Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Struggle to Help Gaza's Traumatized

BBC News, March 4, 2009 - Omsyat, 12, has become nervous and aggressive, Hala, 7, has completely stopped speaking and Sobhy, 11, burned the toys he was brought with a candle, says their mother, Wafa Awersha.

Psychiatric nurse Rowiya Hamam nods as she sits on a thin mattress on floor of the tent in al-Atatra in northern Gaza.

In what is now their home, Mrs Awersha updates her on how the five children are coping with their brother's death in the recent conflict.

Ibrahim, 9, was hit by Israeli bullets on 4 January and died before his siblings' eyes, with their injured parents barely conscious nearby, the family say.

His body lay for four days outside their house before the fighting waned enough for neighbours to take it away on a donkey cart.

Israel blames civilian casualties on militants' practice of operating from populated areas and says Palestinian fighters fired at its forces during the daily unilateral three-hour ceasefire it instituted to allow emergency workers to reach the dead and injured.

Several hundred of the 1,300 Palestinian deaths were children and some accounts of civilian deaths have raised concerns of war crimes.

After Ibrahim's death, Sobhy began behaving like his sibling and asking to be called Ibrahim, Ms Hamam says.

"School's fine," he says, when asked. "I like maths." But he stares at the ground and tears soon well in his eyes.....

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