Yet another war in Gaza. The third war in six years. Hamas has been sending rockets into Israel. Killing indiscriminately. Israel invades, but it’s a mismatch. It’s not street to street fighting. Israel controls the sky and coastline. They have the latest technology and are fearful of picking up troop casualties and the backlash which would entail. Overwhelming force. War by remote control. I’ve not mentioned children yet. This is their life. Lyse Douset meets children from both sides of the divide.
Gaza has one of the highest densities of population on earth. Syed 12, for example, shared a room with his ten siblings, and his mum and dad. Mohammed, his brother, and three other boys were killed by shell fire as they played a game of football on the beach. His cousin kicked a ball into a fisherman’s hut. He never came back. It was murder, pure and simple. Hamas has no navy. Israeli ships can look through binoculars and pick out targets.
Samar 12, is in shock. Her house had been targeted by Israeli jets. She was soundly sleeping with her brothers and sisters and mother and father in her school, when her father was killed by an Israeli shell. Her mother in intensive care. Here’s the rub. Gaza lacks almost everything. Donkeys are still used for transport and for work. Hamas makes a substantial amount from controlling tunnels that brings in contraband such as food and DVD players. Samar’s mum has suffered shrapnel wounds to her spine. She was taken across the border into Israel who had the specialist staff and resources to deal with her injuries, but nobody from Gaza could visit, as they would be a terrorist threat. And there’s no after care. She’ll be in pain for the rest of her life. But it’s enough that she is home for her children. Almost every child in Gaza has lost a loved one. In the 51 day war 500 children in Gaza were killed and thousands more injured.
One Israeli child was killed by a Hamas rocket attack. The young boy was killed close the barrier that is being constructed, the equivalent of a Berlin wall, to separate the two interlinked and depended nations. Gaza is depended on Israel and its Arab backers. Israel is dependent on its American backers. Eilon 12, on the Israel side, for example, is fourteen seconds away from a safe room in their house in which the family sleep. They can move away deeper into the interior of Israel where it is relatively safer.
No child or adult in Gaza can move away. There’s nowhere to go. No place to hide. Hamas claim for every martyr killed there is a 1000 new recruits. We see training camps in which children are taught martial skills and how to use a gun. Children taught how to hate.
On both side of the wall children talk openly about killing—the other. The enemy. That monster that lives and is not part of humanity. Wretchedness by Fereydun Tavallali captures the paradox of children and adults alike:
Beware of my wretchedness, beware!
I am a man who makes love
with the corpse of his dead hope