Najia Warshagha cries as she’s treated at Kamal Adwan hospital after being injured during the shelling of a U.N. shelter in Jabaliya, Gaza. (AP/Khalil Hamra)
Photographed by The Associated Press after the Jabaliya U.N. school shelling, tears streaming down her blood stained face, Najia Warshagha’s image has “spread around the world” as representation of the “collective suffering of Gaza’s children” in the recent hostilities between Israel and the Palestinian territory.
And though Najia is only 9 years old, this is not her first war.
[Najia Warshagha] is already a veteran of three bloody and devastating conflicts in Gaza. Over four weeks of this war, at least 447 children have been killed and 2,744 injured, according to the UN. Thousands more – Najia among them – are deeply traumatised.
Nine days after the shelling of the school, Najia perches on a sofa at the relative’s house where she is staying, a solemn child whose hands twist into tight little balls as she haltingly recalls what happened. “I was in classroom number one, sleeping. There was a huge boom. My mother hugged us, then another missile landed. I was screaming and crying,” she says.
Does she still think about it? A pause, then a nod. And, quietly: “I keep dreaming of what happened.”
Her mother, Majdolen, 31, fills in the gaps of Najia’s spare account. The family left their home in Beit Lahiya, close to the border with Israel, a few days after the bombing began to seek refuge in a nearby school. A few days later, fearing that was also unsafe, they moved to the school in Jabaliya, where around 3,300 people were crammed into classrooms and corridors, spilling out into the school yard. Seven families were sleeping in classroom number one when the missiles struck at around 4.30am. Najia’s legs were injured and her four-year-old brother, Ali, was hit in the head. Luckily, neither child’s physical injuries were severe. Majdolen also received shrapnel wounds to her shoulder and head. The Jabaliya school was one of six run by the UN that have come under attack over the past few weeks.
—Posted by Natasha Hakimi Zapata