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Friday, 23 August, 2002, 13:40 GMT 14:40 UK
Gaza civilians 'beyond trauma'
Ruins in Gaza
Israel says it regrets civilian losses

The houses in this particularly crowded part of Gaza City now look like an enormous row of teeth with one missing.

Children trample over the ruins of the house where 17 people, including the Hamas militant Salah Shahada, were killed by a one-ton bomb.

Among the rubble lie shoes and clothes, the trappings of comfortable domesticity.

The next-door buildings are all but uninhabitable.

Hamas military leader Salah Shahada
Hamas military leader Salah Shahada was killed

But through a hole in a wall there is one family trying to carry on as normal.

Nine of the dead were children.

The victims are remembered in posters stuck to the pock-marked walls of the surrounding buildings.

The families of those victims have moved to other parts of the city.

Hanna Matar, 24, and her husband Rami are now childless.

Their only daughter, two-month-old Dina, died of severe head injuries when their home was blown apart.

"I was crying, crying, 'Where is Dina? Where is Dina?'," Hanna remembers.

"But they cannot do anything for me, my family, because Dina died.


It is not enough to say it is trauma

Community Training Crisis Management Centre child psychologist Dr Fadel Abu Hein

"Dina was a beautiful baby."

The Israeli Government expressed regret for the loss of civilian life.

It said the incident would be investigated.

'More than trauma'

The Palestinian Red Crescent Society says more than 1,700 Palestinians have been killed since the current intifada - or uprising - began almost two years ago.

The Israeli Army says 610 Israelis have died.

While Israelis live in fear of suicide bombings, Palestinians face Israeli army operations that kill civilians as well as their intended targets.

The Community Training Crisis Management Centre in Gaza City offers support to families, and children in particular, who have suffered directly or indirectly from the conflict.


It is enough killing

Hanna Matar

Doctors list anxiety, sleeplessness, nightmares, and depression as typical complaints.

Staff say many tell them they would prefer to die.

Child psychologist at the centre Dr Fadel Abu Hein has twice visited the families who survived the bombing.

He says they defy professional description.

"It is not enough to say it is trauma."

Children killed

"You can read any psychological dictionary - you can find more among those people than you can find in any dictionary."

Such a person is Mahmoud Al-Hweti.

His wife and two of his children were killed in the attack.

The scars on the 35-year-old's arms and face have not yet healed.

His eyes look blank as he recalls the night.

Blank too are the eyes of his three remaining children as they listen silently.

I ask him how he found his new apartment, how he has managed for the past month.

He starts to reply: "Well, you see ..."

Peace yearning

Then he falls silent, pointing at a picture of his wife and dead children.

"I cannot," he concludes, and begins to weep.

Mahmoud says all he wants from the Israelis is peace.

Hanna's response is similar.

"I am not ready to lose any child in the future.

"It is enough killing.

"It is enough war.

"It is enough."


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25 Jul 02 | Middle East
23 Jul 02 | Middle East
03 Dec 01 | profiles
16 Jul 02 | Middle East
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