Families Say The Gaza Violence Is Taking A Huge Toll On Their Kids : NPR

Young Palestinians investigate the damage caused by an Israeli attack on houses in the Sabra neighborhood of Gaza City. A man who lives in the middle of Gaza says his family has been traumatized by the violence. Mustafa Hassona / Anadolu Agency via Getty Images Hide caption

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Mustafa Hassona / Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Young Palestinians investigate the damage caused by an Israeli attack on houses in the Sabra neighborhood of Gaza City. A man who lives in the middle of Gaza says his family has been traumatized by the violence.

Mustafa Hassona / Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

The struggle between Israel and Hamas is taking a heavy toll on the people of Gaza, where families are forced to live in a war zone. In separate interviews with NPR, two people – one in Gaza and one in Israel – who spoke about the violence also discussed their desire to keep children safe.

One view came from Gaza where a father of a young son says he is desperate for security – conditions that seem hopelessly out of reach in the face of ongoing air strikes and artillery fire carried out by Israel.

“We just don’t want to die under the rubble of our homes,” says Bilal Shbair, an English teacher who lives in the central Gaza Strip.

Shbair says when he went to his garden Tuesday morning to check on his chickens, he found a piece of splinter.

“I think it’s a bit like a rocket,” said Shbair tells Steve Inskeep from NPR. “I found it on the floor where my kid Adam and some other kids from the neighborhood are playing. And we sit there too, drinking coffee and talking about life as a whole.”

The mental stress of living under the constant threat of violence puts a strain on him and his neighbors, says Shbair. And while there is a great shortage of water and electricity in the region, the need for help is growing.

“We urgently need psychologists and psychiatrists,” he says, “because we are experiencing more danger day by day or even hour by hour.”

The latest violence has killed at least 230 Palestinians and injured more than 1,700 people, according to the Gaza Ministry of Health. The UN says at least 62 Of the people killed in Gaza are children. In Israel, authorities say the violence killed 12 people, including two children.

Eleven of the Palestinian children killed in Israeli air strikes participated in a program to help them cope with trauma Norwegian Refugee Council.

The UN says more than 58,000 Palestinians were exiled Many of them fled their homes to school because of the violence. Israel blocked Palestinians in Gaza by air, land and sea, and Egypt is largely keeping its border with Gaza closed.

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Across the border in southern Israel, the city of Sderot, less than a mile outside Gaza, has seen a mass evacuation in the past two weeks. Nowadays, backward residents are listening to air raid sirens – a signal that they have about 15 seconds to reach a safe shelter.

“I can tell you that while we are not warmongers, we are definitely in favor of the ongoing campaign,” said Eyal Hajbi, a senior regional security officer. He adds: “We need this campaign to ensure long-term safety for the children who live here.”

Sderot has long been a target for rockets from militants coming out of Gaza.

Militants fired around 900 missiles at the region during the current conflict, says NPR’s Hajbi Jackie Northam. He and others in the region say they want Israel to continue attacking Hamas.

Since the hostilities reached a new intensity last Monday, militants have fired more than 4,000 rockets from the Gaza Strip, the Israeli Defense Forces, at Israel said on Thursday. Around 90% of these missiles were intercepted by the Iron Dome air defense system, the military says, while hundreds of others have failed and fell back into Gaza.

There are increasing reports that a ceasefire could be reached, possibly in the next 24 hours. For people who live in fearful anticipation of the next impact of artillery or bombs, the end of the violence cannot come quickly enough.

“What the local people are expressing is a feeling of terror and a nightmare that never ends,” said Leni Stenseth from the UN relief organization told NPR’s Morning Edition earlier this week. “The psychological impact on children who experience night after night with constant attacks from airplanes hearing the fire must be recognized.”

Shbair says he has not been able to sleep for more than an hour, with the continued sounds of the militants’ rockets and Israeli attacks.

“I’m worried about my child Adam,” he says. “When he hears bombs like that, he runs away. I hug him and hug him and [he] said to me, “Dad, … boom, boom.” How can a child or a child who is about a year and a half almost feel that? We are all deeply traumatized. “

Many of the 10,000 Israeli citizens in the Sderot region evacuated across the border a few days after the conflict began, says Hajbi.

Another Israeli security official told NPR that the past few nights have been quieter: sometimes four to six hours can go by without hearing missiles, he says. But on Thursday afternoon sirens wailed again in southern Israel and signaled another round of attacks.


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