“Everything has changed for her”

Palestinian children with disabilities targeted in Israeli genocide campaign

Jun 21, 2024
A Palestinian girl stands next to a small pile of wood in central Gaza on June 13, 2024. (Photo: Bashar Taleb / AFP)

Ramallah, June 21, 2024 - Palestinian children with disabilities in the Gaza Strip face great challenges as Israeli forces carry out a campaign of genocide against the Palestinian people. 

Children with disabilities are at heightened risk of physical and psychological injuries due to the continuous bombing and destruction carried out by Israeli forces, in addition to losing necessary medical care and rehabilitation as a result of the deliberate targeting of hospitals, institutions, and centers that care for them.

Defense for Children International - Palestine collected testimonies from children with disabilities whose lives were turned upside down as a result of the Israeli attacks in Gaza City. Israel’s campaign of genocide has collapsed Gaza’s health care system, making it impossible for children to receive the medication, therapy, and follow-up care that they need.

“Palestinian children with disabilities need consistent care and support in a stable and safe environment that allows them to thrive,” said Ayed Abu Eqtaish, accountability program director at DCIP. “Israeli forces’ campaign of genocide has directly targeted disabled children’s access to their support systems, medical and psychological care, specialized food, and clean water. The international community must apply an arms embargo and sanctions against the Israeli government and military to force an end to the genocide of Palestinians.”

"I can't go outside…”

“They bombed our house while we were sleeping. They all died, my mother, my sister Fatima, her daughter Roya, and my brother Ali,” Batoul B. told DCIP. “I kept shouting for my mother while she was lying next to the door. My mother and my brother loved me. May God have mercy on them.”

17-year-old Batoul lives with mobility and mental impairments following a car accident when she was four years old. She lived with her parents, a brother, and two sisters in the Al-Shujaiya neighborhood in Gaza City. 

Batoul, 17.

Israeli forces bombed the family’s house on November 30, 2023, killing all members of Batoul’s family except for her and her father. Batoul was rescued from under the rubble after a search that lasted several hours, while she was calling for her mother, with blood covering her body. Batoul was treated for multiple burns and wounds at her relatives' home by a volunteer nurse, as most hospitals were no longer functioning due to the relentless Israeli attacks on Gaza’s health care system. 

Now, Batoul only eats once a day and suffers from malnutrition. Her medications are nearly impossible to find. Batoul is afraid of being alone and of the dark. She cries often.

“Life was different,” Batoul’s caregiver told DCIP. Since her father was transferred to southern Gaza for further treatment after surviving the Israeli strike, a family member is caring for her.

“Before the war, a bus would come over in the morning and take her to Palestine Avenir for Childhood Foundation - Cerebral Palsy Center, where she would learn some skills and play with children,” her caregiver continued. “When she returned home, she would play and laugh with her mother and siblings. She was very loved. However, things are different now. She doesn't do anything, except sit in silence and sadness all day in our house, after she lost all her family, her organization, and her friends there.”  

“She never leaves the house because of difficulty with movement due to her disability,” her caregiver said. “She needs special assistance beyond assistive devices because the streets are destroyed.”  

“Just as women and children are particularly affected during the war, people with disabilities encounter certain challenges,” said Mohammad Dwaima, director of the Prosthetics Center at the Gaza Municipality. “Their lives become threatened by the war that has caused death and injury to large numbers due to their inability to move quickly, the difficulty of movement following the destruction of streets, the lack of vehicles and fuel, and lack of certain medicines and treatments which are blocked from entering Gaza by Israeli authorities." 

"I can't go outside and I want to," Batoul told DCIP. “I want the war to end and return to the [Avenir for Childhood] organization and [my teacher] Yasmin, and [my friends] Mohammad, Suad, and Ruba.”

“I'm afraid she will die of hunger”

“My mother always talks about how she is afraid for me when we have to leave, and my father is sick and needs help too, so my brother Malik has to come back twice to get us out of the house,” 15-year-old Malak H. told DCIP. 

Malak has lived with a mobility impairment since childhood and moves around using a wheelchair. Malak lived with her parents, three sisters and brother in their home in the Al-Shujaiya neighborhood in Gaza City. Attacks by Israeli forces displaced them four times, and now they are staying in an UNRWA school shelter on Al-Sina’a Street. 

“I fear for my brother Malik because I need his help, but he is sometimes forced to be late [in returning to us]. One time, the bombing was very close to us, and I felt guilty and worried about him,” Malak said.

