UPDATED ON:
Thursday, January 15, 2009
17:05 Mecca time, 14:05 GMT      
News Middle East
Children 'paying price of Gaza war'

More than 300 children are among the hundreds
of Palestinians killed in Israel's offensive [AFP]

Children are bearing the brunt of Israel's war on the Gaza Strip, the United 
Nations Children's Fund (Unicef) has said.

More than 300 children have been killed and hundreds more wounded in Israel's 
aerial and ground assault, Ann Veneman, Unicef's executive director, said in a 
statement released on Wedneday.

She said: "Each day more children are being hurt, their small bodies wounded, 
their young lives shattered. This is tragic. This is unacceptable.

"They are bearing the brunt of a conflict which is not theirs.

"As fighting reaches the heart of heavily populated urban areas, the impact of 
lethal weapons will carry an even heavier toll on children."

Lost childhood

Veneman said the war and bloodshed in Gaza would cause long-term psychological 
damage to children.

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"The crisis in Gaza is singular in that children and their families have 
nowhere to escape, no refuge. The very thought of being trapped in a closed 
area is disturbing for adults in peace times," she said.

"What then goes through the mind of a child who is trapped in such relentless 
violence?"

Israel has said that it is trying to minimise civilian casualties as it targets 
Hamas fighters and their infrastructure, but Palestinian children are being 
subjected to harrowing experiences.

"I saw the soldier standing next to the shop. I looked for my mum and then he 
shot me. One bullet him my hand and the other went through my back and out 
through my stomach," Samar, a young girl, told Al Jazeera while recovering from 
her wounds at a Gaza hospital.

Amal, another young girl, wailed: "We have nothing to do with this, we don't 
fire rockets, we don't know what this war is about." 

More than 40,000 pregnant women and their unborn children were also believed to 
be at risk because Gaza's overwhelmed hospitals were unable to take them in.

Traumatised

Dr Walid Sarhan, a Jordanian psychiatrist, said that if nothing is done to help 
traumatised children Gaza would begin to see advanced cases of psychiatric 
problems. 

Gaza's child victims

 
 Video: Children suffer
 Video: Born into war
 Naming the deceased

"The main one would be post-traumatic stress disorder, which is expected to 
rise 60 or 70 per cent among children," he said.

"Also they will have behavioural and emotional problems. They will have 
difficulties returning to school, going on to achieve in school, and this will 
not be in small numbers."

Mark Regev, an Israeli government spokesman, said that thousands of children in 
southern Israel were also suffering because of Palestinian rocket fire.

"Two weeks before this crisis started I went down south with my prime minister, 
Mr Olmert ... and he was given letters from fourth graders I believe, children 
who are nine and 10-years-old, who their entire lives have been on the incoming 
end of these Hamas rockets," he told Al Jazeera.

"You have a whole generation of Israeli children who unfortunately suffering 
similar trauma."
 Source:     Al Jazeera and agencies
    


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