa and her brother Ahmed are staying at her grandfather's house with their sister Maram.
Her mother is lying in Al-Shifa Hospital after she was severely wounded in the same raid that destroyed the house.
A civil defense team pulled a number of women and children from under the rubble of the Abu Al-Aof family's house, which was completely destroyed. Between them were Maysa's sisters, the dentistry student Shaima (20 years) and Rawan, the school student (17 years).
About 42 Palestinians were killed in that raid, including 10 women and eight children.
Their sister Maram Abu Al-Aof, 7, who escaped from under the rubble, recounted, "I was under the stones. I asked about Mama and about my sister Shaima."
Then she adds, "I am sad."
Psychologist Muhammad Abu al-Sobh warns that children who have been subjected to "tremendous traumas" in the Gaza Strip may become violent.
"Psychiatric disorders often appear through bad and violent behavioral disturbances," Abu Al-Sobh explains.
"Wars lead to an increase in violence among children in schools or inside the home."
According to Abu al-Sobh, the majority of children in the Gaza Strip "suffer from depression, anxiety, and behavioral disturbance."
The specialist warned that there is a "catastrophic percentage" of children who need rehabilitation.
"I am not optimistic," he continued, "This war will create a violent, aggressive generation that tends to hate."