Gaza-Israel conflict: The terrible price Palestinian children are paying for Israel’s war with Hamas

70 per cent of the 700 injured are women or children, say Palestinian medical authorities


“She was the centre of our life, she was the most precious thing in the world to us, we had waited so long for her. Now we don’t know whether she will wake up again; we don’t know what has happened to her.” Alla al-Masri buried his head in his hands – no longer could he bear to watch his nine-year-old daughter lying on the hospital bed, suffering.

He and his wife, Hanan, had craved a baby and Mariam came after years of IVF treatment. An only child, she was the apple of her grandparents’ eyes and they had been constantly cautioning her that she should not stray far from home in these dangerous times.

“Our little girl was playing in our garden when it happened. The Israelis bombed a house across the street: the blast came straight through our house – then I saw my daughter lying in blood,” said Mr Masri. “She was injured badly in the head, so we fear very much.”

Mariam is one among the extraordinarily large number of children who have been victims since Benjamin Netanyahu’s government launched Operation Protective Edge: 22 are among the 103 dead, and no less than 70 per cent of the 700 injured comprise boys and girls, or women, according to Palestinian medical authorities.

Ashraf al-Qadri, information director at al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza City warned of a “catastrophic effect” on young lives if the spiral of violence continues. There is no obvious explanation for this trend in child casualties.

Many residents, however, maintain that missiles and bombs aimed at the homes of militants considered legitimate targets by the Israelis have also hit neighbouring family homes. This claim would run counter to repeated insistence by the Israeli authorities that the air strikes are being carried out with surgical precision to avoid collateral damage.

Israeli military sources hold that warnings given to evacuate certain buildings have been followed by people gathering there as “human shields”. Yigal Palmor, spokesman for the foreign ministry, charged Hamas with launching rockets from “within homes and streets and neighbourhoods which are populated with civilians, exposing these civilians to retaliation and to backfire”.


Dr Nabil Sharqawi had been treating many of the child patients at al-Shifa Hospital. “They are difficult to cope with emotionally. We are medics, but we are also only human, and to see severe trauma on children is very distressing. Mariam has suffered brain damage. We first have to hope that she lives, then we will see whether she can speak again, walk again, or see again. Unfortunately, we’ll have more cases like this coming in.”

As he spoke, there were loud explosions of ordnance landing not far away and, a little later, the whooshing noise of rockets being launched into Israel.

Dr Sharqawi showed the photograph of a young boy with terrible wounds. “I keep thinking about him. He was brought in yesterday, 10 years old. He had lost both his arms and a leg. But he was fully conscious, he said to me: ‘Please doctor stop this pain.’ But there was very little we could do: he died soon afterwards.”

Gaza City is a relatively small place and the ripples from the human damage had spread through the community. Yasmeen Dawass, a 22-year-old medical student working as The Independent’s translator had been worried about a fellow student who was travelling on his motorbike on Thursday when he was hit in an air strike.

Ms Dawass did not know what had happened to Musab Dahir; she came across him on the bed next to Mariam, both his legs had been amputated and part of his right arm had gone.

“He was just an ordinary guy, not involved in firing rockets or anything like that. He was just riding along the street; why did they do this? He was going to be a doctor, he was going to help people”, she said.

In a nearby ward lay two young victims, cousins, both aged five. Nuraddin had suffered head injuries. He lost his parents when missiles slammed into his home. Kinan had been hit on the chest and leg by shrapnel; his father and sister died in the same attack.

Smoke rises following an Israeli missile strike on Rafah Smoke rises following an Israeli missile strike on Rafah (Getty Images)
The house, in Beit Hanoun district, was deliberately targeted from the air, by a drone. It had belonged to Hafez Hamad, who was accused by Israel of belonging to the group Islamic Jihad. Killed with him were six other members of his family including his wife, mother, two brothers and a niece aged 21.

Sitting beside the cousins, their 55-year-old aunt Amal said: “Nuraddin has been unconscious. Kinan knows about his father and sister – he asks about them, but he does not say anything at all about the attack.

“I don’t know what effect it will have on them when they grow up. Will they hate the Israelis and want revenge, or will they keep it away from their minds and forget about it? I personally wish they would forget about it. So many of us want this cycle to stop; we want peace, we are all very tired of war.”

But there was little taste for reconciliation in the family home where shattered glass and debris from the blast lay on the floor with family and friends gathered. With her arm around Adem, her four-year-old grandson, Hafeth Hamad exclaimed: “Of course we need to fight back. The Israelis are threatening to send in troops – let them do so, then they will see how our men, and, yes, our women will fight. Why should we let them just carry on making orphans over here.

