Wounded Palestinian children receive medical attention at a hospital in Beit Lahia in the northern Gaza Strip on Monday, following an Israeli air raid. Image Credit: AFP

Gaza: While a fragile truce between Palestinians and Israelis that ended four days of violence appears to be largely holding, those few days of violence could harbour unforgettable and unpleasant memories for some of Gaza's children.

Prior to the truce, Gaza streets were almost empty at night. The sounds of explosions, ambulances and spy planes, and the firing of resistance rockets, coupled with electricity, shortages left young children terrified.

Now both parents and psychologist fear that Gaza children could be affected psychologically in the long run.

Sana'a Al Sharafi has five children and is a resident of Al Shaja'ea, a neighbourhood close to the eastern border of Israel where a great deal of explosions and military action take place.

"Nightfall turned into a nightmare for my children. During the past couple of days, my children were so afraid and would cry whenever they heard an explosion near the area," she said.

Her eldest son, Ahmad Al Sharafi, 10, said "those nights reminded me of the war, we felt so scared at that time."

Sense of insecurity

The Al Shajaea neighbourhood is one of the biggest in Gaza. Most residents are in a rush to finish their work during the day in order to return to their homes before dark.

"All of my children are facing problems with sleeping these days," Sana'a said. "Two of them won't sleep unless I snuggle next to them in bed while two others insist on lighting candles."

Power outages have added to the misery brought on by the deadly attacks by Israeli warplanes.

Dr Fadil Abu Hayan, a psychologist, said: "The experiences that the children have been living through these days are very hard and unhealthy for them."

According to the mental health centre, more than 50 per cent of the children in Gaza are facing sleepless nights as a result of similar experiences.

Dr Abu Hayan said such experiences could cause many problems in the social lives of children in the future, as well as serious problems arising from a fear of darkness — such as bedwetting.

Three children were killed and at least 27 were injured over the last few days because of the clashes between the Israeli army and a Palestinian resistance group, the Islamic Jihad.

Khalil Abu Shamallah, manager of the Al Damer Association for Human Rights, said: "According to the international law for human rights safety, children must be guaranteed and not harmed physically or sociologically."

As an emergency procedure, the Ministry of Education in Gaza has closed all schools in the northern areas that are close to Israel's borders.

Abu Shamallah added: "Israel keeps on violating the international law. The international community holds the responsibility of standing for the rights of all children to live in a safe environment."