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The nightmares Palestinian children live 

Testimonies by children and their mothers after the 2021 aggression on Gaza

December 17, 2021 at 3:41 pm

Palestinian student looking up through a hole in the ceiling of her classroom with a missile to the side of the holein Gaza City in May 2021 [Mohammed Asad/Middle East Monitor]

We saw death with our own eyes

The second day of the feast, the happy Eid Al-Fitr feast as it is called, was the worst day of my life. After a horrific day of artillery bombardment night and day and the news of massacres and destruction, I prepared a place for my children to sleep. They had not calmed down even for a minute, asking about the feast and their new clothes and about our visitors whom we were deprived of seeing.

I talked to them and told them that the feast will come, and we will compensate all these difficult days when the enemy stops its terrible war. I told them that we will visit our relatives and wear our Eid clothes and go out for entertainment to places which reducing in number in our city and all-around Gaza.

That night the media warned that the Zionists, who are war criminals, were threatening Gaza with destruction. My husband and I were questioning whether we should spend the night apart in case a tragedy struck our family, that way the children would not be left alone. We were studying all the corners of the house like engineers. We were looking for the safest places and corners for us and our children. We decided to sleep in the hallway, in the knowledge that there is no safe place. There was no electricity and it look us a long time to settle the children. They put their fingers in their ears to shield them from the sound of the heavy artillery bombing so they could get to sleep.

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There was quiet for a short while. My husband and I fell asleep next to our children; each with a phone in their hand. Suddenly, and with no warning, we could hear nonstop explosions getting very close. All the neighbours were screaming; no one could sleep any more. The whole area had become red and smoke filled the place. The sound of the explosions was not normal, more than 50 rockets in one area. We could hear screaming and shouting, the sound of ambulances and fire engines. Bombs were falling all over Beit Hanoun.

All areas were being now under bombardment. We were so scared that we were sitting in a corner on top of one another, praying, because none by God could help us now. Shards of glass and dust from the destruction taking place all around us were flying everywhere and smoke filled the air.

Beit Hanoun came under more than half an hour of continuous bombardment. The closest explosion was only a hundred metres from our house. The mosque and the sports club had been targeted. I looked at my children and wondering what would happen if I lost one of them or they lost me.

There are no words to describe the horror of living through these moments. When the building near our house was destroyed we decided to immediately move to my parents’ house which is in a safer area. Unfortunately, the next day heavy shelling reached their area. We were afraid to go to any of the schools, as a school was badly attacked by the Israelis in the 2014 aggression. We had no choice, so we returned to our home. It was a dangerous decision to make!

We saw death with our own eyes and it was a miracle that we had escaped. God protected us; we saw destroyed mosques, houses, police stations and land.

Chicken and sheep farms did not escape the bombing. Everything Palestinian is a target, the destruction was indescribable. We thought that it would be the last time we would have to bear such fear, but it is our destiny to fight and resist and to be steadfast and face the aggressions along the road to liberating our occupied land. Victory will come!

Abla Hamad, The librarian of Al Ataa Library

I wish my lap could protect my daughter

I have three daughters. One night I entered my daughter Sarah’s room and saw her covering her body with nail polish. She was drawing red lines the colour of blood. When I asked her why she was doing this, she said she was scared the occupation would bomb the house with us trapped inside, as it had done to so many families. Sarah wanted the lines to serve as a sign to allow us to recognise her body, to protect and embrace her. I wish my lap could protect her from the bombardment. I was saddened by her fears; what has become of our children who are living through daily terror which is not felt elsewhere.

I took Sarah into my lap and tried to reassure her, but I did not feel safe. May God protect us and our children from this horrific aggression

Suma Shaher, Mother of Sarah, a member of Al-Ataa Library

Horrific days and nights

I am 8-year-old Muhammad Naseer and I live in Al Baali Street in Beit Hanoun. One night there was no electricity and the atmosphere was calm, to this day I do not know what happened. Airplanes and very violent bombing started at one o’clock after midnight in our neighborhood, all the houses in the neighbourhood were either destroyed or damaged, including our house. How and why I do not know, what I know is that at the time I was sleeping. I feel my father carrying me and walking until we reached Beit Hanoun Hospital. My arm had been broken, my cousin was hit by shells and a neighbour’s leg had to be amputated. For once, I was thankful to God that there was no electricity, so I wouldn’t see what had happened.

Fatima Shamaly, aged four, stands amongst the devastation and rubble during a music workshop for traumatised children [Christopher Furlong/Getty Images]

Fatima Shamaly, aged four, stands amongst the devastation and rubble during a music workshop for traumatised children [Christopher Furlong/Getty Images]

When we reached the hospital, everyone was screaming, the entire neighbourhood was competing to reach the relative safety of the hospital, but bombs were falling just metres away.

It was among the most difficult days and nights I have experienced, and I hope it will never be repeated!

Muhammad Naseer, 8 years old

We will be under the rubble and no one will find us

I am 13-year-old Aya Hamdan and I live in Beit Hanoun. My family live on the third floor of a building which also houses my grandfather, grandmother and married uncle on the first floor and the family of my other uncle on the second. During the last aggression we would go and hide in my grandfather and grandmother’s flat.

As the bombing continued, I became more afraid, in a way I have not been before.

I remembered scenes from the last aggression on television how the multi-storey buildings were being bombed trapping their residents beneath them. I was more horrified, and I told my parents that it is better to stay in our house on the third floor. I said if we get bombed when we are on the ground floor, the rubble of the whole building will be on top of us. We could die under the rubble and no one would know where we were, and they wouldn’t be able to find our bodies!

After the war ended, I felt that fear and became aware of the closeness of death and how it makes us unable to think clearly. Death is close for each of us and being on the top floor won’t save us from it.

Aya Hamdan, 13 years old

No place was safe in Gaza

On the third day of the attack on Gaza, the occupation forces were bombing everywhere haphazardly. My mother used to say that we live in the centre of Gaza and we are safe. However, as the bombing was getting closer she insisted that we leave the house because of the intensity and indiscriminate bombing.

My father decided to wait until morning. It was a difficult night, all the places were being bombed, everywhere, even the hospital! I couldn’t sleep that night. As soon as the sun rose we took our belongings, which we had prepared beforehand, like school degrees and papers and some clothes and we went to the school in Beit Hanoun.

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I felt a little reassured. We spent three nights in the school, it was not easy, and the bombing did not stop. There was no food or water. My parents got in touch with my aunt, who lives close to the school, and she sent us some mattresses and food. We were supposed to visit her for Eid, but our enemy deprived us of this right.

On the third night, the occupation targeted the school with gas bombs. My sisters Dana and Lana and I suffocated from the gas. We escaped quickly to the hospital, where we spent a few hours receiving first aid treatment and then we went to the city of Gaza to my father’s friend’s house.

The bombing was everywhere. We felt like strangers in our homeland. The attacks came to an end and we returned home to find our windows, doors and roof destroyed. We were, however, thankful to God because none of us had been hurt and we had returned to our home, sad but safe.

Saleh Al-Kafarneh, 13 years old

These testimonies about the nightmares of the children of Gaza as sent by the two  IBBY Palestine  libraries in Beit Hanoun and Rafah in Gaza.Webpage Book IBBY Pal