Feature: Fears and dreams: children in war-torn Gaza look to the future

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GAZA, Nov. 20 (Xinhua) -- A long time after her mother, a sister and two brothers were killed in an overnight warplane strike at the city of Rafah, sounds of explosions, mixed with screaming and crying, sometimes still emerged in Saja Zourob's mind.

"I still remember that moment," said Zourob, a 15-year-old refugee and also a high school student. "I heard the engine of Israeli jets was near, bombs exploded above my head, and then I lost consciousness."

She woke up days later and recovered gradually, but the invisible wounds left behind might stay with her for life. For children in conflict regions like Zourob, their biggest dream is to go back to their hometown and live a happy and peaceful life with family and friends.

The Palestinian girl is among tens of millions of children worldwide who have been suffering from violence and conflict, as well as poverty and food crises caused by endless clashes. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has painted a grim picture of some 250 million children around the world living in areas under conflict.

Meanwhile, a UN report in May says that some 19 million children across the world were displaced within their own countries due to conflicts and violence in 2019, more than in any other year.

Although having a home, Zourob always feels fear and lonely, especially after the death of her mother. "I remember that my mom always told me that she would protect me from Israeli attacks and make me safe, but she has gone," Zourob said.

After Hamas took over the coastal territory in 2007, the Israeli military and the Islamic militant group continued to clash, with Israel launching airstrikes and shelling Gaza with artillery, while Hamas firing rockets into Israel. The crippling blockade imposed by Israel and Egypt have exacerbated the situation.

"I get tired of clashes, destruction and killings. I hope for a normal and stable life, as a normal person, with a sense of security," she said. "After I lost my mom, I lost the sense (of security) at the same time."

In Gaza, the besieged coastal enclave, many children share a similar experience with Zourob. Mohammed al-Jadily, a 13-year-old boy, who has been living in the northern Beach (Shatti) Refugee Camp since he was born, always imagines he could return to Al-Majdal, the town in which his grandfather was born and lived.

"As long as I can remember, I realized that the refugee camp, with narrow streets and tatty houses, is not where I belong, but only a temporary place where I have to stay," Jadily said.

Like many of his peers in Gaza, Jadily is forced to take jobs to support the basic household expenses of his family. Every day after school, he becomes a street vendor, selling snacks such as biscuits and candies to earn a little money.

To promote international awareness and solidarity for worldwide children and improve their welfare, the UN has designated Nov. 20 as World Children's Day.

As this year's children's day arrives, the world body called on all countries to make sure every child has access to health services, and to redouble efforts to protect and support children and their families living through conflicts, disasters and displacement.

This year, the sudden outbreak of COVID-19 made the situation even worse. Among the most vulnerable to the global spread of the deadly virus, children in the impoverished Gaza region are crying for more supplies of food, clean water and electricity, as well as better protection and medical treatment.

It is quite difficult to contain the virus in Gaza's eight densely populated refugee camps. Because of the growing number of infections, Jadily's community was classified as a red zone for the pandemic, which means residents have to take strict self-quarantine at home.

"The pandemic has caused more pain. All my family members feel nervous and worry about the risk of being infected," Jadily said.

So far, the region has registered over 11,000 confirmed cases and fatalities from COVID-19, according to the Hamas-run health ministry.

"The pandemic, like the strikes by the Israeli military, destroyed our lives," Zourob said. "I cannot see a glimmer of hope."

The international community has worked in recent decades to ease tensions in conflict areas and help improve children's living conditions with financial and material assistance. To give children a better future, the world should work harder and more closely to end all kinds of conflicts and pursue a lasting peace.

"I want to say to the world that we hope for an end of war in Gaza, and in every corner of the world," Jadily said. "We are dreaming of a safer and brighter future, a future that we can build with our wishes and will." Enditem

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