Six words you never want to hear from the lips of your child: “Am I going to die, Daddy?”
But these are the words that Channel 4′s Jon Snow heard the 6-year-old daughter of his own translator ask over the phone, as her father stood surrounded by the blood and bodies of other children in a Gaza hospital.
So far for 166 of Gaza’s children, the answer has been yes, with another 1,310 injured – and these numbers will be out of date by the time I have finished writing the piece.
As he reports for the scene:
I can’t get her out of my mind. Two year old Nema. Her broken skull and fractured nose have imposed two vast round suppurating panda sized blobs effectively closing her tiny eyes.
Since she was blown up in an Israeli artillery barrage five days ago, she has not uttered a sound. She is mute, whether forever, no one knows.
Two-year-old Palestinian girl Naama Abu al-Foul sleeps after undergoing treatment at Gaza City’s Al-Shifa hospital following an Israeli bombing next to her family’s home on Wednesday. mage: MAHMUD HAMS/AFP/Getty Images
This would be tragic were she a lone case, but the unthinkable reality is she is but one of more than a thousand children laying stricken or dead, in the besieged hospitals of Gaza – and these are the ‘lucky ones’. Many more lay undiscovered or unreachable in the streets and beneath the rubble of their destroyed homes.
Snow goes on:
“Noradin, playing in a crowded street, hit by shrapnel from an Israel missile fired from an F16. In that explosion 45 people were injured, many of them children, two were killed.”
And there are always more, he passes a seven year old girl called Maha who’s spine was shattered in an Israeli attack – she lays on a bed, under a rag, the cement dust of her obliterated home still clinging to her.
While Israel’s PR machine kicks into a high gear, and world leaders queue up to dismiss these killings as the result of Hamas using children as human shields – Snow questions the logic.
“Israel has proved one bitter truth. There is no such thing as a forensic or even a surgical attack. In this densely packed slither of land, fenced off from the rest of the world, it has proved impossible to ‘kill a militant’, without taking out a child, twenty children, or a grandmother, aunt, cousin, cousin’s cousin.”
He sees a place where the devastation began seven years, not two weeks ago – and why for Palestinians, this is starting to feel like “Free us, or kill us” time.
“…despite the bangs, the booms, the screeching jets and the humming drones, you can never lose sight of the consequences of the siege that has been set against this Palestinian entity for the last seven years or more.
Electricity is intermittent, water is compromised, gas, diesel and so much is else is in constant short supply.”
Most of those watching the Gaza crisis unfold, know little of the history of the place.
Gaza has been slowly strangled over decades, and laid siege to for the last seven years. This has taken a proud and vibrant society and turned it into what the United Nations under secretary general for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator John Holmes calls “a large open-air prison,”
- Gaza is the 40th most densely populated place on earth.
- There are more than 5 million Palestinian refugees living in UNWRA camps having been displaced from their lands by Israel
- The UN has made 69 resolutions against Israel, declared its settlement program ‘deplorable’ and illegal and that its occupation of Gaza and the West Bank violates International Law
- Before and since Israel ‘withdrew’ from Gaza in 2009, it has imprisoned Gaza’s 1.8m inhabitants (800,000 of them children) behind an apartheid wall, and blockaded the strip of land by air and sea too.
- In 2006, Israeli government adviser Dov Weisglass said of the deliberate policy to cap food imports to imprisoned Gaza: “The idea is to put the Palestinians on a diet, but not to make them die of hunger.” Nevertheless, the UN describe the blockade as making Gaza “uninhabitable”.
Any child in Gaza aged seven or over, like Hama above, will now be living through their third military assault by Israel through their short lives, and never known life outside of siege. No wonder they are asking their parents that sad question: “Am I going to die?”