2. Palestinian Babies

CUSP would like to thank Nazmi Al Masri, our Co-Investigator, who worked tirelessly throughout the conflict to capture Palestinian stories and document what was taking place in the Gaza Strip from 14th May 2021 – 21st May 2021. These blog posts were written during the conflict.

Palestinian Babies


Angered and saddened by the continuing brutal killing of its children and their mothers, the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT) gravely and grimly call upon all humans, all peace and justice loving humans and peoples:  

Please listen to me and to my soft gentle voice,  

Please listen to my truthful pen and fact-based writing,

Please listen to my broken and tearful heart but brave and peace-longing, 

Thank you for listening to a sample of my One Thousand and One[1] real stories, 

Kindly lend me your ears and open your heart and mind,

Kindly read these recent and current fact-based stories happening in Gaza in May 2021, 

They are very similar to thousands of real stories that happened before, during and after Nakba[2] (catastrophe) of 1947-49).  

In the war of words which accompanies the bombs falling terrible things are said, over decades.  

“Palestinian babies and children are born evil and deserve to be killed even if they are in their bedroom or in their mother’s womb! It is lawful to kill as many of them and their mothers by using American-made SMART Weapons that drop bombs (rockets) on houses wiping out whole families”,  

Not only are there no consequences for these acts, but there is the insinuation that this is just about Palestinian propaganda. 

“No, no, not true at all, it is just Palestinian propaganda!” seem to claim the occupation forces. 

In fact, for the Israeli propaganda, Palestinians do not exist. We all remember Golda Meir, Israel’s Prime Minister between 1969-1974, who during an interview with the Sunday Times said: “It is not as though there was a Palestinian people in Palestine considering itself as Palestinian people and we came and threw them out and took their country away from them, they did not exist.” (Shlaim, 2001, p.311)[3]

But we do exist. During the Nakba, commemorated annually on the 15th May since 1948, we remember the thousands of Palestinian families who were forced to leave their land and live until now as refugees in neighboring countries, and also within Palestine in several areas including the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood in Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip[4].

Photo Credit: Alison Phipps

Oppressed, isolated and besieged for more than seven decades, Occupied Palestine tells this most recent Nakba related story: “No sleep, no sleep, no sleep”

Scared, young Palestinian children rightly resist: “No I do not want to go to bed”. 

Their inner feelings say: “going to bed means loneliness, darkness, killing (death), injured and disabled, fear and worries and many other negative feelings and hidden thoughts fly in our mind.”  

Through continuing soliloquy, they know for sure that the threatening and deafening roaring of Israeli warplanes[5] do bomb residential towers and houses on the heads of families and children as happened to some of their classmates, neighbours and relatives. 

Sometimes, they speak out: “No place safe mum, no place safe mum, no place safe mum” 

These feelings and soliloquies of self-conflict continue day and night causing short and long-term impacts on children’s and parents’ mental health alike. It must be taken into account that almost 50% of Palestinians living in Gaza are under 18 years old. 

Similarly mums have their own self-conflict soliloquy, if not more worried than their children, for their children’s safety, for their own safety, for their husband’s safety and for their parents (grandparents’) safety as my youngest son, Kareem 15, said:

Children are pure in heart, they express their ideas innocently and truthfully:    

“Our mums hide their feelings, they feel sleepless, anxious, tense and apprehensive and concerned about their very young children’s mental and physical safety.”  

It is the end of Ramadan and second day of Eid, Friday 14 May 2021, when one mum, Yasmin (31) decided to take her children to visit her sister Maha (36) who also has children. So, the 2 sisters and their young children can socialise, have fun and temporarily forget about the war and bombardment.

All 11 met in Yasmin’s house in the Beach (Shateh) Refugee Camp in the north west of Gaza city. Both families (Abu Hatab) were enjoying their Friday evening and celebrating Ramadan Eid at a low profile due to the ongoing Israeli aggression on Gaza. All their children were very young, the youngest was a 2-month old baby and the eldest 14 years old.

About midnight, suddenly, brutally, and I’d say without humanity, Israeli warplanes dropped at least three large bombs on these 2 mums and all 9 children entertaining Eid (Feast).

The bombs completely levelled the house to the ground, flattening it on the heads of these children and their mums.

The bombs killed the 2 mums and all 9 children except the youngest, baby Omar, whose was found under the rubble of the destroyed 4-story building. Almost all night, the rescue workers worked hard, carefully and slowly until the very early hours of Saturday 15 May 2021, when they miraculously found and rescued this baby alive and screaming under the rubble.

