The Electronic Intifada / April 27, 2023
Twelve-year-old Areej Asaliyeh dreamed of becoming a poet.
This was before shrapnel from an Israeli missile struck her home in Jabaliya refugee camp during Israel’s assault on Gaza in August 2022, causing her to lose her eyesight.
“I was playing with my uncle when it happened,” Areej told The Electronic Intifada.
Before Israel’s last assault, she said, “I wasn’t afraid of war, I wasn’t bothered by the sound of missiles. I never thought a missile would hit us and I would lose my eye.”
The injury left Areej feeling fearful of even going to school.
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“Before my injury, I loved playing, drawing and studying, but now I stay in bed all day and do nothing,” Areej told The Electronic Intifada.
“I used to love writing poetry. I can’t write now because I’ve lost an eye.”
Ayoub Asaliyeh, Areej’s father, said the family felt safe in the area and did not expect an Israeli missile to strike. Since his daughter’s injury, his family’s entire life has been turned upside down.
“Areej is the center of all our concerns – her treatment, her sleep, her life. There is never a moment when Areej is not present in our lives,” he said.
Seventeen Palestinian children were killed during Israel’s surprise attack on Gaza for three days in August 2022.
Israeli strikes killed eight children; while rockets that were fired by Palestinian armed groups falling short in the coastal enclave killed five.
Defense for Children International-Palestine is still investigating the killings of four other Palestinian children during the Israeli assault.
During an Israeli airstrike a year earlier, 9-year-old Salih Hmeid lost his leg.
It was during the Eid al-Fitr holiday marking the end of Ramadan. In the morning, his father took him and his siblings to the mosque to pray and then to the market to buy clothes.
While walking by a cemetery, a nearby car was targeted by an Israeli missile, injuring Salih, his father and siblings.
“I saw my leg amputated,” Salih told The Electronic Intifada.
“My friends ask me what happened to it. The war, I say. I now use crutches to play soccer.”
Following the incident, Salih’s mother, Khuloud, said his mood changed drastically.
“Salih was shocked when his leg was amputated, he said it went to heaven before him,” Khuloud told The Electronic Intifada.
“He was badly affected by the injury. He became irritable and anxious. He would start fights, throw chairs and crutches,” she added.
“He was like that for a year. I tried to comfort him and he would calm down. He no longer has nightmares or gets scared.”
It is estimated that Israel killed 60 Palestinian children during its 11-day assault on Gaza in May 2021, according to documentation by Defense for Children International-Palestine. Seven were killed due to rockets fired by Palestinian resistance groups that fell short in the territory.
Video by Ruwaida Amer and Abd al-Karim Hana