"We were displaced for the first time when Israeli forces bombed the neighborhood about two weeks before the ground offensive,” she added. “When we returned, we found our house had been partially destroyed. My brother Malik cleaned up a room and kept moving us and things all day long.” 

“The Israeli ground invasion was accompanied by heavy bombing. My mother asked my brother to take me to the shelter school, and she would join us later with my father and sisters. The streets were destroyed, we were walking amid stones and shrapnel flying above and around us, and the bodies of killed people were in the streets.”

Malak explained that her brother “carried me on his back that night because I couldn't move around with a wheelchair. We fell several times on the rubble and Malik hurt his face and hand. Although blood was flowing from his face and hand, he did not care and returned to help my family. My brother is brave.”

Malak's mother said that her daughter suffers from malnutrition due to her loss of appetite, a constant feeling of guilt, anxiety and fear, nightmares, cycles of sadness and crying, introversion and social isolation, and the lack of medications and assistive tools for her.

“My daughter Malak struggles the most in getting a little rest, as she needs special care, which is missed in light of the ongoing displacement in the streets and schools,” Malak’s mother said. “She stopped eating and when she eats, she vomits. I am afraid she will die of hunger. She is always sad and silent and does not sleep at all. There are no doctors or medicine. We don’t know what to do with her.”

“Months passed without finding anything to eat. We looked for anything to satisfy our hunger. Sometimes we would eat lemon and salt, and at best we would find some dates,” Malak’s mother added.

“I feel comfortable when I draw, I forget the whole world and the war, and I live moments without fear inside the drawing,” Malak said, “I dream of holding an art exhibition for drawing in the future, after the war ends and we rebuild Gaza.” 

“Everything has changed for her”

“Before the war, Ghada used to go every day by bus to an institution for people with disabilities, and when she returned, she would play with me, her father, and her siblings before she went to sleep,” the mother of eight-year-old Ghada told DCIP. “During the bombing and destruction nowadays, she wants to leave school and wander the streets, and we are trying to prevent her from doing so.” 

Ghada has a mental disability and DCIP’s field researcher found her by chance wandering in Al-Rashid Street in the western parts of Gaza City, heading toward the location of Israeli forces. 

Ghada, 8.

The field researcher was able to return Ghada to her family in an UNRWA shelter school in the Al-Sabra neighborhood. Ghada and her family are staying there after they were displaced five times from their destroyed home in Al-Karama neighborhood in Gaza City.

“Ghada feels that the world has changed for her. Our house doesn’t exist, nor does her institution, her teachers and friends don’t exist. Everything has changed for her,” her mother told DCIP.

Ghada is unable to speak clearly due to the nature of the disability, but when she was given some toys from other children, she enjoyed playing and refused to return them, excited to spend more time playing.

Her mother explained that Ghada was suffering from bouts of screaming, incomprehensible speech, and erratic physical movements like eye twitching and neck bending. In addition, she is dealing with a lack of medication, medical and psychological support, sufficient food and water, and necessary care.

“People with disabilities in Gaza are the groups most at risk of death in this aggression, as deaf and blind persons are not aware of evacuation orders and unable to see or hear bombing,” said Ayman Al-Sersawi, director of Al-Mustaqbal Association for Violence Victims Care in Gaza.

“People with mental disabilities cannot report their whereabouts to rescue teams or their relatives, as well as people with physical disabilities who rely on assistive devices are unable to move or flee because streets are either blocked by the rubble of destroyed buildings or destroyed and unusable, and most vehicles have been destroyed,” Al-Sersawi added. 

Article 23 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child recognizes the rights of children with disabilities to receive special care and education to facilitate their complete social integration and personal development, as well as their right to education, training, healthcare services, rehabilitation, and recreational opportunities.

Under international law, genocide is prohibited and constitutes the deliberate killing of a large number of people from a particular nation or ethnic group with the aim of destroying that nation or group, in whole or in part. Genocide can result from killing or by creating conditions of life that are so unbearable it brings about the groups destruction.

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) has issued several orders related to the genocide committed by Israel in Gaza in a case brought by South Africa. The most recent order was issued on May 24, 2024, and emphasized the need for Israel to take effective measures to prevent the destruction and ensure the preservation of evidence related to allegations of acts within the scope of Article II and Article III of the Genocide Convention.

Right to a Childhood | News
Please wait...

Never miss an update.

Read the privacy policy.

We will never share your email address and you can unsubscribe at any time.