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Wednesday, 14 March, 2001, 16:13 GMT
Gaza's lost generation
Brother of slain Muhammad al-Durrah holds his portrait
Intifada icon: Muhammad al-Durrah's brother remembers
By Middle East correspondent Frank Gardner in Gaza

Muhammad al-Husainat - a nine-year-old boy who lives in one of Gaza's teeming refugee camps - sings about a boy of the same age, Muhammad al-Durrah , who was shot dead in his father's arms just a short distance from his home.

He draws tanks, he draws military posts, he draws the place where Muhammad al-Durrah was killed

Gaza Mother
Muhammad al-Durrah has become a symbol of the Intifada, the Palestinian uprising against Israel's occupation, but this Muhammad is living with his own painful experience too.

His family's house near Gaza was next to an Israeli settlement. Each day there were shoot-outs between Palestinian gunmen and Israeli soldiers.

Gaza children outside bullet scarred building
Scarred buildings, scarred minds too in Gaza?
One day Muhammad woke up to find an Israeli tank parked outside their door. Then helicopter gunships fired rockets in front of their house.

Finally, the Israeli army bulldozed their home.

Now, says his mother, Muhammad is reliving the nightmare.

"When we ask him to go and study, he won't. Instead he starts to draw. He draws tanks, he draws military posts, he draws kids throwing stones. He draws the place where Muhammad al-Durrah was killed" she says.

Nightmares and aggressive behaviour

Muhammad's family have contacted the Gaza Mental Health Programme and now he is having counselling.

Palestinians wait at Israeli checkpoint
For most Palestinians, Gaza is sealed off from the world
His counsellor, Ismail Ahmad, says he shows signs of having Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

"He has some symptoms like nightmares and aggression. He is exposed to intense fear and he has started walking during sleep" the Palestinian therapist says.

Out on the street, in the refugee camps where so many Palestinians live in the Gaza Strip, the signs of violence are all around.

They have lived terrible experiences - bombardment from the sky, shelling from tanks, shooting, plus the scenes of dead bodies

Dr Iyad Sarraj
The walls are covered with pictures of boys who have died throwing stones at Israeli soldiers.

The graffiti speaks of tanks and guns, of martyrs and heroes dying for the sake of a free Palestine.

First hand experience

The violent images are not taken from some comic book - this is what these children see in real life.

The director of Gaza's Mental Health Programme, Dr Iyad Sarraj, says over one quarter of Gaza's children are now traumatised in some way.

Gaza children watch delivery of aid
Childhood will be lost in this conflict
"They have lived terrible experiences - bombardment from the sky, shelling from tanks, shooting, plus the scenes of dead bodies and open stomachs and open skulls and brains scattered everywhere, on the TV screen," he says.

The trauma of these shattered lives will linger on, haunting those who live here as they grow old.

Even if, by some miracle, peace does come to Gaza soon, it will be too late for children like Muhammad.

His childhood has already gone.

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See also:

19 Nov 00 | Middle East
Children become symbol of struggle
07 Feb 01 | Middle East
Right of return: Palestinian dream?
18 Jul 00 | Middle East
Refugees: No place like home
02 Oct 00 | Middle East
Boy becomes Palestinian martyr
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