Gaza children traumatized ten months after Israel's war on Gaza

11:29, November 08, 2009      

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It is still hard for Nada Joma'a, a 14-year-old girl from the Sheikh Radwan neighborhood in northern Gaza City, to forget the time when an Israeli missile destroyed her house, killed her mother and cut her leg during the 22-day Israeli air raid on the Gaza Strip that ended on Jan. 18.

"It's the hardest memories I have ever had in my life. I can't forget the scene when the missile hit our house, the huge explosion, the dust, the smoke and the rubble fell on our heads. I can't forget when I saw my mother was dead, my sister and my brother wounded," said Nada, who still looks gloomy and sad, and sometimes goes deep into the horrible memories.

Nada became more silent after the tragedy. Returning from school in the afternoons, Nada usually spends most of her time sitting at her simple desk doing her homework and refusing to go out to play.

Even when she tries to smile, her beautiful face shows signs of sadness. "It was a painful and a difficult day," she keeps repeating.

"She suffers from nightmares. She could not help remembering in details what happened to her," the girl's father Jamal Joma'a said.

He, too, can't forget the family catastrophe that occurred on the second day of the New Year.

"I went to buy some food, and when I came back home, the Israeli planes fired a rocket at my house. I rushed inside, and saw smoke and dust filling the entire house while my family was lying in blood," he recalled.

He found his wife dead with their little infant, slightly hurt, in her arms, while Nada and her younger sister Dalia, 10, were lying beside their mother. "I thought that all of them were dead until Nada screamed 'Baba we are here.'"

Rescue teams and ambulances arrived at the house and sent the dead mother and her three children to the hospital. Nada's leg was in very bad shape, and it was hard for the doctors to repair it. So "the only choice was to cut (off) her leg to save her life," her father said in a choked voice, with tears in his eyes.

He said Nada had been reluctant to visit her friends and to play with neighbors because she felt uncomfortable about her handicap. "She always stands in front of the mirror, looking at the shape of her body and keeps weeping."

Nada often spends her time alone staring at the walls, the window and the ceiling inside her room. She often gazes at a picture of her late mother hanging on the wall and talks to her. "I try to help her," her father said. "But what can I do? I really don't know.

"Her aunt and many of our relatives came to visit us at home, trying to talk to Nada and to take her out, but she refused," he continued.

When being asked about her life's goal, Nada said, "I hope I can walk in the street without the help of anybody."

A Gaza-based charity for prosthetics has tried to help her, and another charity offered her a wheel chair, but Nada found it difficult to use them.

When Nada goes to the bathroom, she prefers using a wooden crutch to help her walk. Her leg was amputated from the upper part of the thigh; therefore, she finds it hard to wear her prosthetic leg or sit on her wheel chair.

Palestinian officials said out of 1,440 people, more than 350 children were killed during the Israeli assault on the Gaza Strip, while around 5,300 people were injured, among them 1,872 children. Around 500 children were left physically disabled, according to official figures.

Mustafa Aabed, the man in charge of the Medical Aid Association which deals with victims of the war, said his organization had registered around 600 cases of physical disabilities from all ages since the war started, and 60 percent of them suffered from movement disabilities.

Different surveys prepared by social and psychological specialists predicted that the psychological traumata of Gaza children would continue for several years.

Eyad al-Saraj, who runs Gaza Mental Health Program, said children now "are unable to practice their natural childhood. They don't feel happy, and they don't see hope, and on the contrary, a culture of death and blood has affected their mentalities."

He added that such a situation for Gaza Strip children, who have a feeling of insecure life, "means that a complete generation of children may grow up into groups of militants who will be more violent and more fanatic."

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