The untold stories of Gaza's lost young souls
In the heart-wrenching symphony of war, the most haunting notes are those that resonate within the souls of children. Dreams, delicate as gossamer, are crushed beneath the relentless weight of conflict, leaving shattered remnants of innocence in their wake.
Amidst the chaotic dance of destruction, children bear the brunt. Limbs lost, bodies scarred, dreams extinguished – a cruel reality etched into the fabric of their existence. In the relentless Israeli bombardment since October 7, the toll on Gaza’s children is beyond reckoning.
Gaza is a cramped enclave where 2.3 million souls are confined to 365 square kilometres. Among them, children make up 47 percent, their dreams suffocated by the stifling realities of conflict.
"In amplifying their voices, we shine a light on the dark corners of a conflict that exploits the most vulnerable"
Over one month of relentless violence, a staggering average of more than 100 children per day have met untimely deaths. Each lost life is not a statistic but a story – a tragic narrative etched in the collective memory of a beleaguered people.
The orphans of war, Julia’s tale
In the tapestry of sorrow, the story of Julia - a mere four years old - emerges. Amidst the ruins of Deir-Al Balah, Julia survives, orphaned by Israeli forces who claimed the lives of her parents. A cruel cycle repeats for her family, as her father, Musab, experienced a similar fate in 2004 when Israel killed his own father.
Wessam Nassar, Julia’s cousin, recounts the heartbreak, “Musab was orphaned when Israel’s occupation forces killed his father in 2004… Now, Musab has also left this earth. He left behind his beautiful daughter, Julia, who is 4 years old. He loves her, and his heart is always with her.”
Julia, innocent and unaware, grapples with the void left by her family’s absence. “My mom got bombed,” she innocently utters, yet to comprehend the magnitude of her newfound orphanhood.
Yousef’s sunset, a final embrace
Yousef, a seven-year-old with dreams yet to blossom, falls victim to the indiscriminate violence. His father, a shattered soul, describes Yousef’s endearing nature, “Yousef, my son, he is 7 years old. He always asks me about my work schedule and as soon as I return home, he comes to hug and kiss me.”
Yousef’s last wish, a plea for his family to embrace one another, underscores the tragic finale of his innocent life. His father, robbed of everything, laments, “I lost everything, but the biggest loss was my son Yousef.”
In the hospital, his mother mutters to The New Arab, “Yousef is white-skinned, handsome, and beautiful, with curly hair,” a eulogy that echoes through the corridors as a testament to a life extinguished too soon.
Mayar’s lost dreams
Mayar, once having aspirations of becoming a journalist, saw her dreams tragically unrealised. Alongside her younger brother Belal, both children of the journalist Nidal Hamida, they symbolize the countless young lives in our occupied land whose aspirations are shattered and stolen by the Israeli occupation before they can fully blossom.
While Mayar, older by several years, and Belal may have engaged in the typical joys and occasional squabbles that characterize childhood, their home was a haven of shared laughter and familial bonds. Mayar, distinguished at school for her kind-heartedness and intellect, was often envisioned by many as following in her father's journalistic footsteps.
Tragically, the ruthless Israeli occupation abruptly terminated Mayar's dreams, as their home became a target of destruction, taking her life and that of her sibling Belal, along with their mother. The relentless brutality of the occupation silenced not just individuals but extinguished the flicker of potential futures for young souls like Mayar.
The plight of premature lives
Even the sanctuary of hospitals offers no refuge.
Premature infants, struggling for breath, face a dire fate. Alarming reports from al-Shifa Hospital reveal eight premature deaths, a grim consequence of dwindling resources in the neonatal ward.
The Indonesian Hospital in northern Gaza bears witness to further carnage, with at least 12 lives claimed by artillery fire. Infants, once cradled in hope, succumb to infections, their frail existence caught in the crossfire of geopolitical turmoil.
In present-day Gaza, grieving parents grapple with the unfathomable loss of their children.
These bereaved parents are tormented by the heart-wrenching idea that their beloved offspring may have experienced hunger in the moments preceding their tragic demise.
In the midst of such sorrow, there are individuals who fervently demand to retain a lock of hair from their departed loved ones prior to the solemnity of burial—a poignant memento representing a cherished fragment of the person they held dear.
For those who survive, the trauma endures. The children of Gaza, scarred by the brutality they’ve weathered, carry an indelible imprint of suffering into their uncertain futures.
As the world bears witness to this harrowing reality, the call to action reverberates – an urgent plea to expose the brutality inflicted upon the innocent.
Gaza’s children, unwittingly thrust into the frontline of conflict, demand a collective acknowledgement that resonates far beyond the confines of their besieged homeland.
In amplifying their voices, we shine a light on the dark corners of a conflict that exploits the most vulnerable. The world must confront the stark truth that innocence is a casualty, and the children of Gaza bear witness to a tragedy that cannot be silenced.
Eman Alhaj Ali is a Gazan-based journalist, writer, and translator from the Al-Maghazi Refugee Camp
Follow her on X: @EmanAlhajAli1