As with all wars, the war in Gaza is being measured by its dead. According to a UN report published three days ago, nearly 1800 Palestinians have died in this latest war on Gaza, 377 of them children (although by now, the numbers will already be a bit higher).
There are several campaigns and initiatives to humanize these latest victims of Israeli aggression, in an attempt to make sure that they are not just numbers to fall into the chasms of history but rather human beings with names and stories.
But we must also measure this war by its injured, lest we forget about Gaza when the bombing stops. The UN's Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) has also reported that nearly a third of the 9000 who have been injured are children.
Here we must be clear, these injuries are not scrapes and bruises. These are serious, life altering injuries, including amputations, the loss of eyes, and brain damage. And all in the name of Israel’s war against Hamas terrorists.
Just two days ago I visited St Joseph’s hospital in my neighborhood in East Jerusalem and I saw no terrorists. Instead I saw children with truly terrible injuries.
One, was a 14 year-old girl who was crying out in pain from a seriously infected leg. In Gaza, the hospital had put a cast on it but the soft tissue had become infected. The staff at St Joseph were trying to save her leg. We were subsequently told by the nurses that the girl’s mother had died in a bombing but she had not been told yet.
Many of the children had vacant hollow eyes, staring at the walls oblivious to their many East Jerusalemite visitors. Our visit with simple presents seemed futile, especially as most of them would be returning to Gaza after receiving the care that they needed. How could we hope to alleviate their suffering even for a moment when on the horizon is their return to an apocalyptic prison?
Then there was Ahmed, a boy of 17 with seemingly paralyzed legs after being bombed on the doorstep of his house. I gave him a notebook and some pencils. He immediately began drawing something. I asked to see it, it was a heart with an arrow through it. He then folded the paper up several times and placed it under his pillow.
We talked to his mother, offering her what felt like empty words of solidarity. One of my companions said; “we’ve seen what you are going through on TV”. Ahmed looked up and said to us; “You’ve seen it on TV. We see it with our own eyes.”
An OCHA assessment is that 373,000 children are in serious need of physco-social support. Children like Ahmed who have seen their parents, siblings or cousins die before their very eyes. This trauma will no doubt last a lifetime.
So let us remember that the casualties of this war on Gaza are not just those who were brutally killed by Israeli Occupation Forces. They are also those who are left behind. Those who suffer from injuries that Gaza could barely cope with before and most certainly can’t now.
When this assault is over, their lives will remain impossibly difficult. They will need aid in the form of doctors, medical supplies and material to rebuild infrastructure. But most importantly they will need to be granted basic human rights if they are ever to recover. Rights that can only come with an end to the siege of Gaza and occupation of Palestine.