Gaza: Eight year old 'blinded in Israeli strike' dreams of school

Mohammed Shaban was left unable to see after an Israeli missile explosion blinded him in May

Eight-year-old Mohammed Shaban dreamt of returning to the classroom in Gaza for the start of the school year. But after an exploding missile blinded him in May, he is staying home.

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

He is one of the hundreds of children the UN says were wounded during fighting in May between Israel and Hamas fighters who control the Palestinian enclave.

From May 10 to May 21, the Israeli army pummelled 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 Shaban says, “Mohammed was injured in the eyes, which led to the loss of his eyes, and he became completely blind.”

He says his son still hopes to return to school 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?'," Mr Shaban said.

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

Israeli air strikes killed 260 Palestinians, including fighters, while munitions fired from Gaza killed 13 people in Israel, including a soldier.

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 Gaza and wounding others.

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

During a walk through their district, Mohammed gripped his father's hand, his head facing down. They stepped along narrow dirt streets lined by cinder block walls covered in graffiti.

At home, Mr 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.

Updated: August 30th 2021, 7:16 AM
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