When Hamas launched its offensive on October 7, it killed and abducted people indiscriminately, including many children. One of the captured fighters gave a chilling account to Israeli authorities, saying that “we could hear children crying inside a shelter. We started shooting inside the room until there was total silence.”

Hamas is holding 38 children and young people hostage – including a baby who was just 9 months old when kidnapped, according to Israeli media. The attack also left 21 children orphaned, according to Israel’s Ministry of Welfare and Social Affairs – many parents murdered, others kidnapped or missing.

Tragic account in southern Israel

Children living in southern Israel are also suffering. Sapir Fischer-Tergeman, a mother of two in Ashkelon, a coastal city near Gaza, sees how her children have been deeply affected. Other parents say their children now sleep under their beds in fear.

“It is difficult for our children to stay at home permanently, but there is no other choice – nowhere is safe. In the streets and playgrounds of Ashkelon there is always the risk of shelling,” says Fischer-Tergeman.

One of the stories that will remain etched in the memory of Israeli society is that of 12-year-old Liel Hezroni. Her family buried some of her belongings, including clothes and some of her favorite toys, although her death has not yet been confirmed. “Nobody survived where they were. As a secular family, we don’t need to wait until the official confirmation,” one of her relatives told Israeli media. 40 days after the attack, Liel’s body has still not been found.

Children in Gaza are living a hell

Hid Visakh left northern Gaza with her husband and their three children a few days ago. The area is repeatedly bombed by the Israelis and fighting between Israeli forces and Palestinian militants is fierce.

Visakh has an 11-year-old daughter and two sons, 9 and 4 years old. “Our life has become a real hell in every sense of the word. My children were constantly screaming, sometimes I do the same, crying with them,” she says with a trembling voice in a phone call from Rafa, a town in the south of Gaza where the family has taken refuge. “Every moment the fear of death hangs over us.”

Not being able to provide security for a parent is the worst thing that can happen to them, Visakh adds. “They endured a month of terror, which they will forever carry as a memory. I thank God that we are still alive and that my children are safe, but we want more than anything for someone to save us from this unprecedented hell and for an end to be put in place that will bring us back to our broken home.”

“Gaza is turning into a children’s cemetery”

Tens of thousands of Palestinian parents in Gaza are in the same situation as Wisakh. More than 4,600 children have been killed and about 9,000 injured, according to the Hamas-controlled Ministry of Health in Gaza in the past week. These numbers have not been independently confirmed.

About half (47.3%) of the 2.2 million residents in Gaza are minors, according to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics. To date, 1.5 million residents have been displaced, including 700,000 children, according to UNICEF.

Gaza’s youth are accustomed to hardship and military conflict. Since 2007, when Hamas seized power from the Palestinian Authority, Gaza has been under a strict land and sea blockade by Israel and partly by Egypt. Israel controls the movement of people and goods to and from the region, cutting it off from the rest of the world. Many children are living in war conditions for the fifth time. And this is the worst of them all.

“Gaza is turning into a children’s cemetery. Hundreds of girls and boys are killed and injured every day,” UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said in early November.

After a visit to Gaza, Kathryn Russell, UNICEF’s executive director, warned that “parties to the conflict are committing serious violations against children – including killings, mutilations, abductions, attacks on schools and hospitals, and denial of humanitarian aid.” . Many children are missing or buried under rubble, which demonstrates “the tragic results of the use of explosive weapons in populated areas. Newborn children who needed special care died in one of Gaza’s hospitals because there was neither electricity nor medicine.”

Very limited assistance

For six weeks people have been left to fend for themselves. Israel has blocked the border crossings – few trucks have been able to cross the Rafah crossing while most Palestinians are trapped in the tiny enclave.

Struggling every day for the bare necessities, such as finding food, clean drinking water and a toilet, Rania Mustasa is also worried about her children: “They can’t go to school, meet their friends or even go online, which cannot be accessed. Children are affected the most, they lose their childhood, they live in constant fear and experience terrifying incidents,” the 46-year-old mother tells DW.

The family of seven lived in eastern Gaza, but left their home at the beginning of the war. They have since moved twice and are now hosted by relatives in the southern part of the Gaza Strip.

“When we listen to the news on the radio, my oldest daughter, Rana, asks me, ‘Is this going to happen to us too? I don’t want to die.'” It’s hard to reassure her when she sees the terror in my eyes and I burst into tears. because of the shelling, the fear and the ever-worsening conditions,” says Mustasa. “When my young child asks me when this war will end, I find it difficult to answer. I just hope it ends soon.”