Israel-Gaza conflict: Girls killed in airstrike had told parents ‘we’re going to die, we’re scared’

Closed off to the world, Gaza is being bombed into submission.

Inside the coastal enclave is a scene of daily terror and horror. People living here describe it as a prison.

The fear of being caught in the bombardment is all too real.

This is the story of 11 girls killed over the last week by Israeli airstrikes.

We know about them because they were being treated for trauma and severe anxiety by the Norwegian Refugee Council after years of war.

Amongst them were sisters Yara, nine, and Rula, who was just five. They died along with 12 members of their family, their home reduced to a pile of rubble.

Their uncle, Awni al Kawlak, said the girls lived in a constant state of fear.

“Before the war, the girls were really, really scared. Every time they heard a sound the girls would run and grab their mum and dad and would say ‘mum we’re going to die, we’re scared’. That’s before they were killed,” he said.

The damage in Gaza after many rounds of fighting is extensive. The strip has been under an economic and military blockade by Israel and Egypt since 2007.

The regional media adviser for the Norwegian Refugee Council, Karl Shrembi, calls it a siege.

“Their daily lives, everything from their birth to their death is controlled by Israel,” he said.

“Everywhere you touch in Gaza is populated with civilians because that’s the intention of the siege of Gaza. You’ve crammed two million people against their will in such a tiny strip of land and then you say you try to avoid civilians, [yet] it’s full of civilians.”

Israel says the blockade is to prevent Hamas – designated a terror organisation by much of the world – from firing rockets into civilian areas inside Israel and terrorising the country’s population.

But Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is coming under increasing international pressure to end the military operation.

He defended the Israeli Defence Forces at a meeting of foreign diplomats, saying it is doing everything it can to avoid hurting civilians.

“We go to unprecedented lengths to prevent civilian casualties. When you see those buildings that fall there is not a single civilian death there,” he said.

But the young are dying and being injured. Sixty-one children have been killed so far.

A constant stream of children are brought into the Al Shifa hospital but the care they get is basic. Like everything here, medical supplies are running out.

Israel says it’s determined to restore calm and impose a lasting deterrent but the calls for a ceasefire are growing louder with the US hardening its tone.

Whilst the diplomacy drags on, it is those caught in the fighting that continue to suffer.

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