Endless Israeli aggression leaves Gaza's children with mental health challenges
"All Gazans, in particular children, were subjected to psychological trauma during the Israeli assault, mainly as they did not know if they will be affected by the Israeli attacks," Sami Owaida, a head of the nongovernment Gaza Community Mental Health Programme (GCMHP), said to The New Arab.
Earlier in May, Israel launched a bloody five-day bloody operation against the Palestinian Islamic Jihad movement (PIJ), starting with the killing of three senior commanders and their families while they slept.
Dozens of Israeli warplanes then attacked tens of the military and residential facilities belonging to the PIJ, damaging hundreds of residential houses.
As a result, the Palestinian resistance factions, including Hamas, which runs Gaza, and the PIJ, launched hundreds of rockets toward the Israeli cities.
At least 33 Palestinians, including six leaders of PIJ and their families, were killed by the Israeli army, while hundreds were wounded during the Israeli attacks, according to the Palestinian health ministry in Gaza.
"The continuous Israeli bombardment lead to the deterioration of the mental health of children, especially since they think all the time that they are threatened with death at any moment," Owaida said to TNA.
"Such negative thoughts lead to a change in children's behaviours, such as the desire to be introverted, bedwetting, aggressiveness and a complete dislike of life," he added. "Even though the residents tried to return to their lives once the Israeli assaults ended, the negative effects of mental health issues will not end unless the people can undergo psychotherapy."
More than half of the young people in Gaza, including children, could need psychological support after five-day Gaza-Israel tension, according to Owaida,
"Each victim needs a tailored psychological treatment programme to help them overcome the negative consequences of the Israeli wars on their lives," he stressed.
Since 2007, Israel imposed a brutal siege on the Gaza Strip after Hamas seized control of the enclave. Israel also launched five large-scale military operations that killed or injured thousands over time.
Nine out of 10 children in Gaza suffer from conflict-related trauma, according to a report issued by the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor published in 2021.
Yazan al-Masri, a seven-year-old child from Beit Lahia, north of Gaza, is an example.
"Since our house was destroyed and we became displaced, my grandson keeps silent and does not react to anything anymore. He's stopped playing with his siblings or neighbours," Intisar al-Masri, Yazan's grandmother, said to TNA.
"There are many changes in our children. They feel fear and stress just by hearing any major sound. When they hear the sound of a speeding car, they may scream as they think it was bombed. They are afraid to go out or to be alone in the house," the grandmother remarked.
"Because of the Israeli aggression, our children could not experience their childhood. A child needs to live with his family in safety and stability, but unfortunately, our children have lost all of that," she added.