The Emotional Impact of the Gaza War

Gaza City -- A long-term ceasefire has been reached between Israel and Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip. The truce, ending seven weeks of fighting that has left more than 2,200 people - mostly Palestinians - dead, was brokered by Egypt and began at 7pm on Tuesday.

Hamas said the deal was a "victory for the resistance".

Israel has agreed to ease its blockade of Gaza to allow in aid and building materials, Israeli officials said. 

Destruction is everywhere in Gaza: many homes, mosques, schools, and hospitals have become piles of bricks, glass and metal. Roads have been torn up by military tanks and bulldozers. Cities are without electricity for most of the day. Gaza is in the midst of a catastrophic humanitarian crisis and its impact will be felt for years.

“I am 70 years old, and I have not witnessed a war anything like this one,” Muhammed al-Astal said as he showed us the remains of his cream-colored house, which had been levelled by Israeli shells. “This is not war. This is eradication.”

Even international relief organizations, that have been working in hard-hit war zones for years, have expressed shock at the scale of the damage. After visiting Gaza on Tuesday, Peter Maurer, the president of the International Committee of the Red Cross, tweeted “I’ve never seen such massive destruction ever before”.

The devastation has been both physical and emotional. The war between Israel and Hamas has had an incredible psychological impact on everyone living in Gaza - especially children.

Christopher Gunness, spokesperson for the the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees said today that “we’re now in a situation where this catastrophic human displacement crisis is morphing into something equally disturbing for us, which is a huge homelessness crisis.”

   A Palestinian boy writes on a shrapnel riddled backboard at the heavily damaged Sobhi Abu Karsh school in Gaza City's al-Shejaea neighborhood on August 5, 2014. (Mohammed Abed)

A Palestinian boy writes on a shrapnel riddled backboard at the heavily damaged Sobhi Abu Karsh school in Gaza City's al-Shejaea neighborhood on August 5, 2014. (Mohammed Abed)

   The damage from shelling resulted in impact holes through each story of this home. No one was home at the time and all 35 members of the family are safe. (Misha Tulek)

The damage from shelling resulted in impact holes through each story of this home. No one was home at the time and all 35 members of the family are safe. (Misha Tulek)

The physiological scars on the nations youth can’t be understated. Imagine being a child in Gaza. If you are just five years old, three times in your short and fragile life you will have been subjected to this extraordinarily terrifying and traumatizing bombardment that we’ve seen in Gaza. The UNRWA estimates that there are about 400,000 children deep in trauma.

As the casualty toll rises from the third major military confrontation between Israel and Hamas in six years, so does concern about the physical and psychological toll of the conflict on these youth.

The United Nations agency in charge of coordinating aid for humanitarian emergencies said 194,000 young Gazans have suffered wounds ranging from broken bones to severe head injuries and damaged limbs that require amputation. Many have lost relatives and homes, and are in need of psychological care.

"The physical toll is obvious. There will be chronic complications changing these children's lives forever," said Dr. Saeed Salah, a pediatrician at Kamal Odwan Hospital in Beit Lahiya. He added: "The psychiatric effect, we won't know for a long time."

   In Gaza, children who are just six years old have been through three   extraordinarily terrifying and traumatizing   wars. The UNRWA estimates that there are about 400,000 children deep in trauma. (Tyson Sadler)

In Gaza, children who are just six years old have been through three extraordinarily terrifying and traumatizing wars. The UNRWA estimates that there are about 400,000 children deep in trauma. (Tyson Sadler)

  A young man rides his bicycle through Khuza'a in Khan Yunis. Sixty percent of homes were destroyed and two thirds of the residents were left homeless. (Tyson Sadler)

A young man rides his bicycle through Khuza'a in Khan Yunis. Sixty percent of homes were destroyed and two thirds of the residents were left homeless. (Tyson Sadler)

While the global news media focuses on the physical nature of the Gaza War, there is something possibly more serious taking place - which will last much longer - the psychological nature of the destruction.

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