Children in the Gaza Strip are paying the highest price of 2014 Israeli deadly war on the coastal enclave. In this heartrending documentary, children of Gaza tell the tragic story of their suffering, losing their family in one blow and seeing the bodies of their friends torn to pieces. Fifty-one days of war have had dire impacts on children and left them with severe psychological trauma. Nearly 2,500 Palestinians, including 500 children, lost their lives during the Israeli offensive in which homes, hospitals, and even the UN run schools were reduced to rubble. On July 16, 2014, the Israeli army carried out airstrikes on Gaza beach where eight children of Baker family were playing, killing four of them. While much of Gaza remains in ruins, families of the Palestinian victims call for global action to prosecute Israeli authorities for committing war crimes.
TIME CODE: 00:00_05:15
Narration: The men and women of Gaza are busy piecing their lives back together, attempting bravely to cope with extensive loss of life and displacement and thousands of innocent children suffer deep trauma every day since having their families, friends, homes, hospitals, schools etc deliberately, intentionally bombed by Israel with its military.
At the end of that war, the number of martyrs killed on the Palestinian side reached nearly 2,500, including 500 young children. The number of wounded amassed to 12,000 of whom 3,300 were young children.
Children should never be fired upon by missiles… intentionally and indiscriminately I might add…. even children playing were erased by the Israeli military aggression.
Every child of Palestine now carries with them memories of explosions, of screams of horror, of seeing dismembered and burnt bodies, of the smell of death brought down on them by the inhumane, unconscionable actions of Israel in its effort to oppress its occupied territory. A tank massacre here, an airstrike massacre there is all justified by Israeli politicians and condoned by Western governments that protect these Israeli war criminals from ever facing justice in court.
SOUNDBITE [Arabic] Hussein, Gaza citizen: “This is the first time I’ve entered the school since the incident. It’s painful and depressing for me. Inside the school I felt my brother’s presence as if he was calling my name. He was martyred here. I also got a sense that my mother wanted me to pray for him here. The feeling is of utter sadness and grief.”
Narration: Hussein and Ibrahim are standing on the ruins of the house overlooking the school in the northern Gaza Strip town of Beit Hanun. This school belongs to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian refugees. UNRWA is a UN organization. They recall back to the second day of the month of August, 2014.
SOUNDBITE [Arabic] Hussein, Gaza citizen: “We are staying at the house of the late Shaibob Ahmad Al Shinbari. Here there are 25 family members all living in a three-floor-house 150 square meters. The Israeli occupational forces targeted this house during its 2014 military aggression on the population of Gaza. We evacuated quickly and headed to the UNRWA school in Beit Hanoun shortly before our house was bombarded.”
SOUNDBITE [Arabic] Ibrahim, Citizen: “It was midnight when they blew a hole in our house with a tank shell about where we are sitting. We escaped to my uncle’s second house, but they dropped bombs there. My aunt said we should prepare ourselves to go in different directions in the morning. We went to my aunt’s house at Al Qarman stree, but the Jews entered and demanded that we leave. Finally, we went to the Western School at Beit Hanoun.”
SOUNDBITE [Arabic] Maram AL Shinbari, Survivor of Beit Hanum School Massacre: “We moved from our home on the first day of the ground incursion mounted by Israeli forces. We went to Beit Hanoun Co-Ed school “A” and “D” blocks. A municipal vehicle arrived on Thursday to transport us to another school because children at Beit Hanoun had been hit by shrapnel. There was a bombardment near the school where we were sheltering.”
SOUNDBIE [Arabic] Adnan Abu Hasna, Spokesperson at UN: “We have informed the idea of , you know nearly 32 times out of it, the school is a place who are warn in that school, what they are doing and you know everything you know it should be a safe place. You have flags, you.. them into Israeli sides, the real information, real time you were sending them every day about everything.”
Narration: Officials at the UNRWA relief agency in Gaza believed Israeli army assurances regarding the guaranteed safety of their accommodation centers accordingly informing the displaced people that a school in Beit Hanoun, which was sheltering hundreds of Palestinian refugees was a safe zone.
