Give us our Childhood, Not Death

Saed Bannoura, IMEMC

Children are the most affected by any conflict in this world, the faultless victims of brutality and advanced weapons technology; tiny angels, the builders of the future and our continuation on earth, subjected to all sorts of military violence and aggression that harvest their lives without any sign of remorse.

As military operations against in Palestinian areas resume, daily young casualties mount in the face of the massive damage of machines and shells, children having done nothing wrong but to be in a place were they shouldn’t-or should be.

When a child is shot dead at school, on the way to school, or even in their mother’s arms, what sense does it make? When your own home, your school is not a safe place.

Among the stories from the continuous aggression and military violations, the story of Raghda Al-Assar, 11 years old, who was shot in the head while she was on her school seat rings loud.

Raghda, happy with her first week after summer holiday, was filled with dreams and joy at school. An angry bullet of a hateful rifle took her life her dreams. Her only fault was being at school, receiving an education and dreaming of a brighter future.

Raghda’s blood covered her seat, in a Khan Younis girls School, which will remain empty, leaving the school full of sadness and shock; after a soldier opened fire at the school killing her-while tens of students rushed in fear out of their classrooms in an attempt to save their own lives.

Yet, the story of Raghda is not the first, and unfortunately not the last, Iman Al-Hamss, 13 year- old girl, from Rafah, was shot dead with more than twenty bullets that penetrated her body and face, and her childhood dreams, on October, 5, 2004.

Iman, who was wearing her school uniform and walking with two of her friends, was shot dead by Israeli troops with more than twenty bullets. Even after her death, for more than thirty minutes, soldiers barred ambulances and medical teams from reaching her. The army claimed that soldiers shot her when she ran away, and that they suspected her of carrying an explosive device.

Contrary to the Israeli story, Dr. Mu’awyeh Hasanein, director of the emergency rooms in the Palestinian Ministry of Health said, Iman Al-Hams received at least 20 bullets to different parts of her body that caused her death.

Israeli sources reported later that the army admitted that they found only books in the school bag Iman Al-Hams was carrying when she was killed.

As usual the army found an explanation for this incident. The magic solution is called Military Slang, which refers to shooting a person at close range after he (or she) has been already shot and on the ground; the action is taken to assure that person does not and can not pose any danger.

But, the question remains and is never answered, “What did this innocent 13 years old girl do, except be a student; what danger did she pose to soldiers in military posts and monitoring towers?

These stories bring back the memory of the first day of Al-Aqsa Intifada, the Story of Mohammad Al-Durra, 12 years old, who was shot dead on Saturday, September 30,  2000.

The child who died in his father’s arms, was critically wounded, on Netzarim Crossing, in the Gaza Strip. The death of Al-Durra was one of the most horrific scenes a camera could ever record.

Al-Durra and his father were taking cover behind a concrete block, less than 70cm high, while the Israeli army opened automatic fire and took the innocent life of a child.

The screams of the desperate father, and calls for help were not enough. A Palestinian reporter who identified himself as Talal Hasan Abu Rahma, and works with a French TV filmed the horrific scene, which some people think only can exists in action movies.

The child was shot in the leg at first and his father tried to calm him down, waving and screaming for help, while the army was shooting as if in a battle with hundreds of soldiers. There was no exchange of fire in the area, according to the reporter said.

“The army did not stop. They shot the father and his child and continued shooting at them. This is murder. I saw it, and I lived to tell the story of a cold blooded murder. The army shot in all directions, but mainly at the father and his child.

I, as well as the other reporters and residents were all in great danger of the automatic non-stop fire of the army centered in the areaâ€ý, Abu Rahma said.

Another story of military aggression takes us to Khan Younis, in particular the story leads us to the Batn Al-Sameen area, west of Khan Younis, south of the Gaza Strip.

This time military fire took the life of a 12 year old girl, who was shot dead at home. Sara who was among her family in a place which should be the safest place for a child…home, and the nurturing love of her family.

Yet, bullets of hatred penetrated the window and took away the innocent life of a child. Her father, Mohammad Zo’rob, saw his child fall in front of his eyes, soaked in blood and pushing out her last breath on this earth.

In Al-Shaboura refugee camp, in Rafah, another story unfolds of continuous military violence, a story of a missile which took an innocent dream away.

Hamad Al-Neirab, 11 years old, from Al-Shabora refugee camp, in Rafah, could not make his dream come true. His vision, amidst the continuous air strikes and shelling which polluted the air, and his tiny dreams, shattered.

Hamad, the child who dreamt of becoming the Ronaldo of Palestine, wearing his shirt carrying No. 9, and raising the cup in the middle of Rafah refugee camp, lost any chance of fulfilling this dream.

The dream ended suddenly, May 10th. Hamad and his brothers were listening to the radio, following the news about Tel Al-Sultan neighborhood, which became a battle field crushed by tanks and used as a training zone for military snipers and practicing their hobby of killing tiny dreams.

Hamad joined the peaceful procession in Tel Al-sultan neighborhood, with tens of children and residents, who chanted against the occupation and military operation.

A military helicopter and tanks fired several rounds and two missiles.

Mohammad lost his leg, and lost his dream with in the attack. The dream of Ronaldo disappeared when he lost his leg, The new reality forced him to start thinking of a new dream-to become an engineer. He still he had to overcome his pain and his loss .

I can’t be Ronaldo without my legs, one leg is not enough, this is football not chess he said, I still have my hands, when my father works and has some money

he will teach me, (the father stood there with an artificial smile to cheer his son on ).

Another child, Ghadeer Mkheimar, a 10-year-old girl, was recently shot and wounded while she was in her seat at school in Khan Younis Primary. The school is run by UNRWA and is in Al-Sad Al-Aaly area in West Khan Younis refugee camp in southern Gaza Strip.

The child was hit in the chest and was critically wounded. A teacher at the school said that there was no shooting or clashes in the area, and that army fired at the school without any reason while the students were in their classrooms.

Yet, the story goes on, endless stories and cases of military aggression not only against the resistance, as the army claims, but also against the children and women, one child after another, one angel after another falling in front of continuous military violence.

How many children does it take to realize the truth? How many more innocent lives will be lost? What is the crime of a Palestinian child, aren’t they like any other child in this world? Is life this cheap? Or is life cheap in one place but not another ?

Palestinian children are crying for the sake of humanity, ‘Give us a chance, let us live as your children do, give us our childhood and let us be the future generation instead of being buried in our graves.’

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