Aid workers who entered Gaza on Friday were appalled by images of homes that had become craters, children sifting through garbage, and the fear expressed by civilians. Two representatives told Ynet how they felt after attempting to offer aid to Gazans.
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Cassandra Nelson, an aid worker with The Mercy Corps said the pictures displayed by the press did not fully cover the disaster. She and her colleagues met with a number of youths in order to assess their psychological health after the 22 days of fighting.
Nelson said the youths had repeatedly voiced fear that the strikes on Gaza would be renewed. "They said they were afraid the ceasefire was just temporary," she said. "They also said they never knew they could be so scared."
Students were scheduled to go back to school Friday, but Nelson feared they would be incapable of concentrating before their exams as many had lost friends and family members in the fighting.
Despite the tumultuous aftermath, the war had brought Gazans together, Nelson said. "There's no more 'mine'. You could say it made them better people," she explained. She added that she hoped the border crossings would be opened soon so that humanitarian aid could get through.
Twelve representatives of the Physicians for Human Rights-Israel organization also toured Gaza on Friday. Dr. Mahmid Mahmoud told Ynet he had been shocked by the sights to which he was exposed at the hospital.
"I've never felt such pain. There are children without arms and legs at the hospitals. I couldn't have imagined the occurrences here in my worst nightmares, when you see it you start to cry. It's the worst thing I've ever seen in my life," he said, adding that he hoped a Jewish delegation would tour Gaza to witness the destruction.
Salah Haj Yihye, head of PHR-Israel's clinics, said he had come across many people sitting upon the wreckage of their homes with stunned expressions. "We were in Zaitun neighborhood and we heard the story of a family in which close to 30 people were killed," he said.
"One of the men cried and told us how he had lost his father and mother and how his year-old baby died in his arms. They said they had pleaded with the soldiers to allow them to evacuate the injured but were answered negatively."
Yihye, an Israeli Arab, said he felt trapped between Israel and his people. "I am part of the Palestinian people, but also part of Israel and a loyal citizen," he said. "I am inside this conflict and my heart pains me. I would like the State to stop hurting the weak and poor. From what we can see the damage was done only to civilians." He said the destruction in Gaza constituted "war crimes".