GAZA CITY: As a ceasefire was established in Gaza on Saturday, Palestinians began to count the cost of the 11-day war in Israel.
Airstrikes and artillery shelling destroyed or damaged nearly 17,000 homes and businesses, 53 schools, six hospitals, four mosques and 50% of Gaza’s water supply infrastructure, leaving 800,000 people without regular access to drinking water.
Naji Sarhan, an official with the Gaza Ministry of Public Works and Housing, estimated the financial losses from the Israeli attacks at $ 150 million. However, it is the human cost that is the most devastating. The Israeli assault killed at least 248 Palestinians, including 66 children, and a refugee agency in Gaza launched a special program to help young people traumatized by the violence.
Among them are the survivors of a devastating Israeli attack last week on Al-Wehda Street in Gaza, in which at least 42 people were killed and more than 50 were injured. Three sisters – Hala, Yara and Rola Al-Kulak – and their father Muhammad died under the rubble of their home, which, along with several others on Al-Wehda Street in Gaza, was hit by Israeli airstrikes, causing the minus 42 deaths. and more than 50 injured. The mother of three daughters, Dalal, and her only son, Abdullah, just 2 years old, survived.
Abdullah and Dalal are in shock since the airstrikes, Dalal’s father Ahmed Al-Maghribi told Arab News. Her daughter is being treated with sedatives. Sometimes she doesn’t believe she lost her husband and daughters, while at other times she asks “why they killed them,” he said.
The Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) said in a statement that the three sisters and eight other children out of the 60 who lost their lives in the first week of the war were participating in its psychological and social program to help them. to cope with trauma.
The children, aged 5 to 15, were killed in their homes in densely populated areas with countless parents, according to the council.
“We were shocked to learn that eight children we were helping were bombed while they were at home and thought they were safe… They are now gone, killed with their families, buried with their dreams and the nightmares that haunt them, ”said NRC Secretary General Jan Egeland.
“Dalal was very attached to her daughters. She gave them a lot of attention which helped them in school, ”Al-Maghrabi told Arab News.
Hudhaifa Al-Yaziji, director of the NRC in Gaza, said the organization is working with 118 schools in the Gaza Strip and their psychological and social services reach over 75,000 students as part of the Better Learning program.
Al-Yaziji believes that the war will increase the number of children and students who need psychological and social interventions.
He told Arab News that the children of Al-Kulak and others killed were receiving counseling services to deal with the previous trauma they had suffered as a result of the violence in Gaza. Al-Yaziji said the most important symptom that needed treatment was nightmares.
Sumaya Habib, a doctor in the Ministry of Health, and a team of specialists care for children traumatized by previous Israeli wars and cycles of violence.
Habib told Arab News that the current war has been “extremely harsh” and will have negative effects on the majority of children in Palestine.
She believes children like Abdullah Al-Kulak, who escaped with his mother under the rubble, will suffer more severe trauma.
According to Habib, the mental scars that will affect children take many forms, including loss of sense of safety and security, panic attacks and aggression. For women, they will lose, to varying degrees, a “part of their femininity” and display violent characteristics and practices.
The council said 80% of students in Gaza had a positive outlook for the future in 2019, but by September 2020 that figure had fallen to just 29%.
“The war will cause more children to lose their positive outlook on the future, because they see death with every raid and every explosion,” Habib said.