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Thursday, 14 June, 2001, 11:36 GMT 12:36 UK
Eyewitness: Refugees' plight
A family in Gaza
Families in Gaza are never far away from violence
By Carissa Bub

The Jihad family's 10 children have rarely known a night without gunfire. Their home in Toufa in southern Gaza was on the frontline facing the Israeli Defence Force checkpoint, when it was partly destroyed by mortar fire.

Their father Mohamed, who had already seen his eldest son severely injured, asked the Palestinian Authority to move the family to a safer place.

Seven months ago they relocated to Al-Neuassi, on the outskirts of Khan Younis refugee camp. Another 600 parents and children joined them in April after their homes were bulldozed.

Israeli security forces are stoned by Palestinian youths
Israeli forces are stoned by Palestinian youths
The Jihads' new home is nothing more than one room on the ground floor of an unfinished block, with no doors or windows, no running water and no electricity. Their security is as precarious as ever, as they are now located 150m (500 feet) from the Israeli guns.

Olivier Miazoue from Medicines Sans Frontieres, who has been working here for four months, says that psychological problems are mounting and it is the children who are suffering the most.

Their smiles during the day belie the anxiety they show as they stay awake at night listening to the rattle of gunfire.

Aid effort

According to Emilie Tonogai, deputy director of UNRWA, the United Nations mission responsible for Palestinian refugees, the Jihads have received $850 (620) since October, which is a typical donation to registered refugees.

With 10 children to feed, the money is dwindling rapidly, a situation that is compounded by the fact that Mohamed has been unemployed since moving to Al-Neuassi.

"Whether we are able to give him more is unsure, because we have other families to look after who have never received any money," explained Emilie Tonogai.

Unlike Mohamed, some of the families do receive money from other humanitarian agencies, but as Emilie Tonogai said: "No-one has ever told us of receiving any assistance from the Palestinian Authority."

A confrontation in Gaza
There are confrontations every day in Gaza
The mere presence of UNRWA and its sister agency Unicef, the United Nations Children's Fund, carries a message to these families that the world has not forgotten them.

However, the reality is that few know of their plight. On returning to West Jerusalem, one Israeli woman told me she did not believe there were refugee camps in Gaza.

There are though. Tens of thousands of children are being brought up in these conditions, and the likelihood is that they will grow up psychologically scarred by the trauma of living in abject poverty with the threat of constant physical danger.

For Mohamed it is a hard life to bear. "We have nothing now - we are at the bottom," he said. "I don't know how long we will be here, only Allah knows. I think we will not leave before the end of the Intifada and only Allah knows when that will end."

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06 Jun 01 | Middle East
18 May 01 | Middle East
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