‘Dead Children are Too Cold’ – Gaza Family Talks to Palestine Chronicle about Their Unbearable Loss

Suwar al-Hajj was killed by an Israeli airstrike on the night of her third birthday. (Photo: supplied)

By Abdallah Aljamal – Gaza

The Palestine Chronicle spoke with residents in the Strip, who lost young members of their family due to the relentless Israeli strikes. 

More than 13,200 Palestinian children have been killed by Israeli airstrikes in Gaza, according to figures provided by the Palestinian Health Ministry in the Strip. 

Speaking to Anadolu news agency on Thursday, UNICEF spokesman James Elder called the events unfolding in Gaza a “war on children”.

“Normally, in all wars, children are the most vulnerable. Around 20% of casualties are children in wars, but in Gaza, it is close to 40%,” he said.

The Palestine Chronicle spoke with residents in the Strip, who lost young members of their family due to the relentless Israeli strikes. 

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Third Birthday

“On the evening of Sunday, March 17, my brother Tariq’s daughter, Suwar, was on her way to celebrate her third birthday. What she did not know is that she was also on her way to her last breath in this life, Abdullah al-Hajj told The Palestine Chronicle.

In fact, on that night, an Israeli airstrike targeted an entire residential block on 20th Street of the Nuseirat refugee camp, in central Gaza, instantly killing Suwar and her 5-year-old sister, Amar.

“Every year, we used to celebrate the birthdays of my brother’s children, Amar and Suwar, as all parents do with their sons and daughters. But this year, we couldn’t organize a small party for her as we do every year. We only settled on talking to her via phone”.

“She told me that she missed us and fell silent for a long time,” he continued.

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Abdullah’s brother, Tariq, used to live in a small residential apartment on 20th Street in Al-Nuseirat camp, with his 26-year-old wife Lena, and their two daughters Amar, and Suwar. 

Since the beginning of the Israeli war on Gaza, that particular street was targeted several times by Israeli shelling, resulting in hundreds of victims and the destruction of dozens of buildings.

“Due to the relentless Israeli shelling of the neighborhood, my brother Tariq decided to take shelter at our parents’ house. However, a few days later, the occupation shelled a neighboring house, causing severe damage and injuring my parents, my brother, and everyone in the building,” al-Hajj told us.

“After receiving treatment at the hospital, they all moved to my small apartment,” he said. 

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But when the invading Israeli forces stormed the eastern outskirts of the Nuseirat camp, the family was forced to split up. 

“My wife, daughter, and I fled to Deir Al-Balah, while my father and brother Tariq fled with their families to Rafah,” al-Hajj explained.

Back Home

When Israeli forces withdrew from Nuseirat, many Palestinians decided to return, because living in a tent was extremely difficult. Diseases, epidemics, and hunger spread rapidly among displaced refugees.

“We all returned to the Nuseirat refugee camp, even if we had lost our home and livelihoods when the occupation bombed the neighborhood where our small grocery store was located,” al-Hajj recounted.

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“I was very close to my brother and his two daughters, I used to talk to the girls every day. They were the first grandchildren for my parents, and everyone loved them,” al-Hajj, said with a broken voice. 

“Since the beginning of the war, we have tried to take care of them greatly to compensate them psychologically for the fear and the trauma.”

“I will never forget my last call with Tariq, on that Sunday evening, when I wished them a happy birthday to Suwar and asked them not to leave the house and to take care of themselves,” al-Hajj said.

“Then, we heard intense bombing, and we learned that it had targeted a residential neighborhood on the 20th Street in Nuseirat.”

Moments of panic followed. 

“I called my brother Tariq, but he didn’t answer. Therefore, I hurriedly rushed on foot and found the neighborhood completely destroyed by the occupation. More than 17 residential buildings were completely or partially destroyed. The devastation in the area was indescribable.”

“I searched for my brother Tariq and his family, climbed to his apartment, and found the house almost completely destroyed,” al-Hajj said, still in shock. 

“I found my brother under the rubble of his apartment, with fractures and wounds all over his body, and his eyes severely damaged. I found his wife with a fracture in her back. They were both moved to the hospital, and my brother’s wife underwent surgery. Her condition is still unstable,” he continued.

Al-Hajj and other rescuers looked everywhere for the girls and could not find them. 

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“They usually slept in the room next to their parents’. After a long search, we found them far from the house,” al-Hajj said. 

“When I saw them, I started speaking to them, but they were unresponsive. I quickly took them to the hospital, praying all the way that they would still be alive,” he said.

“But I was shocked when the doctors at Al-Aqsa Hospital told me that there was nothing they could do. The girls had been killed by the bombing.”

On that tragic night, the Israeli bombing killed at least 25 Palestinians in the neighborhood, most of whom were children and women. 

“We could not bury them right away because of the intensity of the bombing, so they put them in a refrigerator at the morgue. When the girls’ aunt came to the hospital to bid them farewell, she was distraught, and she started screaming: ‘They are cold, they are too cold’”. 

“I took a blanket to cover them,” al-Hajj said, in tears. “I covered my brother’s daughters, Amar and Sawar, with a blanket to keep them from getting cold, and then I buried them with my own hands in the cemetery.”

“Now my brother Tariq is alone with his wife and we live in sorrow for the loss of our two flowers, Amar and Sawar. We won’t be able to see them and celebrate their birthdays anymore.”

(The Palestine Chronicle)

Abdallah Aljamal is a Gaza-based journalist. He is a contributor for The Palestine Chronicle from the Gaza Strip. His email is abdallahaljamal1987@gmail.com

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