Inside the lives of the Gaza conflict's young victims as Israel announce stalemate after 11 days of rockets and bombs
SHELL-SHOCKED children stumbled out of bomb shelters for the first time in 11 days yesterday as Israel’s bloody clash with Hamas ended in yet another stalemate.
Islamist fighters launched wild celebrations at the same time as their Israeli enemies claimed victory after vicious rocket and bomb exchanges left more than 250 dead and 2,000 injured.
But youngsters have become poignant pawns in this endless cycle of strife – and pain was etched on their faces as they ventured back into the open yesterday.
At Sderot – the most rocketed town in Israel where 70 per cent of children were evacuated – the streets were still eerily quiet as wary kids trickled back to parks and playgrounds.
And in Gaza – where 66 children died – experts warned a generation was growing up traumatised, damaged and ripe for recruitment by terrorist fanatics.
Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu threatened to “conquer” Hamas but caved in to global pressure to cut a deal with his hated enemy starting at 2am yesterday.
Bomb and rocket exchanges continued right up to the deadline – before the incessant wail of sirens and explosions suddenly stopped.
More than 70 per cent of Israel’s population wanted their high tech military to press on and smash the Gaza-based Islamist terror group once-and-for-all.
And Israelis in Sderot – just a mile from the Gaza border – told last night how children have been hardest hit by the latest clash in the endless conflict.
The bloodshed has stopped now but for how long?
We found playgrounds silent and padlocked yesterday as youngsters emerged shakily from bomb shelters.
More than 75 per cent of the children of the blitzed metropolis were evacuated – and families of those who stayed were counting the traumatic cost last night.
Racheli Avigal, grandmother of Ido Avigal – the five-year-old Israeli boy killed by a Hamas rocket last week – sobbed: “The bloodshed has stopped now but for how long?
“This is not the end, it is just a pause before it starts again and more children like poor little Ido will suffer and die on both sides. This pain will never end.”
Six year-old Geffen Benyair and brother Yehuda, 16, took their first steps into the open as the brittle truce entered its first few hours.
Yehuda said: “We live our lives never more than an eight second dash from a bomb shelter and have been running there constantly for days – day and night.
'Running for her life'
“She’s so innocent she thinks it’s a game when the alert sounds – she doesn’t know she’s running for her life.
“The hell has stopped for the time being but no one here doubts it will start all over very soon.”
Gaza mum of nine Samira Abdullah Naseer said as she looked over her ruined neighbourhood last night: “I don't agree to a truce. What is truce? What does it mean?"
"We returned to our houses, and we found no place to sit, no water, no electricity, no mattresses, nothing.”
Susan Raanan, a therapist who has worked for more than 20 years near the Gaza border, said: "At times like this we see kids becoming really sensitive to all loud noises, even trucks, cars and motorcycles.
“The children of Sderot and southern Israel are very jumpy, want to sleep in the bomb shelter even though there's no need after the ceasefire.
They kids know it can happen again and so, even after fighting, they live with continual fear
“And many won't even go to the toilet or to shower without a parent.
“They kids know it can happen again and so, even after fighting, they live with continual fear.”
Dad Andy Avraham, 40, said as he walked nine-year-old daughter Agam in a Sderot park for the first time in days: “This is the first time it’s been safe enough to come here.
“I make sure she’s never more than 15 seconds from our bomb shelter and she has been running in and out of it day and night.
“I wish our military would wipe out Hamas once and for all and most Israelis feel the same – because our children will soon have to endure this all over again.”
Teacher David Fender, 59, told The Sun: “Hamas is to blame for this and there should have been no let up until they were destroyed.
“These fanatics don’t want to feed their children – they want to make rockets to kill ours.”
4,000 rockets fired
Israel’s blitz of the densely populated Hamas-ruled enclave killed 243 Palestinians, including 66 children, wounded more than 1,900 and wrecked swathes of capital Gaza City.
In Israel, 12 people were killed and hundreds treated for injuries from 4,000 rocket launches into civilian areas.
In Gaza yesterday, crowds cheered and shots were fired in celebration as mosque loudspeakers crowed: “The victory of the resistance achieved!”
Rioting broke out in Jerusalem yesterday within hours of the uneasy truce after Friday prayers in Temple Mount as hundreds of Arab youth hurled rocks at police.
US President Joe Biden – who brokered the truce aided by Egypt’s Abdel Fattah el-Sisi – vowed to replenish Israel’s anti-rocket “Iron Dome” missile shield.
But he also pledged to help rebuild the Gaza Strip adding: “The US is committed to working with the UN… to marshal international support for the people of Gaza and the Gaza reconstruction efforts.
“We will do this in full partnership with the Palestinian Authority – not Hamas.
The whole world should know that our hands are on the trigger
“Palestinians and Israelis equally deserve to live safely and securely.”
Violence erupted on May 10, triggered by Palestinian claims that Israelis curbed their rights at the Al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem during the Ramadan fasting month.
Israel claims its attacks killed at least 160 combatants – including top Hamas and Islamic Jihad terror masters – but Hamas hailed the resistance of its fighters.
Ezzat El-Reshiq, a senior member of the Hamas political bureau, said: “It is true the battle ends today but Netanyahu and the whole world should know that our hands are on the trigger.
“We will continue to grow the capabilities of this resistance.”
Gaza officials said 6,800 homes were damaged and the coastal strip was hit by power cuts.
The Israeli military says it wiped out more than 60 miles of fighting tunnels built by Hamas under Gaza, dubbed “The Hamas Metro”, entombing enemy troops.
Children in Gaza are suffering from fear and anxiety, a lack of sleep, and showing signs of distress, such as constant shaking and bedwetting, Save the Children said.
Seven out of ten children in the worst-hit areas were still suffering from nightmares, and 75 per cent were still bedwetting regularly. Up to 89 per cent of parents reported that their children were consistently afraid.
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