Mon. Jan 24th, 2022

Gazastad – In May 2021, the occupied Gaza Strip experienced renewed bloodshed and destruction when Israel suffered a devastating 11-day military offensive on the besieged enclave.

It was the fourth major offensive in Israel in 14 years on Palestinian territory, exacerbating the already dire living conditions and the high rates of poverty and unemployment in Gaza that have been under Israeli-Egyptian blockade since 2007.

The attack in May killed at least 260 people, including 39 women and 67 children, and injured more than 1,900, according to the Gaza Ministry of Health. The bombing also destroyed 1,800 residential units and partially demolished at least 14,300 other units.

Tens of thousands of Palestinians have been forced to seek refuge in United Nations-run schools.

About seven months later, the reconstruction process began slowly, although Israel continues to block the access to Gaza of many materials that it says could also be used for military purposes.

Talks mediated by Egypt could not reach a permanent ceasefire between Israel and Hamas, the Palestinian group that rules over Gaza, and tensions remain high.

Many people in Gaza were left to deal with the aftermath of the 11-day assault, including many young people who were seriously injured.

Al Jazeera spoke to three young people, who were injured during the offensive and left with permanent disabilities, to discuss what they had endured and what they were hoping for in the new year.

Mohammed Shaban, 7 years old, holds up his photo before losing his eyes. [File: Mohammed Salem/ Al Jazeera]Mohammed Shaban (7) lost his sight in Israeli offensive on Gaza [Mohammed Salem/Al Jazeera]

“Mom, I wish I could see your face”

Mohammed Shaban’s only wish for the new year is to be able to see again. The seven-year-old lost his sight on the first day of the Israeli offensive in May.

That day, Mohammed went out with his mother, Somayya, 35, to buy clothes for him and his siblings.

“He was very happy and could not wait to go home to show his new shoes to his sisters,” Somayya told Al Jazeera.

“Suddenly a huge explosion hit the area. I did not remember what happened. Dust, chaos, people screaming, blood… ”

Somayya stopped talking for a moment and then continued. “I remembered Mohammed, I started shouting: ‘Where is my son? Where is my son? ‘”

Mohammed’s eyes were seriously wounded when an Israeli airstrike hit two people on a motorcycle in Jabalia in the northern Gaza Strip. He was rushed to hospital.

“His face was full of blood and his eyes were bleeding terribly. “I lost consciousness when I saw him,” said Somayya.

After several attempts, the doctors decided Mohammed’s sight could not be saved and they had to remove his eyes.

“I can not stop crying when I see him. He kept asking his brothers and sisters, ‘Why can I only see black darkness? Why can’t I go to my school? ‘”She said.

“Last night he said to me, ‘Mom, I wish I could see your face.'”

Somayya Shaban, Mohammed's mother cries as she tells his story. Somayya Shaban, Mohammed’s mother, cries as she recounts their ordeal [Mohammed Salem/Al Jazeera]

Mohammed was recently admitted to a school for the visually impaired, but his mother has no hope for the new year.

“From what we have seen during this year, I can not expect better. Our days are the same. “I believe that Gaza’s fate is to face more torture and suffering,” she said.

She said her only wish for 2022 would be for Mohammed to see it again. “I wish I could give him my eyes.”

A report by Defense for Children International (DCIP) said 2021, in which 86 Palestinian children were killed in the occupied territories, was the deadliest year on record since 2014.

“During the 11-day military offensive, Israeli forces killed Palestinian children using tank fireballs, live ammunition and missiles fired from US drones and fighter jets and Apache helicopters,” the May assault report said. Operation Guardian of the Walls.

“I want to be a doctor when I grow up”

Farah Isleem (12) feels more optimistic in the new year, even though she lost her leg in May 2021.

“It was about six o’clock in the morning. I slept. Suddenly I woke up to an explosion. I could not move. “Everyone was shouting at me,” she told Al Jazeera.

An Israeli raid hit Farah’s home on the fifth floor of a building in the al-Sabra neighborhood in central Gaza City.

Hazem Isleem, Farah’s father, is a security guard at Gaza City’s al-Shifa hospital. That night, Hazem was at work and dealing with patients and people evacuated from bombed-out areas.

Farah's father helps her carry her prosthetic leg.Farah’s father helps her carry her prosthetic leg [File: Mohammed Salem/Al Jazeera]

His seven children were rushed to hospital after the bombing. Six sustained minor injuries, but Farah was seriously injured.

“When I first saw her, I realized her leg would have to be amputated,” he said. “It was broken and bled badly.”

Farah was given a medical referral to Jordan, where she traveled with her mother three days after she was injured.

After trying to save her leg for 15 days, the doctors decided it would have to be amputated. A prosthetic limb was later fitted to her leg.

“Imagine your beautiful and intelligent child having her leg amputated at this young age. It is a very difficult feeling, “said Hazem.

Farah Isleem, 12, is carrying her prosthetic leg after losing her leg in an Israeli bomb attack on their home. Farah Isleem puts on a prosthetic leg at her home in Gaza City [File: Mohammed Salem/Al Jazeera]

With Farah’s return from Jordan after a month, her family and school organized a reception party to welcome her back.

“My big focus now is my studies at school,” Farah told Al Jazeera. “I face a few obstacles that go up and down the stairs, but my family always helps me.”

Farah told Al Jazeera before her injury that she was afraid of seeing blood and of injuries. But now she wants to become a doctor, and her New Year’s wish is to learn English fluently, because it will help her realize her dream.

“I had so much pain during the treatment process. But thanks to God, everything is fine now, ”she said with a smile.

According to UNICEF, before the escalation into violence, one in three children in Gaza already needs support for conflict-related trauma. The UN body stressed the need for mental health and psychosocial support for children facing difficult living conditions.

The organization also said that tens of thousands of children in Gaza would need humanitarian aid to gain access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation over electricity shortages affecting water production in the besieged area.

Mahmoud Naim, 18, was lying on his bed after being paralyzed when a shrapnel pierced his back. Mahmoud Naim (18) was lying on his bed after being paralyzed when shrapnel pierced his back [File: Mohammed Salem/Al Jazeera]

“I wish I could walk again”

18-year-old Mahmoud Naim is lying on his back in bed and cannot move.

He is paralyzed and has not been able to feel the lower part of his body since the shrapnel of an Israeli shell hit him in the back on May 18 and pierced parts of his stomach.

“I went to the street to buy bread for my brothers and sisters. I saw a friend and stood talking to him. Suddenly there was an explosion. I do not remember anything after that, “Mahmoud told Al Jazeera.

“My life has been turned upside down,” he said.

Mahmoud remained in the intensive care unit for several days before being referred to Egypt for further treatment. He underwent seven surgeries and still needs intensive physiotherapy sessions and medication.

Scrapers are still stuck in Mahmoud’s back. They should be removed as soon as possible so that his condition improves.

“Currently I can not move on my own at all. My mother helps me, but my brothers are [too] young, ”he said.

“Sometimes I stay in bed waiting for my cousins ​​to come if I want to move.”

Prior to his injury, Mahmoud worked in a shop to support his family. His father has been ill for a long time and his condition has deteriorated after his son’s injury.

Mahmoud told Al Jazeera he had heard reports claiming that the shell that hit him was not Israeli, but a Palestinian shell that hit him by accident.

“It was an ongoing state of war in which everyone was under bombardment and terror, and the victims were all innocent people,” he said.

“Despite what happened to me, I am optimistic about the beginning of 2022, because every year is a new beginning.

“Enough of the war and enough of what is happening to us in the Gaza Strip. I hope calm prevails, our living conditions improve and I wish I could walk again. ”

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