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Mother’s agony after daughter killed in Gaza airstrike

A mother has spoken of her agony after her eight-year-old daughter was killed in an Israeli airstrike while she was drawing a picture.

“Sensitive” and “sweet” Habiba was killed on Saturday 14 October at her home in Gaza City, according to her mother.

Feda’a Murjan said her “heart is broken” and “eyes are full of tears” as she called for a ceasefire to ensure that “no more mothers go through what I went through”.

Gaza has been under heavy bombardment since 7 October, in response to the massacre of Israeli civilians by Hamas, the UK-proscribed terrorist organisation which controls Gaza.

Nearly 50 per cent of Gaza’s population of two million are under 18, and children make up more than 2,300 of the 5,000 people killed so far.

When the recent escalation began, Ms Murjan, who works at the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights, said her daughter was “shaking all the time because of the sounds of the bombings and the rockets“.

“On the seventh day, Habiba acted differently from the previous days of the war. [She] was calm and when she heard a sound said, ‘Don’t be afraid.’ Then she collected her colours and brushes, for the first time she brushed her hair using the colouring brushes and she said, ‘I am an artist.’ She drew [a picture of] the television telling the news of the war,” said Ms Murjan, sharing her story with i via colleagues in the UK.

“An hour later, Habiba [was] killed in a brutal attack against her home, without any fault. She was carrying a colouring brush and not a weapon. She was a child with a lot of dreams. They killed her dreams and they deprived me from enjoying the light of my beautiful moon.”

The rest of Habiba’s family, including her brother, were injured in the attack but survived. Ms Murjan said “the pain of my heart is stronger than the pain of my body”.

Ms Murjan said her daughter’s dream was to be a doctor, and that she was planning to join the Palestinian children’s council, an organisation of young people working to improve the lives of children in the region.

Habiba wanted to follow in her mother’s footsteps by helping her fellow Gazans. The eight-year-old was top of her class and able to solve a mathematical equation in “seconds”.

Ms Murjan added: “In the Covid-19 emergency, she participated with me in many Zoom meetings with international partners from all over the world. She heard a lot about human rights, children’s rights and international law. She loved that and she was very interested in doing what I do, and letting all the world know about the children in Gaza.

“Her dream was to speak very good English and inform people about the news and Gaza’s situation. Now, with a broken heart and two eyes full of tears and shaking hands I am writing to say that today, Habiba is the news.

“I have worked for seven years… with international partners calling for and believing in human rights, and today I am calling them to stop all of this.

“The piece of my heart Habiba has gone and I don’t want more mothers to go through what I went through.”

William Bell, Christian Aid’s head of Middle East policy and advocacy – the UK-based charity partnered with the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights – said: “Approximately 870 children are reported missing and may still be under the rubble. Habiba is just one of those tragedies for whom we should all feel shame.”

More than 2,300 children have been killed in Gaza over the past 17 days, and a further 27 killed in the West Bank, according to the Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry.

A further 870 children in Gaza are missing and feared trapped under the rubble of collapsed buildings, the Health Ministry said, as bombardments, road damage and lack of fuel prevent rescue workers from accessing them.

According to Save the Children, citing Israeli media, 28 children were killed in Israel and at least 220 people are currently held captive in Gaza, including children.

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