In Gaza and Israel, chairs are empty where children should sit
One month after Hamas unleashed terrorist attacks on Israel, death and destruction looms over the Gaza Strip.
135 medics, 40 journalists and 88 UN workers have been killed.
214 schools, where pupils should be sitting, eagerly bidding to answer questions, have been reduced to dust – more than 4,000 young lives taken. Those still alive have missed 22 days of school, somewhere they should have been safe and learning inside classrooms.
In Israel, over 1,400 people have been killed while more than 240 soldiers and civilians – including an estimated 37 children – are still being held hostage in the besieged Strip.
Thousands of tonnes of bombs – double the force of the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima – have devastated Gaza since Hamas launched terrorist attacks against Israel on October 7.
A dozen hospitals have been shut down due to lack of fuel and damage, leaving nearly 9,000 cancer patients in Gaza without access to treatment.
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German tattoo artist Shani Louk, who was kidnapped and murdered after the festival, was an ardent pacifist who campaigned against mandatory military service for Israelis.
One month since this bloody conflict erupted, bodies continue to pile up with no end in sight.
The families of those missing and unaccounted for have been left with nothing but silence. There is no word from their loved ones, and many assume the worst.
Posters plastered across cities show the faces of the youngest victims, taken hostage into Gaza by armed militants.
Among them are Aviv and Raz Asher, two and four years old, kidnapped and taken into the enclave alongside their mother Doron Katz Asher, 34, and grandmother Efrat Katz, 68.
Aviv and Raz had been visiting their grandmother in kibbutz Nir Oz on the Gaza border, one of the first areas to be attacked on October 7.
Communities across southern Israel have been left deserted after residents fled, leaving behind empty streets and bullet riddled buildings.
But for the estimated two million Palestinians trapped in Gaza since Israel closed all land crossings, there is no choice but to remain. There is nowhere to go.
Foreign passport holders and a handful of critically injured were given refuge through the Rafah border with Egypt, but just 1,100 refugees have been allowed to leave the besieged Strip so far.
British doctor Abdel Hammad, who works at Royal Liverpool University Hospital, finally left Gaza earlier this month after being stuck there since violence erupted on October 7.
His son Salim told Metro: ‘‘My heart goes out to all the people who cannot leave.
‘As a British national, my father is one of the lucky few who can leave, but there are two million people who can’t.’
One month on, what is next for Gaza and Israel?
‘We are in a phase that is uncivilised,’ Professor Yossi Mekelberg, Associate Fellow at the Middle East and North Africa Programme in Chatham House, told Metro.co.uk.
‘Killing civilians, destroying their houses, all of this, what happened in the last four weeks is exactly what society should not have allowed to happen.’
He continued: ‘I think right now Israel is treating [Gaza’s] civilian population as collateral damage. This is not acceptable. People say to me, you make equivalencies. I don’t make equivalencies.
‘I’m just saying this is wrong. You can be wrong in different ways. What Hamas did is barbaric – it’s horrible. But it doesn’t make killing innocents by air bombardments any better.’
The Hamas terrorist attack has sparked outrage and criticism around the world, with millions taking to the streets in support of both Israel and Palestine.
Passengers on a Paris metro were heard chanting: ‘’F*** the Jews and f*** your mother. Long live Palestine… We are Nazis and proud.’
In Chicago, six-year-old Palestinian-American Wadea Al-Fayoume was stabbed and killed by his parent’s landlord.
Wadea was stabbed more than 26 times. As he lay dying, he told his mother: ‘Mom, I’m fine.’
For the past 31 days, Gaza’s civilian population has faced a mounting humanitarian catastrophe.
Families have been forced to forgo water, food and medical services after Israel cut off water and electricity to the Strip.
Doctors in the 25-mile enclave, surrounded by Israel on three sides and facing the Mediterranean Sea on the other, have resorted to medieval treatments to keep up with the constant flow of dead and injured.
‘We choose who gets ventilation by deciding who has the best chance of survival,’ one triage doctor told the New York Times.
‘Some doctors remain a whole week in the hospital. Some of their families are brought to the hospital killed or injured. And some doctors go home and are killed there.’
Dr Atef Alshaer, an expert in Arabic Studies at the University of Westminster, says innocent people have been caught up in something they are not responsible for.
‘Children and women, killed in their thousands, have nothing to do with October 7,’ he told Metro.co.uk.
Dr Alshaer has family in Gaza and said watching the situation unfold has been incredibly stressful.
He added: ‘I am Palestinian. I’m really worried. I’m worried about the terror. Silence on this is complicity.’
Gaza is likely to be split in two in the coming days, as IDF troops encircle Gaza City, the most densely-populated part of the enclave.
Analysts expect the death toll to rise rapidly as Israeli ground forces advance into tightly-packed urban neighbourhoods.
But despite Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s aggressive campaign, Professor Mekelberg believes Israel lacks clear military objectives.
‘The scale of the response from Israel suggests this is not about avenging and preventing further war – but about having some political aims and political objectives,’ he said.
‘‘Destroying Hamas’ is not a clear military objective. Hamas is a military organization – most importantly, it’s an idea. So I really wonder whether Israel is setting objectives as it goes along.’
Leila Farsakh, Palestinian political scientist at the University of Massachusetts, says nothing can be achieved through hate.
‘Palestinians want to live in peace with Israelis, not be dominated, exterminated or expelled by them,’ she told Metro.co.uk.
‘This can be solved, but it cannot be solved by dehumanising the other on either side, and not by prioritising the security or death of one over the other.
‘Death is horrible for everyone. Loss is loss. It is not measured in kilos.’
Professor Mekelberg added: ‘We really need to look for a way now, after four weeks of this, in which more humanitarian aid comes to Gaza and there is a humanitarian ceasefire.
‘The war with Hamas will probably continue, but it should not at the expense of more thousands of civilians. The international community should now put every effort to come up with a peace plan.
‘I know it sounds unlikely, but the shock of what happened in the last four weeks should clarify to everyone that we must consult internationally, regionally, and beyond.’
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