Omar was taken to Shifa Hospital in Gaza city after surviving this air strike:

“Maybe, this baby, Omar, stayed alive to be a witness to what happened to the rest of his family”Aljazeera reported[6]

The baby’s photos and story, which have been published on several websites, show how the baby is extremely shocked and devastated. His cries shout loudly:

“I need my mum, I need her love and I want her to warmly hug me. I need her to affectionately take care of me. None is like mum, I cannot live without her”[7].

Baby Omar’s face kept telling me innocently and angrily:

‘My family was killed without humanity. They killed my mum, and all my brothers and sisters, knowing this house was full.’

Baby Omar’s screams on his face refute the Israeli propaganda that these attacks do not target civilians, children and women, as senior Israeli advisors reported.

Omar’s cries give 2 facts:

  • Last night (14th May 2021), an air strike on Beach [Shateh] refugee camp in Gaza left scores of people dead. One family, the Abu Hatabs, lost 10 members, eight of them children. Five of the children attended United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) schools, bringing the total number of UNRWA school children confirmed to have been killed since the escalation in hostilities began in Gaza to thirteen. [so far and in 6 days of aggression] (UNRWA)[8]
  • Among the 145 Palestinians killed over the 6-day aggression so far are 41 children and 23 women (totalling 64 – 44%) and at least 1100 injured: 313 children and 206 women, (totalling 519 – 47%)[9].

The baby Omar’s screams in the face of the silence of international community and governments say:

shame, shame, shame

on all violations of basic human rights

on all forms of double standards,

on all hypocrite politicians and foreign policy makers

on all dishonouring of the 45 Articles of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC), especially:

  • Article 6 (life, survival and development) Every child has the right to life [including Palestinian children]
  • Article 19 (protection from violence, abuse and neglect)
  • Article 22 (refugee children) . . . governments must provide them with appropriate protection and assistance
  • Article 23 (children with a disability) . . . Governments must do all they can to support disabled children and their families [not to kill them].

Omar will remain a truthful witness to violations and a dishonouring of human rights and protection of children acts. We hope to see his smiles in a few years when justice and peace are a practice in Palestine where no more mothers and children are killed for any reason.

Omar says: I became well known on all local and international media and in all languages. I do hope that no child passes through my experience and I do hope every human can do something to end occupation and all violations of human and children rights.


[1] In line with One Thousand and One Nights (Arabic: أَلْفُ لَيْلَةٍ وَلَيْلَةٌ‎, ʾAlf Laylah wa-Laylah) – often known in English as the Arabian Nights.

[2] The ‘Nakba’ – Arabic for ‘catastrophe’ – refers to the displacement of an estimated 700,000 Palestinians who lived in the area that became the State of Israel in 1948. Several historians, both Israeli and Palestinians, have extensively investigated the archive documents and oral sources in relation to the 1948 war and the displacement of Palestinians.

[3] Shlaim A., 2001. The iron wall. Penguin Books.

[4]The forced evictions of Palestinians across East Jerusalem and in the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood, as the UN Relief and Work Agency for Palestinian refugees write, ‘is occurring within the context of Israeli settlement construction and expansion, illegal under international humanitarian law.’ In Gaza, 70% of the 2million population, is made of refugees.
You can read more in the following report by UN, accessible here https://www.unrwa.org/enduring-palestine-refugee-crisis-nakba-sheikh-jarrah-gaza

[5] Please consult the work of Primo Levi ‘If this is a man’, and of Hannah Arendt ‘The Banality of Evil’ for a deep discussion around ethics and responsibility. Primo Levi, for instance, who was a Holocaust survivor, wrote about the responsibility of the soldiers who were just following orders from above and they killed thousands of people as a result. I similarly invite reflections on pilots’ and soldiers’ responsibility in killing and bombing civilians.

[6]Aljazeera English: https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2021/5/15/at-least-ten-killed-in-insraeli-strike-on-gaza-refugee-camp

[7]‘To read more about Omar’s family and the story, please consult https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2021/5/15/at-least-ten-killed-in-insraeli-strike-on-gaza-refugee-camp

[8]UNRWA Decries deaths in Beach refugee camp Gaza, 15 May 2021: https://www.unrwa.org/newsroom/official-statements/unrwa-decries-deaths-beach-refugee-camp-gaza

[9] Ministry of Health, Palestine.

The Culture for Sustainable and Inclusive Peace (CUSP) is funded by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) via the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) as part of the UK Governments Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF).

1. Why did they kill my dad -Baba?

CUSP would like to thank Nazmi Al Masri, our Co-Investigator, who worked tirelessly throughout the conflict to capture Palestinian stories and document what was taking place in the Gaza Strip from 14th May 2021 – 21st May 2021. These blog posts were written during the conflict.

