Blinded by wartime blast, Gaza boy dreams of school

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Palestinian pupil Mohammed Shaban's father Hani carries the young boy to class, at school in Beit Lahia in the northern Gaza Strip, on August 17, 2021. (Photo: Agence France-Presse)
BEIT LAHIA, West Bank  — Eight-year-old Mohammed Shaban dreamed of returning to the classroom in the Gaza Strip for the start of the school year.اضافة اعلان

But after an exploding missile blinded him in May, he is staying home.

Mohammed used to attend school with his cousins and neighbors in the town of Beit Lahia in the northern Gaza Strip.

He is one of hundreds of children the United Nations says were injured during fighting in May between Israel and the Hamas, who control the Palestinian enclave.

From May 10 to 21, Israeli occupation forces pummeled the Gaza Strip in response to rocket fire by Hamas.

Mohammed said he was walking to a market to buy clothes during the conflict when a missile detonated.

As a result of the blast, his father Hani said, "Mohammed was injured in the eyes, which led to the loss of his eyes, and Mohammed became completely blind."

He still hopes to return to school, Hani said, but his new disability has left him moody and unpredictable.

"He sometimes asks me, 'When will I see?', or 'When will I go back to school with the children?', or 'When will I go out to the street alone?'," Hani said.

War crimes

Human Rights Watch has accused both Israel and groups in Gaza of war crimes during the conflict.

Israeli air strikes killed 260 Palestinians, including fighters, while munitions fired by groups in Gaza killed 13 people in Israel.

HRW said Israeli strikes were not always directed at military targets.

It said Palestinians also fired indiscriminately at Israeli cities, with rockets that fell short killing at least seven Palestinians in the Strip and wounding others.

The Shabans say Mohammed was injured by a missile fired by the Israelis, although AFP could not independently verify its origins.

Mohammed grips his father's hand, his head facing down, as they walk through their neighborhood.

They step along narrow dirt streets lined by cinderblock walls covered in graffiti.

At home, Hani Shaban guided his son to sit down on cushions and showed him the collared shirts of his school uniform.

Mohammed gripped a pen and tried to form letters in a notebook as his parents encouraged him.

"In the future, I hope he can go to a special school for the disabled," said Somaya Shaban, Mohammed's mother.

She took her son in her arms and burst into tears.

In the meantime, Mohammed is determined not to lose touch with his old classmates.

On Tuesday, he insisted on going to school to catch up with them — and his parents obliged. 

Sitting in the front row, he tried briefly to follow a lesson, his mother Somaya and friends sitting beside him.

"He was really excited to hear the school clock," his mother said. 

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