by Julie Webb-Pullman
Maryam was a bright and active nine year-old, popular with her friends and classmates, and very clever, with a GPA of 97 percent. Maryam wanted to be teacher.
That now hangs in the balance as she lies semi-comatose in a Shifa hospital bed, paralysed down the left side, pieces of shrapnel still embedded in her brain, recognising no-one, unresponsive to any stimuli except pain.
Maryam, the child born after 20 years of trying, an IVF success story turned into an IOF tragedy.
What crime did she commit? Helping her mother with the housework?
That is what she was doing when she was struck in the head with shrapnel from a nearby bombardment.
Operated on immediately, she spent a few days in ICU and now faces an uncertain prognosis, and an even more uncertain future.
Her mother’s pain is palpable. The normal daughter she strove so hard for may never talk, walk, run, play as she once did, let alone study or teach.
“She is an innocent child lost to Israeli aggression,” her mother Hanan said. “We were not firing rockets. We were not committing any crime. I feel a huge grief and sadness, it is very painful for me to imagine her future.”
Her father cannot imagine anything at all right now – consumed with grief, and also suffering head trauma, he remains in deep shock, unable to eat or stop crying since the ‘accident.’
“Why are we punished in this way?” Hanan asks. “I appeal to the civilised world – what crime did we commit? Who can stop Israel? Who can return my daughter to me?”
Yesterday afternoon 11 year-old Ahmed Shamalakh went into the garden where his sister was playing to collect figs for his family’s iftar, the meal to break the ramadan fast. An F-16 targeted an open area nearby, and shrapnel pierced Ahmed’s lung and heart. He fell unconscious to the ground.
Today he too lies in Shifa hospital, tubes draining blood and fluid from his abdominal cavity.
Ahmed was fortunate – he suffered no head injury, and is expected to make a good recovery, although it will take several weeks.
His mum Elham, clearly stressed and worried about her other children left with their very elderly grandparents, hovered over him with drinks and affection.
“I ask God, the greatest force, to hurt the Israeli’s like they have hurt my son,” she said.
Four year-old Shaiamah was returning home from her aunt’s house with her mother, 17 year-old sister and 14 year-old brother Mohammed at midday. Suddenly a rocket from a drone directly targeted Mohammed, killing him instantly. As her mother ran to her son, another rocket slammed into her and Shaimah’s sister, killing them both.
Shaimah told her father, “A rocket killed my brother, then another one killed my mother and my sister, and I fell down on the ground.”
Shaimah suffered abdominal trauma, and has had major surgery to her spleen and liver. It is hoped she will make a full recovery.
Despite knowing what happened to her mother, she still calls for her, her aunt told me.
“I would like to send the Israeli’s a message,” she said. “As you love your children, so do we. As you do your best to protect your children, so do we. As your children can play and enjoy life, this is also the right of our children – to enjoy their innocent childhood.”