People run for safety during an Israeli air attack People run for safety during an Israeli air attack (Getty Images)
"They come every two years and kill more, they want to exterminate the Palestinians and the world just lets them do that. No one is helping us.”

The feeling of abandonment is a pervasive one in Gaza. Dr Qadri at al-Shifa Hospital acknowledged that medical supplies available at Ramallah, the Palestinian administrative capital in the West Bank, have failed to arrive. Hamas and Fatah, which controls the West Bank, are supposed to be in a government of national unity, but there have been signs of cracks in the recently formed alliance.

“We are looking beyond Ramallah for help; we have asked lots of international organisations urgently for aid, but all we have got so far have been promises,” he said. “We are running short of medicine, of equipment. Half the ambulances can’t run because of lack of fuel.”

One of the ambulances pulled up outside the accident and emergency department. Another casualty of the conflict, with chest wounds, was carried out, Mohammed Abdulrahman Hatem. Eleven years old.

ebookA powerful collection of reportage on Egypt’s cycle of awakening and relapse
Life and Style
Child's play: letting young people roam outdoors directly contradicts the current climate
lifeHow much independence should children have?
Arts and Entertainment
Tycoons' text: Warren Buffett and Bill Gates both cite John Brookes' 'Business Adventures' as their favourite book
booksFind out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
Arts and Entertainment
<p>Troubled actor Robert Downey Jr cements his comeback from drug problems by bagging the lead role in Iron Man. Two further films follow</p>
filmRobert Downey Jr named Hollywood's highest paid actor for second year running
Life and Style
Dale Bolinger arranged to meet the girl via a fetish website
Sign here, please: Magna Carta Island
propertyYours for a cool £4m
Life and Style
The Commonwealth flag flies outside Westminster Abbey in central London
Arts and Entertainment
Struggling actors who scrape a living working in repertory theatres should get paid a 'living wage', Sir Ian McKellen has claimed
Skye McCole Bartusiak's mother said she didn't use drink or drugs
peopleActress was known for role in Mel Gibson film The Patriot
Arts and Entertainment
tvWebsite will allow you to watch all 522 shows on-demand
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Graduate Web Developer

£18000 - £28000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Excellent opportun...

Graduate Database Developer (SQL)

£18000 - £28000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Excellent opportun...

Community / Stakeholder Manager - Solar PV

£50000 - £60000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: The Green Recruitmen...

Senior Marketing Executive (B2B/B2C) - London

£32000 - £35000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executiv...

Day In a Page

Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

The 'scroungers’ fight back

The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

Fireballs in space

Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
A Bible for billionaires

A Bible for billionaires

Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

Paranoid parenting is on the rise

And our children are suffering because of it
For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

Magna Carta Island goes on sale

Yours for a cool £4m
Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months for intercepting phone messages. James Hanning tells his story in a new book. This is an extract
We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

Child abusers are not all the same, yet the idea of treating them differently in relation to the severity of their crimes has somehow become controversial
The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn
Alistair Carmichael: 'The UK as a whole is greater than the sum of its parts'

Alistair Carmichael: 'The UK as a whole is greater than the sum of its parts'

Meet the man who doesn't want to go down in history as the country's last Scottish Secretary
Legoland Windsor's master model-makers reveal the tricks of their trade (including how to stop the kids wrecking your Eiffel Tower)

Meet the people who play with Lego for a living

They are the master builders: Lego's crack team of model-makers, who have just glued down the last of 650,000 bricks as they recreate Paris in Windsor. Susie Mesure goes behind the scenes
The 20 best days out for the summer holidays: From Spitfires to summer ferry sailings

20 best days out for the summer holidays

From summer ferry sailings in Tyne and Wear and adventure days at Bear Grylls Survival Academy to Spitfires at the Imperial War Museum Duxford and bog-snorkelling at the World Alternative Games...
Open-air theatres: If all the world is a stage, then everyone gets in on the act

All the wood’s a stage

Open-air productions are the cue for better box-office receipts, new audiences, more interesting artistic challenges – and a picnic
Rand Paul is a Republican with an eye on the world

Rupert Cornwell: A Republican with an eye on the world

Rand Paul is laying out his presidential stall by taking on his party's disastrous record on foreign policy
Self-preservation society: Pickles are moving from the side of your plate to become the star dish

Self-preservation society

Pickles are moving from the side of your plate to become the star dish
Generation gap opens a career sinkhole

Britons live ever longer, but still society persists in glorifying youth

We are living longer but considered 'past it' younger, the reshuffle suggests. There may be trouble ahead, says DJ Taylor