In Palestine, the night the Shamallak family would never forget began like any other, until the sky lit up with the horrors of war. Nasser Shamallak, 56, the head of a Palestinian household in Sheikh Eljeen, Southwest Gaza, was proclaimed dead alongside 9 of his family members after an Israeli airstrike hit their bright pink house, which now lies in heaps of rubble, barely identified by charred remnants of its structure.
His wife Soha, and five children—including youngest Yazan and Assad, both aged 10, and eldest Ahmed, 25—were all killed. Along with them were Ahmed’s wife and his two sons: two-year-old Abdul Nasser, and newborn Omar, barely two months old. Named to bear his grandfather’s namesake, little Abdul Nasser met a horrible end with his loved ones, as three generations of the Shamallak family were wiped out overnight.
According to a Sky News report, Naser’s niece Wafaa was informed by a rescue team that out of the 10 aforementioned individuals, two corpses, identified as brothers Mohammed, 20, and Ahmed, 25, were found in a recognizable state. The bodies of Nasser’s wife, as well as his other sons and older grandson are yet to be recovered. ‘They knew they found Warda because she was holding her two-month-old son,’ Wafaa remarked. With this, the mother and son became the third and fourth victims identified. As for Nasser himself, only scattered body parts deemed to be his were uncovered at the scene.
Anxiously waiting for any updates from relatives and neighbors via WhatsApp, Wafaa has noted that her uncle’s family now joins 6 more of her relatives that have been killed in Gaza. These killings come amidst the Israeli onslaught in what it claims to be a military operation to purge Hamas operatives in Gaza, with Benjamin Netanyahu characterizing it as the “city of evil” in his October 8th address to the Jewish nation.
This incident is not an anomaly, as the Gazan Health Ministry records a casualty estimate of 7,000+ Palestinians within the IDF’s countermeasure to Al Aqsa Flood, the surprise attack coordinated by the Hamas militants on the 7th of October which has spiraled into all-out war, and seen Israel declare vis-a-vis it’s Knesset for the first time in half a century. Its last major armed engagement took place with its neighbors in the 1973 Arab-Israeli War, also referred to as the “Yom Kippur War”.
To the West of Sheikh Eljeen, approximately 22 km away from its coastal location, lies a wounded four-year-old Fulla Al-Laham in a Gazan hospital. Beside her is her concerned grandmother, who informs journalists of her condition. “No one survived except my grandchild Fulla. No one was left except Fulla” says Um Mohammad Al-Laham, reporting that Fulla’s parents and siblings have been killed in an Israeli air offensive.
The orphaned child does not speak, as conveyed to news organizations by her grandmother, and appears to have sustained multiple injuries, her face marred by dried blood from fresh cuts, and her left eye shadowed heavily by a dark purple bruise in a picture published by Reuters. Um Muhammad also revealed that a second toddler, also 4-years-old, had been bereft of relatives in the wake of the IDF’s aerial assault.
Although the two children are viewed by some as ‘fortunate’, such sentiments pale in the face of the Palestinian children who did not survive the war’s brutalities. It is to be noted that an estimated half of Gaza’s 2.3 million population are under 18, a sizable portion of whom have lived through five of the IDF’s assaults over the past decade and a half.
Considering a myriad of figures emerging from reputable sources, including one quoted by UNICEF as per October 26, 2023, the death toll of children in Palestine is expected to have surpassed 2,300 in the ongoing aggressions. A staggering 600 Palestinian children have been killed in the first week of the recent conflict, in comparison to 487 Ukrainian children in an entire year, per statistics from the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).
Meanwhile, in the occupied West Bank where the presence of Hamas remains notably absent, a somber tally has emerged since the 7th of October. Twenty-seven bodies, all of them children, have been tragically and prematurely laid to rest.
Even as we discuss the situation in Palestine right now, two fundamental truths must be emphasized: first, while the death toll appears static in print, it remains alarmingly fluid, as any given moment could cause a statistical escalation due to sudden aerial bombardments; and though each figure represents a statistical value, we cannot overlook the reality that behind it lies a unique human life with intrinsic value. Second, characterizing the current situation as just ‘war’ or ‘mutual belligerency’ would be an oversimplification; the reality on the ground now skews towards unilateral slaughter faced with minimal to no opposition.