Caritas Jerusalem reports on children caught in the crossfire

 Mo'een Salem Abu Libda is 12 years old and lives on the frontline of the Intifada, in Block O in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip. It is one of the most dangerous places on earth. "The gunfire doesn't stop day and night," she told Caritas Jerusalem. "Watching the Israeli bulldozers demolishing houses or just driving around is routine for me." Around half of Gaza's 1 million inhabitants are less than 16 years old and these children literally have been caught in the crossfire of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. As of 4 April 2003, 447 children under the age of 17 years have been killed since the outbreak of the Intifada in September 2000 (Miftah statistics). Thousands more are emotionally scarred by the violence they have seen. Khowla El Nasr lives with her mother and six young boys on the main road in Beit Hanoun in the Gaza Strip. Her husband was killed in December 2002, shot in the chest by an Israeli sniper. "Life is very hard," she begins. Her husband worked for the municipality and supported the family on 1,200 shekels a month (US $250). Following his death the family receives just 400 shekels, "not even enough to buy soap" Khowla complains. The boys' grandmother, however, was worried about the children's upbringing, "since their father died, there has been no respect for their mother. There is no discipline and no control. The children do what they want." "The real problem is psychological," Khowla stressed. "When the tanks come, or the helicopters, Samer (the youngest child) comes and hugs me. He tells me that although he is scared, if he is shot, he will then go to heaven like his father. What can I say, how can I comfort them?" Khowla's oldest son, Abed, is 13 years old. Although he speaks like a young politician, Abed wants to become a doctor, as his father dreamed for him. He wanted to explain how he felt, "I feel very sad," he said. "I have lost my security. They (the Israelis) are killing our people, bulldozing our land this makes me very angry. Is there anyone in the world like the Israelis, killing children, destroying people's homes and attacking mosques?" Asked about how he saw the future, he said, "Hopefully we will get our freedom, but it is hard to see any sort of future." Nahil Bassouna is 15 years old and lives in Beit Hanoun in the Gaza Strip. His father was killed during an Israeli incursion into the north of the Gaza Strip over Eid al-Fitr, the Muslim festival marking the end of the holy month of Ramadan. Nahil explained that he was shot in a gun battle. The ambulances were prevented from reaching him and he died some hours later. The family were unable to see him a last time because of the tank outside their house. "It was a big shock." Nahil said. "We have lost everything and now there is just a big hole. I am responsible for my six brothers and sisters. I am trying to fill the gap and behave like Dad did, and respect my mother and do what she asks. But I miss my father." Ma'ema, Nahil's sister, is 17 years old. She listened to what her brother had to say, and then added thoughtfully, "There is no future; Dad is not here so we have no future."

Share this story