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

Blinded by wartime blast, Gaza boy dreams of school

Family claims Mohammed blinded by Israeli missile during latest round of fighting with Hamas; mother hopes child could attend special school for the disabled in the future

AFP |
Published: 08.17.21, 20:12
Eight-year-old Mohammed Shaban dreamed of returning to the classroom in Gaza for the start of the school year. But after an exploded missile blinded him in May, he is staying home.
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  • Mohammed used to attend school with his cousins and neighbors in the town of Beit Lahia in the northern Gaza Strip.
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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
    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
    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: AFP)
    He is one of hundreds of children the United Nations says were injured during fighting in May between Israel and the Hamas Islamists who control the Palestinian enclave.
    From May 10 to 21, the IDF 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 exploded.
    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."
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    Palestinian pupil Mohammed Shaban is helped by his mother Somaya during class in beit Lahia, in the northern Gaza Strip
    Palestinian pupil Mohammed Shaban is helped by his mother Somaya during class in beit Lahia, in the northern Gaza Strip
    Palestinian pupil Mohammed Shaban is helped by his mother Somaya during class in Beit Lahia, in the northern Gaza Strip
    (Photo: AFP)
    The Shabans say Mohammed was injured by a missile fired by the Israelis, although AFP could not independently verify it.
    The boy still hoped to return to school, Hani said, and his new disability 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.
    Human Rights Watch has accused both Israel and Gaza of war crimes during the conflict.
    Israeli airstrikes killed 260 Palestinians, including fighters, while munitions fired by militants in Gaza killed 13 people in Israel, including a soldier.
    HRW said Israeli strikes were not always directed at military targets. Also, it said Palestinians fired indiscriminately at Israeli cities, with rockets that fell short killing at least seven Palestinians in Gaza and wounding others.
    3 צפייה בגלריה
    Palestinian pupil Mohammed Shaban (L) sits alongside classmates at school in beit Lahia, in the northern Gaza Strip
    Palestinian pupil Mohammed Shaban (L) sits alongside classmates at school in beit Lahia, in the northern Gaza Strip
    Palestinian pupil Mohammed Shaban (L) sits alongside classmates at school in Beit Lahia, in the northern Gaza Strip
    (Photo: AFP)
    For now, 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.
    "I wish to go to school and see the children, and wish to see my sisters, and I wish to see my mother and father and to play with the children," Mohammed said.
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