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Palestinian families torn apart amid war in Gaza

Wisam Hamada, a Palestinian woman in Gaza, could not forget the trembling voice of her child Hind, when the six-year-old girl called for help after being attacked by Israeli forces.

“The Israeli army opened fire at her uncle’s car while they were trying to evacuate their area in Tal al-Hawa in Gaza City,” the 35-year-old mother recalled to Xinhua with teary eyes.

Sheltering in a fuel station, the girl made a call to the Palestinian Red Crescent Society (PRCS) for help, after she witnessed all her relatives being shot by the Israeli soldiers.

To calm down the little girl, the PRCS connected Hind with Hamada for a few minutes before heavy fire was heard on the other end of the phone.

“The last words she told me were that she was wounded, and she saw an ambulance in the street… Then her voice was shut,” the mother said to Xinhua. “I do not know if my child is still alive or not. Even the PRCS crews who tried to save her are missing too.”

From that day on, the mother started to check all the names of the causalities transferred to the Shifaa hospital with hopes of finding her child.

“If anything bad happens to her, I will go crazy,” the mother said.

Alaa al-Qatrawi, another Gaza woman, is facing a similar heart-wrenching circumstance, as she has lost contact with her four children for more than 50 days.

On Dec. 13, 2023, “the Israeli army stormed their house, arrested their father, and took away their mobile phones,” the woman recalled. She had lost contact with her four children ever since, who were staying with their grandmother, the 33-year-old young woman told Xinhua.

“The cruelest thing in this war is that, mothers cannot even know where their children are and protect them,” al-Qatrawi said.

The mother has repeatedly contacted the International Committee of the Red Cross and the Palestinian Red Crescent Society to help her find her children.

“Unfortunately, the Israeli authorities refuse to coordinate with anyone,” the mother said. “We and our children are paying the price of the war even though we are innocent people who should be protected by the international law.”

The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said in a press statement on Feb. 2 that about 17,000 children in the Gaza Strip are unaccompanied or separated from their families since the start of the war.

According to the organization, the number represents 1 percent of the total number of the displaced, which amounted to around 1.7 million people, noting that “each of the children has a heartbreaking story of loss and grief.”

Since Oct. 7, 2023, Hamas and Israel have been involved in a bloody conflict following the Hamas’ surprise attack on southern Israel that killed around 1,200 Israelis.

The retaliatory Israeli operation has so far killed more than 28,000 Palestinians, including women and children, in the enclave, while 67,611 others were wounded, according to the Hamas-run Health Ministry. ■

Famagusta Gazette