Like blood to a vampire however, this gathering of displaced families incited the appetite of the Israeli occupation army for killing, which found easy prey. They informed the UNRWA relief agency and international Red Cross to evacuate the school of the displaced. The people gathered in the school yard and waited for the arrival of buses to take them somewhere safe - All of them a clear and easy target for slaughter. The Israelis rounded them up and killed 16 of them where they stood, mostly children, and wounded more than 55 others.
TIME CODE: 05:15 _10:00
SOUNDBITE [Arabic] Hussein, Gaza citizen: “The Red Cross came two days earlier. There were three Red Cross vehicles and ten Red Crescent vehicles. They announced that they came to transport the most serious cases such as those with disabilities, the elderly and the injured - mostly shrapnel injuries. As they took people away we asked them what was going on and if they thought the school was safe. They confirmed it was safe and that there was nothing to fear. We trusted that information. The UN and the Red Cross came two days later with busses to move more of us to the Jabalia refugee camp. People gathered in the together and we all went downstairs.”
SOUNDBITE [Arabic] Ibrahim, Citizen: “My aunt was collecting laundry and about to sit and rest when the shells pounded us. Shrapnel sliced open my stomach and my intestines fell to the ground. My brother found me lying underneath my siblings. He moved me outside and on foot he took me to the Kamal Odwan hospital. They urgently referred me to Al Shifa hospital where I went under surgery. Ten centimeters of my intestines were cut off. Now, every time I eat and when I drink water my stomach hurts.”
SOUNDBITE [Arabic] Maram AL Shinbari, Survivor of Beit Hanum School Massacre: “Five of my family were martyred, praise be to Allah. 16 other people were injured including Manar who lost both her legs; Ibrahim whose intestines were reconnected, and my brother Mahmoud who had his arteries severed.”
SOUNDBIE [Arabic] Adnan Abu Hasna, Spokesperson at UN: “What happened in that school actually is a real catastrophe, we have tens of people who have been killed and injured in that school, the border inquiry investigated you know what happened in Beit Hanum school. It has a massage you know that here in the Gaza strip there is no safe place even in school, in the street, in your shelter or your home, everywhere there is no safe place at this time.”
SOUNDBITE [Arabic] Um Samid, Survivor of Beit Hanum School Massacre: “We don’t want to stay here at the school. They forced us to come here. We don’t want to be here at the school. They are all liars.”
Narration: People of the world find it impossible to believe that anyone, even a Zionist occupational force, would have the audacity to bomb the accommodation centers of the United Nations. The Israeli army had orders to kill anything that moved and this policy was exercised throughout Gaza in their ground incursion. On 16th July, 2014 eight children from the Bakr family went to play on the beach of Gaza. They were kicking around a soccer ball when from Israeli military ships in the sea missiles fired on the beach specifically targeting the children playing.
SOUNDBITE [Arabic] Mohammed Baker, Father of Martyr Ismael Baker: “Back on July 16th 2014 Ismael was sitting with his cousins. I was telling him that it’s Ramadan and they shouldn’t be playing football and bothering the neighbors. The street is too narrow to play football, just two meters wide, which is not enough room. All of us here are brothers and cousins land we live in a sector of homes the size of one square kilometer, which houses 1,000 people thereabouts. Ismael said he was going to play outside with his cousins. It was sunny and hot so they went to the beach to play as they often do – it’s not far and it’s the only suitable area, which is next to the other space, which is for swimming.”
SOUNDBITE [Arabic] Salwa Baker, Mother of Martyr Mohammed Baker: “Stay in here son. There’s shelling outside. He said he wanted to go to his uncle’s house to play with their kids.”
SOUNDBITE [Arabic] Um Itaf Baker, Mother of Martyr Zakaria Baker: “Ahid is my one and only grandson. He came after 9 granddaughters. Zakria, my beloved son the youngest, he was spoilt. He was my entire life, he chased me around all of his life. Whenever his father asked him who loves you, most always he said he loves me.”
