In a United Nations designated shelter in Gaza, at a school offering shelter to 3,300 people who sought refuge, several children were killed as they slept beside their parents.
Scores more were injured from Israeli artillery that hit the school. In the words of United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees Commissioner-General Pierre Krahenbuhl, “the world stands disgraced, this is an affront to all of us, a source of universal shame.”
The people had been instructed to leave their homes by the Israeli army and the precise location of those displaced was communicated to ensure protection. Along with UNRWA, several human rights groups have documented likely Israeli war crimes in Gaza, strongly condemning the serious violation of international law by Israeli forces.
Two days earlier, nine children died as they played in a park, following an Israeli missile strike. Earlier, four children were killed while playing soccer on a Gaza beach. With women and children making up the vast majority of casualties. by UN estimates, on average one child is killed every hour.
Hundreds of children are experiencing the heavy bombardment from Israeli tanks and artillery, with suffering, distress, and injuries that words fail to describe. This is the third war in 5½ years endured by the Palestinians in Gaza. There is nowhere for the children to escape to. The seven-year blockade has meant that Israel’s illegal blockade has virtually imprisoned and trapped people, deepening poverty and unemployment of youth upwards of 65 per cent.
In 2009, I witnessed the sheer destruction by Israeli tanks and warplanes which pummeled the narrow, battered Gaza strip where half the population is under the age of 18.
Then as now, children in Gaza are suffering from deep trauma, injuries and pain, without the essential medicines, medical care, hospitals and clinics. Then as now, no television or YouTube footage can capture the depth of fears for survival and security, the despair of displacement, the lack of answers to give young children when they ask, what have we done to deserve this collective punishment?
Then as now, parents not unlike us have the same dreams, hopes and aspirations for a future of peace and non-violence for their children.
As world citizens, let us not stand disgraced but call on humanitarian law, compassion and peace to prevail by the lifting of land, sea and air blockades and helping the besieged parents of Gaza to realize the dreams for their children.
Hannah Hadikin, Nelson