International Family Day.. The occupation exterminated families and destroyed the lives of thousands of children in Gaza | Policy

Gauze- “The ups and downs of her martyr mother” and “Playing with her four martyr brothers”… small details still remain in the memory of Palestinian child Susie Ashkentna, 19 months after the terrible Israeli massacre in which her meek family was killed, and miraculously fled from under the ruins with her father. Her house, which was turned into a pile of rubble by an airstrike.

The details do not leave the memory of Susie (8 years old), who in the blink of an eye found herself orphaned and lonely, after a few moments before the massacre committed by Israel on Al Wahda Street in Gaza City, during the past year. war in May 2021, one of the 5 brothers and sisters who witnessed the massacre. The other massacres, from afar through the windows watching the occupation missiles.

The misfortune that befell Susie’s family also affected other families who lost more than one member in this massacre, which is popularly known as the “Al-Wahda Street Massacre”, and dozens of martyrs and wounded were killed.

Riyad Ashkentna lost his wife and four children in the Israeli massacre and was left alone with his daughter Susie (Al-Jazeera)

Family assassination

The destruction of a 4-story building engulfed an Ashkenite family as a result of an Israeli warplane attack during one of the nights of the Gaza war. Only Susie and her father Riyad survived after hours of terror under the rubble.

Riyad came back to life just before Suzy. He told Al-Jazeera Net: “It is a heinous crime of criminal occupation that has destroyed the life of an entire family…”. In this expedition, the father lost Dana (age 9), Lana (age 6), Yahya (age 5), Zain (age 2) and their mother Abeer (age 29). “We were a peaceful family and only Susie and I survived, grieving the bitterness of loss,” he said.

Since the massacre, Susie has no tendency to talk to strangers, and integrates more with her only aunt’s children, finding in them “something” of what she missed by the martyrdom of her mother and four brothers, which prompts her father to respond to her plea to stay. at her aunt’s house, who is also her uncle’s wife, for several days, days every week.

Riyadh spares no effort in her quest to remove her daughter from the trauma of the event and help her move forward in life and achieve her dream of becoming a doctor, but she acknowledges the weight of her task. Susie was the link between her mother and siblings, although she is neither the oldest nor the youngest, but she is smart and well-spoken and it is not easy for her to forget all those details, he says.

A few days ago, Susie was in the company of her aunt and her children, and she surprised everyone by writing the names of her mother, brothers and sisters on the windshield. According to Riyad, the memory of her has not left her previous life, and she is still connected to many things. which remind her of those who have left, including in food and her favorite “maqlouba”.

Psychotherapeutic interventions

In addition to her father’s efforts and efforts to integrate her among her peers, Susie underwent psychological therapies within the framework of a project for children of martyrs and those affected by the Israeli war.

Psychologist Manar Salmi describes – for Al-Jazeera Net – Susie’s case in the first one-on-one session as “that she suffered from deep shock and denial of the event.”

Manar tried relaxation exercises with Susie to help her cry, express herself, focus and let go of distractions. After strenuous attempts, she began to build confidence while providing her with a safe environment and began to respond with a limited response.

Manar explains Susie’s attraction to her aunt’s house, seeking security from people who were closely related to her family, and her aunt is the closest of them in her case, and with her children she finds the family atmosphere she missed with her family’s martyrdom.

Although many months have passed since the massacre, the psychologist says that Susie’s memory is still vivid with many painful details, and she connects current events with what happened to her. For example, she interprets every loud sound or explosion as a massacre, and she remembers what happened to her family. In the last days of the escalation in Gaza last August, she absolutely refused to communicate with everyone and lived through days of terror.

The Abu Hatab family in the Shati refugee camp in Gaza, while preparing for the funeral of 10 of their children killed in an Israeli attack (Anatolia)

Families deleted from the registers

During the same war that the Palestinians call “Saif of Jerusalem” and lasted 11 days in May 2021, the Ministry of Health in Gaza documented the occupier’s commission of 19 massacres against families that were completely exterminated and no longer exist in the civil registry, primarily the family of Al -Tanani consisting of father, pregnant mother and their children.

At the time, Amnesty International said there was an “appalling pattern” of Israeli airstrikes targeting homes, in some cases burying entire families under rubble.

This pattern of atrocities has been experienced by the people of Gaza during four Israeli wars, and in repeated rounds of escalation in which dozens of Palestinian families have been turned into an “eyesore” by being killed outright or losing most of their members.

The most violent of these crimes was the one documented by the Israeli human rights organization “B’Tselem” in the third war in 2014, when Israel completely exterminated 70 families, and the most in the massacre was 18 members of the Al-Batsh family, including women and children. .

The latest of these crimes against the family occurred during the last round of escalation in August 2022, resulting in the death of Yasser Al-Nabahin’s father and three of his children.

Israel usually shirks responsibility for targeting families, as it did in its response to a Palestinian human rights organization’s claim that it massacred the al-Dalu family in the second war in 2012, bombing their home with a large bomb that killed 12 people , which consists of 5 children, 5 women and two young men.

dr.  Yasser Abu Jameh, the family is the core of the world, and for a child it is the whole world - Raed Musa - Al Jazeera Net
dr. Yasser Abu Jame: 8 out of 10 children in Gaza suffer as a result of wars and sieges on their families (Al-Jazeera)

The family is the child’s world

If the family is the core of society, then it is the whole world for a child, because it provides protection, care and basic needs and opens the door to the future. Therefore, the head of the Gaza Mental Health Program, Dr. Yasser Abu Jameh, says that there is a general feeling of loss of security among the children of Gaza, especially the children of the martyrs.

Studies by the psychological program show that 8 out of every 10 children in Gaza, who make up 48% of the total population (2.3 million people), suffer from psychological challenges as a reflection of what the family faces.

In an interview with Al-Jazeera Net, Abu Jameh cited the severe long-term and short-term psychological effects associated with a child’s loss of family, primarily what are known as post-traumatic symptoms. In it, the child avoids space, time and people, and is accompanied by a constant feeling that the event is repeating itself, along with dissociative symptoms, in which the child feels that he is not living the life he knows or that he is living another life, or that he himself is a different person.

In addition, according to Abu Jama, the child suffers from depression, loss of pleasure, lack of interest in education and life in general, along with physical pain as a result of constant fear. He says that some of these symptoms can be cured if the environment is supportive, “but unfortunately the environment in Gaza does not help with this because of the blockade and the ongoing aggression”.

The result is changes that occur in the child’s personality that can stay with him forever, and Abu Jameh says that any trauma a child is exposed to leaves an apparent or hidden impact that time cannot erase.

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