SOUNDBITE [Arabic] Muntasir Baker, Survivor at Baker Family Massacre: “I’m accompanied by Al Said, Hamada, Younes, Ismael, Ahid and Mohammed and we’re heading now to the spot where we used to play as kids. We are fishermen and so the sea is our life, we are always on the sea.”
SOUNDBITE [Arabic] Ahid Baker, Father of Martyr Zakaria Baker: “The Bakr family is a renowned family, we’re known to be fishermen by trade. We inherited that from our fathers and from their forefathers who inherited it from Sheikh Bakr. The sea is life and breath to us. When our children want to play they go to the beach.”
TIME CODE: 10:00_15:00
- SOUNDBITE [Arabic] Muntasir Baker, Survivor at Baker Family Massacre: “We set up the goals here and divided ourselves into four teams and we played football. The boys said they’re thirsty; they wanted to go drink some water and come back.”
- SOUNDBITE [Arabic] Sayed Baker, Survivor at Baker Family Massacre: “I took them to get some water and when we came back we resumed and finished the first round. In the middle of the second round Ismael kicked the ball and it landed next to the container. We asked him to go get it. He brought it back along with Motasim, Zakaria, Ahid and Mohammed.”
- SOUNDBITE [Arabic] Muntasir Baker, Survivor at Baker Family Massacre: “The warships were there. We saw that they were filming us. They sent a missile to the beach and it wiped out my cousin. The first missile landed there, killed my cousin Ismael and we started running to get off the beach.”
- SOUNDBITE [Arabic] Sayed Baker, Survivor at Baker Family Massacre: “The rest of the group came running toward us, we saw them, but Ismael wasn’t with them. Bashir Abu Watfa was standing here, when he heard the explosion he came out from the tent, he stood by us while we told him that Ismael was killed. The other children reached us.”
- SOUNDBITE [Arabic] Muntasir Baker, Survivor at Baker Family Massacre: “They fired a second missile and it landed here.”
- SOUNDBITE [Arabic] Sayed Baker, Survivor at Baker Family Massacre: “We decided, Hamada, Younes and I to hide behind the tent. Muntasir was on the ground, they fired another missile at us as we fell behind the tent. Younes hid in a barrel while Hamda and I kept running, Muntasir ran with us. Hamada and Muntasir entered the tent seconds after us. Bashir Abu Watfa was crying out, “Oh people; help us; the children are dead, the children are dead”.
Narration: Four of those eight kids were basically vaporized when the bombs hit. Their young bodies could not be identified or even found amongst the debris left behind. The other four dispersed in different directions not knowing the fate of each other as more bombs actually followed them. Ambulances and journalists came, but it was all over.
SOUNDBITE [Arabic] Muntasir Baker, Survivor at Baker Family Massacre: “Badly wounded, I crawled until I reached help. Someone laid me on the ground and left to bring an ambulance. They wrapped my head in a bandage and laid me down. I was in a coma so at the time I didn’t know who was killed and who was still alive.”
SOUNDBITE [Arabic] Sayed Baker, Survivor at Baker Family Massacre: “They laid Mutasim by a wall thinking he was dead. Hamas fainted, Younes sat next to his brother and I was weeping over my brother and cousins.”
SOUNDBITE [Arabic] Salwa Baker, Mother of Martyr Mohammed Baker: “This other boy was with them, he came over yelling ‘Mama Mama’. I said to him, “What’s the matter?”. He said Mohammed was martyred. I said how come Mohammed was martyred - Are you sure? You must be lying because Mohammed was here just now. He said that Mohammed was killed. I said he wasn’t. But then I saw it air on TV - Children killed on the beach. The girls cried. He was our son of 20 years. We cry over you everyday son, you are never out of our thoughts.”
SOUNDBITE [Arabic] Mohammed Baker, Father of Martyr Ismael Baker: “Each day since the day Ismael was martyred I have gone to the beach to the place he was killed and I look for his remains, hoping the sea had washed them up. I remember that day, when I reached the hospital; I was witnessing a massacre - a massacre against humanity. Where is the humanity? Ismael’s senseless murder has forever taken the smile and joy from my home.”
