Over the past couple of days, we have seen a severe and deeply dangerous escalation on the Gaza-Israel border, with reports of dozens of casualties on both sides.
More than 180 rockets and mortar shells from Gaza have hit Israel, with 11 reported injuries including one woman with serious injuries. Gaza was hit more than 200 times throughout Wednesday night and into Thursday.
By the early hours of Thursday morning, one man had been killed inside Gaza, and a nine-month pregnant woman and her 18-month toddler were killed, according to the Palestinian Ministry of Health in Gaza. Her husband was injured in that attack in Deir al-Baleh.
While a ceasefire was agreed Thursday night, fears are still growing that we could be on the brink of another large-scale conflict, with serious concerns for the physical and mental wellbeing of children who get caught up in the violence.
Maher Abdullah, a Senior Education Officer for Save the Children in Gaza, said that situation was extremely fragile.
“My children were terrified - they didn’t sleep. Some of the airstrikes were so close that the building shook like it was an earthquake.
“I try to tell my youngest ones that it is fireworks and they should not be afraid, but they don’t believe me and know something is very wrong.
On the Israeli side, large tracts of open farmland were also hit, and warning sirens rang late into the night, with authorities suggesting that they may have to evacuate communities living near Gaza due to the latest escalation.
Tom Krift, Save the Children’s Middle East and Eastern Europe Regional Director, called on both sides to introduce a lasting ceasefire and return to negotiations.
“The most recent escalation is extremely concerning and we strongly condemn violence by all sides.
“All sides must take urgent steps to protect children and families in both Gaza and Israel from harm and civilians on both sides deserve to live in safety and dignity.
“To ensure this happens we need to see a lasting ceasefire, with all parties coming together to find a durable solution to the crisis. This includes, putting an end to the long-standing blockade, as lifting it will be essential to establishing a durable peace, reconstruction, recovery, and longer-term sustainable solution.”
Save the Children is deeply concerned about the mental health impact that the ongoing violence is having on children. Our research, conducted earlier this year, found that feelings of depression, hyperactivity, a preference for being alone, and aggression were reported by 95 percent of children in Gaza.
The combination of these symptoms is consistent with deep psychological distress, with our research indicating that Gaza was already on the brink of a mental health crisis, even before the latest escalation.
Our research found that for children, the threat of conflict, the fear of bombs, and the constant insecurity caused by the unstable political situation were the biggest source of stress, with 60 percent of caregivers saying it was taking a toll.
Additionally, aircraft sounds were cited as the single biggest source of fear in 78 percent of children.
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