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At least 500 children from Hezbollah's Al Mahdi schools gathered in solidarity with Gaza's children on Thursday morning in Beirut, responding to the militant group's call to protest against “Zionist and American aggression and their commission of massacres against children in Gaza and Lebanon”.
“We're here to show the world that our hearts are in Gaza, and that we are standing in solidarity with innocent children who are dying for nothing in Gaza and southern Lebanon,” said Mohamed, 16, wearing a kaffiyeh around his head.
At least 4,324 children have been killed in more than a month since the Israel-Gaza war erupted when Hamas fighters launched an unprecedented attack into Israel, killing about 1,000 civilians and taking 240 hostages.
The assault kicked off a massive escalation of violence with relentless Israeli air strikes and a ground operation in Gaza, a Palestinian territory controlled by the Islamist group.
Samia, a 46-year-old teacher from the Mahdi school network, said: “Children need to be aware early on that Israel is a terrorist state, and they need to know who are the oppressed ones.”
“We want to show them that the Palestinian cause is a human cause,” she added.
The Mahdi schools are part of the private educational system of Lebanese Hezbollah – an Iran-backed militia and powerful political party, which is allied with Hamas. Several branches of the Mahdi school's network across Lebanon were mobilised for the protest.
The rally followed the killing of three sisters from Ainata in south Lebanon – Rimas, Taline, and Liane Chour, aged 14, 12, and 10, along with their grandmother, in an Israeli air strike on Sunday.
In the square where the children gathered, a large picture of the three sisters read: “From Ainata to Gaza, children living on the road to Jerusalem.”
Daily clashes pitting Hezbollah against Israel along the Israel-Lebanon border have erupted since October 8, against the backdrop of the Israel-Gaza war.
The violence has resulted in at least 14 civilian deaths on the Lebanese side, including Reuters journalist Issam Abdallah, and about 60 Hezbollah fighters.
At the rally in downtown Beirut, pupils held pictures of children killed in Gaza along with signs proclaiming, “Stop the genocide in Gaza” and “Free Palestine”.
The crowd, carrying Palestinian, Lebanese, and Hezbollah flags, chanted “From Gaza to Beirut, united we cannot die” and “Death to Israel, death to America”.
“We stand with the children of Gaza, unwavering and unafraid. We will not leave,” said Celine, a 10-year-old pupil.
“For every civilian, a civilian,” he said in a long-awaited televised speech.
Concerns are rising that the slightest miscalculation could lead to a wider escalation dragging Lebanon into a devastating war.
So far Israel and Hezbollah have refrained from launching full-scale military offensives, while conducting deadly skirmishes.
The last conflict between Israel and Hezbollah occurred in 2006. It claimed the lives of more than 1,200 Lebanese – mostly civilians – and 165 Israelis, mainly soldiers, over 34 days.