SOUNDBITE [Arabic] Um Itaf Baker, Mother of Martyr Zakaria Baker: “Zakaria, Aaahid and Motasim who was injured but thought to be dead, Ismael and all of our kids were dead, I would not wish this on anyone, everyone saw us on TVs and internet, what can I possibly say, I say occupation took my first grandson who called me grandma.”
TIME CODE: 15:00_20:00
Narration: The survivors of that tragic day come back to the beach, not to play as they did before, but to sit, to remember, vainly searching for a rational reason to an irrational act. It was a blatant war crime, which claimed the lives of their four relatives with no one thus far held to account. Meanwhile they suffer from physical injuries themselves and the psychological trauma of it all.
SOUNDBITE [Arabic] Muntasir Baker, Survivor at Baker Family Massacre: “Life without them is meaningless and full of despair. I am not saying that because they are my brothers, but for the sake of all Palestinians, all of children. If I was flying a jet and I saw Jewish children playing I wouldn’t target them because they are just children playing. They could see from afar that we were children. All I can say is Hasbuna Allah Wa Nima Al Wakeel on the soul of every Zionist Jew who assaults the young men, women and children of Gaza.”
SOUNDBITE [Arabic] Sayed Baker, Survivor at Baker Family Massacre: “They could tell we were a bunch of kids playing. They deliberately target and kill the children of Gaza and Palestine. They want to uproot them at a young age so they won’t grow up and become resisters, so they bomb them at this young age.”
Narration: Incredibly, shockingly, the targeting of Palestinian children escalated and peaked on the day of Eid Al Fitr when the children of Gaza came out to play, to lighten up relax and have some fun to celebrate the last day of Eid thinking that the Israeli army would not dare to violate such a holy occasion. Israel unmercifully sent missiles down, turning their brief period of joy to incomprehensible grief.
SOUNDBITE [Arabic] Mahmoud Abu Shaqfa, Injured at the Beach Camp Massacre: “We live in Al Ahrar street at the beach camp - a major street in the camp area. We awoke on the day of Eid to enjoy it like everyone else normally does. The children were playing in the street, some were playing on the swings. All of a sudden a missile landed on top of us. It was around 3pm. We were surprised by the explosion, but when we turned round we saw the children had become shreds of flesh laying in the street; some were injured and some others were dead.”
SOUNDBITE [Arabic] Mayer Abi Shaqfa, Injured at the Beach Camp Massacre: “I was playing on the swings when the missile landed. I got hit with shrapnel here. Some people were killed. My Uncle Shaban, Jamal and Mohammed were among those who died.”
SOUNDBITE [Arabic] Lina Abu Karash, Injured at the Beach Camp Massacre: “I remember we were happy and playing on the day of Eid. Who could be so wicked as to bomb us on such a holy day? The children were out playing and rejoicing, and then the missile came, and in a second they were dead. Shaban had been blown apart. Others who died were Mohammed Al Helo, the Baroud family’s son, Mohammed Miqdad and Mohammed Wshah.”
SOUNDBITE [Arabic] Samir Abu Shaqfa, Injured at the Beach Camp Massacre: “There were many martyrs. Some scattered around on the ground, inside buildings, in trees… everywhere - the injured and the dead. Ambulances and cars swarmed on the location and people were crying out in anguish for the loss of their children. 13 martyrs and 45 to 50 injuries. I sustained injuries to my leg here and in my chest here. My grandfather took my cousin and I to the ambulance.”
SOUNDBITE [Arabic] Mahmoud Abu Shaqfa, Injured at the Beach Camp Massacre: “My son was playing behind the car. He was almost next to me, but he died due to bleeding caused by ashrapnel penetrating his body. When the missile first landed I was still conscious, receiving wounds to my stomach, legs and arms. My leg disabled and my arm was broken and behind my back. I wore a white top, which was covered in blood. I looked around just before I fainted to see the extent of the brutality and carnage. The scene was horrific. Their actions so brutal.”
