Dua'a Saleem

Dua'a Saleem

Death and destruction aren’t exclusive to war!

"Ismail, come out, come play with me!" This was Montaser Bakr, shouting during the funeral of his brother. Him and his three little cousins were all killed in Israel's targeted bombing on Gaza's beach in 2014.

The Israeli occupation forces struck the children twice over with missiles while they were playing football on the beach — an unimaginable crime of new proportions, even for Israel.

As usual, its attack was allegedly justified and the investigation on the case was closed; Israel found itself not guilty  — it had made a "mistake". For us Palestinians, the awfulness of this event has been turned into an annual memory of pain.

But the story doesn't end here. Little Montaser, who miraculously survived the attack, is still suffering from its effects after witnessing his friends turned into scattered bits of body-parts.

He couldn't go to school after that: "Why should i go?" he asked. "Ismail and i used to go to school together, and play together. Who will i go with now? When i didn't know the answer to the teacher's question, I would ask Ismail. Who will i ask now?"

Montaser's father described the terror that Israel's attack caused in a television interview. His son, he said, suffers from severe panic attacks that make him hit, break and even try to kill himself. But, as his father explained while trying to hide his grief, he can’t always buy the medicine that Montaser needs to keep calm.

There are many children suffering from similar conditions due to Israel's routine bombing campaigns and its illegal blockade. The opportunity to live a normal life, like any other child in the world, doesn't exist in Gaza.

In July this year, a number of young men chose to commit suicide, succumbing to the tragic conditions in Gaza that the eminent occupation-critic Norman Finkelstein once described as 'the world's largest concentration camp'.

Suicides in this age group are not usual are they? — young, fit, with their lives ahead of them, some with notable academic qualifications, but the statistics are increasing. Israel's siege, its occupation and its constant rounds of state-terrorism against an unarmed, defenceless population is directly responsible for the growing despair that exists here in the enclave.

After the Great March of Return protests, 17,581 Palestinian youngsters were left wounded, including 3,646 children; many left without limbs, eyes, and disabled for life. Medical equipment is scarce, as are surgeons, and vital medicines are unavailable due to Israel's ongoing blockade. Gaza's hospitals simply cannot cope with the numbers.

The psychological damage done to the wounded children and their families, means they cannot live a normal, independent life ever again — ever again!

A fifty-year-old man told me about his friend who died after Israel's fighter jets flew fast and low over a Palestinian camp in Lebanon, breaking the sound barrier, the shock of which caused his friend to have a heart attack. No one talks about these invisible crimes. They are not newsworthy: war, blockades, starvation, terror, fear — pushing an entire people towards death, slowly, in a way that fingers don't point directly at the occupation.

We struggle not just for freedom, we struggle for life.

 

Edited by Sarah Wilkinson

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