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Gaza family struggles to fight fear after Cast Lead losses

Jan. 8, 2012 5:58 P.M. (Updated: Jan. 10, 2012 7:31 P.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- Fear stalks the daily life of a family struggling with debt and the loss of their daughter in an Israeli airstrike on the Gaza Strip three years ago during Operation Cast Lead.

"'We wish to die like Dima' is what the children sometimes say to me because of all the stress and our poor living conditions," their mother Nisreen al-Rahel told the Palestinian Center for Human Rights, who have submitted a criminal complaint to Israeli authorities over the airstrike.

Dima al-Rahel, 5, was injured when four missiles hit the family home in Beit Lahiya on Jan. 8, 2009, along with two other relatives. She died of her injuries two months later.

The rest of the family took refuge in an UNRWA school in the town, until it was hit by the Israeli army using white phosphorus shells ten days later. Another of their daughters, Ansam, 13, suffered severe head injuries in the blast, losing parts of her skull.

"At school she loses consciousness when she is active," Nisreen said.

Her father Saeed added: "Ansam holds a lot of anxiety and stress since the war. One time I called her and she started screaming and threw a plate at me, screaming to leave her alone. I am her father and she is afraid of me."

Saeed says the airstrike on his house killed all his livestock, sending the family into severe debt, and even leading to his arrest for outstanding loans.

"I can barely provide for the treatment of my daughter Ansam. With a complete lack of money I am also not able to prepare the severe damage that was done to the windows and walls of our house," so the family sleeps with cardboard and blankets, he told PCHR.

The children remain haunted by the two strikes they endured. "When we hear (drones or firing) we all sit in a single room," Nisreen said.

Their father shares their fears. "When people talk about (war) I feel afraid. When I hear drones in the area, I leave the house. I get afraid that they will target us again," he said.

PCHR submitted a criminal complaint to Israeli authorities on behalf of the family on Sept. 9, 2009, but has yet to receive a reply.

Israel's three-week war on the blockaded coastal strip killed 1,400 Palestinians, at least half of whom were women and children. Another 5,000 were injured and 6,000 homes destroyed, according to the UN.
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