Narration: Martyrs came from several refugee families at the Beach camp on the first day of Eid after being targeted by an Israeli bombing campaign. On the third day of Eid missiles of the Israeli occupational forces targeted some little kids who were playing with their grandfather with some simple new toys they had received for Eid, on the roof of their home.
TIME CODE: 20:00_25:00
SOUNDBITE [Arabic] Abd Al Hadi Selk, Survivor at Al Selk Family Massacre: “A truce was declared on television on the third day of Eid. We went up on the roof with all little children - they wanted to play because it was a time of truce. They were not allowed to go out in the street because we worried about their safety.”
SOUNDBITE [Arabic] Mohammed Al Selk, Injured at Al Selk Family Massacre: “After 30 to 45 minutes of Asr (afternoon) prayer time we heard more explosions: First, second then a third explosion. It took a couple of minutes to work u what had happened. Our house was filled with heavy smoke and we realized that our house had been bombed by an Israeli air strike.”
SOUNDBITE [Arabic] Jalal Al Selk, Survivor at Al Selk Family Massacre: “We rushed to the roof only to see the most horrifying scene. All that remained of the elderly man and the seven children that were playing were pieces of flesh and bone. At least three had their heads blown off. I looked over the martyred children - two of my daughters were among the victims. One had survived – she had a hole in the back of her back skull; another girl was also alive, but couldn’t talk. Whenever I called though, her she looked up at me so I rushed them to the hospital.”
SOUNDBITE [Arabic] Mohammed Al Selk, Injured at Al Selk Family Massacre: “I took my kids starting with Abd Al Halim, after that I went and got Abd Al Aziz; his head had been split open. I couldn’t take my third daughter – I couldn’t find her head. Then I came downstairs and stood here at the doorstep. They took away the bodies of the martyrs in ambulances. I wanted to see whether they took my daughter or not. I found my niece Malak the daughter of Jalal, I kissed her forehead and was about to leave the ambulance. As I was stepping out of the ambulance an unmanned drone rocket hit us. My leg was hit and so had to be amputated; this finger and my arm were injured also. It was a deadly air strike. In all there were 10 martyrs from my family among whom were seven children, my parents, my brother Alaa and his daughter, and my cousin who was carrying the bodies of martyrs at the time he was hit.”
Narration: After the disproportionate aggression on the population of Gaza, there are still survivors today who suffer heightened psychological effects reflected clearly in their behavior, which is especially telling during play activities such as painting that express the evil acts that Israel perpetrated against them.
SOUNDBITE [Arabic] Sabrin Moosa, Psychologist: “Usually after the therapy process and even after recovery there will still be some trauma symptoms among the affected children with most of them on edge in high alert mode expecting more attacks on them. That’s why you find that whenever a child is playing or drawing, the played out theme tends to represent the incident, which is causing the alerted state from their memories, from tehri nightmares. When we spoke to children aged around 12 who survived the last three wars, who witnessed and suffered trauma from the 2008 Israeli-imposed war and this one in 2014, after recovering from each war and after being treated they still believed that there would be another war, and another. Three wars lived through by a child. The trauma is unimaginable and the child is left in a state of constant alertness. We can’t even tell them that they are safe, that there will be no more wars or that everything is now fine!”
SOUNDBITE [Arabic] Samir Abu Shaqfa, Injured at the beach camp massacre: “I tell the Jews of Israel that we are not afraid of them. Whenever they unleash a war on us, we will resist and defeat them.”
SOUNDBITE [Arabic] Muntasir Baker, Survivor at Baker Family Massacre: “I say nothing, but “Hasabuna Allah wa Nima Al Wakeel” on anyone who assaults Gaza. God willing, their children become burnt remains like ours.”
Narration: It is beyond any reasonable doubt that targeting children of Palestine is part of the culture and a systemic issue of the Israeli occupation army and the Israeli government, which seeks to brand the conscious mind of all Palestinian children with the ideology that they are the undeserved, the sub-human, that there can be no Palestinian flag, no independence, no resistance.