Gaza Under Fire — a Humanitarian Disaster

Following an Israeli airstrike, Palestinian youth inspect the building their families lived in. Credit: Khaled Alashqar/IPS

Khaled Alashqar

As a result of over two weeks of Israeli bombardment, thousands of Palestinian civilians have fled their homes in the north of Gaza and sought refuge in schools run by the UNRWA, the U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees.

Among the worst affected are Gazan children who have been forced to live in constant fear and danger, according to Dr. Sami Awaida, a specialised child psychiatrist for the Gaza Mental Health Programme — a local civil society and humanitarian organization that focuses on war trauma and mental health issues concerning children and adults in Gaza.

Describing the impact of the current trauma, Awaida told IPS: “Children in Gaza are suffering from anxiety, fear and insecurity because of this war situation. The challenge we now face as mental health practitioners is ‘post-traumatic disorder’.”

“This means that children in Gaza have already suffered from two recent violent and shocking experiences in 2009 and 2012,” he continued. “This trauma now re-generates previous pain and shock and also leads to a mental state of permanent fear and insecurity among children here.”

Since Monday July 7, Israel has subjected the Gaza Strip to a severe military assault and engaged with the Palestinian factions in a new round of violence.

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