As the bombs rained down on the Gaza Strip, the work of CUSP shifts from building cultures of sustainable peace, to using language to testify to the suffering of war, the bloodshed and loss of civilian life. For our Palestinian partners in Gaza, this is now the place from which building sustainable peace must begin. The terms of our work have been violently reset here.  

In this piece, our Palestinian partner Nazmi Al Masri offers his reportage and tells the story of the killing and grief. He skillfully renders the immediacy of the destruction of peace and its effects in prose, the sentences factual and staccato reflecting the desperation, the reaching for evidence which is part of the necessary foundations for the justice which builds sustainable peace.  

The work on this piece is joint – editorial safety and authorial safety in a context where killing has become indiscriminate. We offer his words as part of the work of cultural justice as it unfolds, in extreme distress.  

Why did they kill my father?


Aya’s quotes have been taken from this article, first published in Arabic by Aljazeera, you can read the article here. For the purpose of this piece, some stylistic interpretation has been used.

“WHY did they Kill my father?”  

Cried sadly Aya Muin Al-Aloul who miraculously escaped certain death when Israeli warplanes, in just a few minutes, fired about 50 heavy bombs on Aya’s house and neighbouring residential buildings at Al-Wehda Street in GazaPalestine 

Stealing the Palestinian homeland for more than seven decades is never sufficient for Israeli occupation forces.  

Just one hour after midnight on Sunday 16 May, 2021, Israeli warplanes stole and killed the dreams and lives of 2 Palestinian doctors (Muin Al-Aloul and Ayman Abu Alouf), and 40 children, mothers and fathers who were in their homes.  

Credit: Alison Phipps

On this Sunday, heavy Israeli bombing caused an “earthquake” in the heart of Gaza City. Aya sadly describes this man-made earthquake:

“I was sitting with my parents in their room, as usual since the outbreak of the war, and suddenly there were aggressive and terrifying explosions. Our apartment collapsed completely and I started removing the debris from my body, God has given me the strength to survive.” 

“Our flat was full and surrounded by blackness, and the dust and smoke emanating from the explosions blocked my nose and almost killed me by suffocation . . .  I feel now that I have died and resurrected.”  

“I heard my mum calling me from under the rubble. In those moments I did not realize where I was, I tried to remove the rubble and save her, but it was not easy” recalling this heartbreaking tragedy.  

“I screamed with all strength, ‘help us, help us’ and as an ambulance was driving with full speed around the place, I blocked its way to seek help, and I did not know that my father was martyred,” Aya said, with tears falling from her eyes. 

Suffering painful physical and mental wounds, Aya describes her 66-year father: “my dad (baba) is compassionate, a human and distinguished psychiatrist, killed with smile on his face showing his pleasantness and goodness.” 

On her bed in Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza City, Aya extends her hand and grabs her mother’s hand, who was lying on a nearby bed with wounds, and in a shocked voice and fully distressed tone, Aya asks: “For what guilt did they kill my dad? “ 

The Culture for Sustainable and Inclusive Peace (CUSP) is funded by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) via the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) as part of the UK Governments Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF).

CUSP - Palestine

CUSP - Palestine

Cultures of Sustainable and Inclusive Peace is linked to two of the Global Goals for Sustainable Development – or SDGS – SDG 5 – on women and girls and SDG 16.

SDG 16 is especially important in the context of our work on the theme of conflict transformation and protracted conflict.

Goal 16: Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels

Find out more about Goal 16 here: https://sdgs.un.org/goals/goal16

What is the role of cultural organisations?

The role of cultural institutions, as opposed to political and intergovernmental organisations, is vital in promoting ways of imagining peace and pathways to justice. Whilst political and legal institutions are vital for upholding laws and making laws, cultural institutions are where peace and inclusion can be imagined, promoted and built effectively.

Equally, cultural change indexes shift in conflicts and their transformation as well as creating new points of conflict. We focus especially in CUSP on how this manifests in the roles played by women and girls. We do this under the auspices of our funders and also the UNESCO Chair for Refugee Integration through Languages and Arts at the University of Glasgow.

Find out more about the work of the UNESCO RILA Chair here: https://www.gla.ac.uk/research/az/unesco/

To do our research we focus on the meso-level. We are working with and funding partners at the level of the community and with NGOs working in towns, cities, villages to build institutional capacity. We are employing researchers in context to inquiry, participate and analyse the cultural and artistic processes and roles played by cultural institutions and their works – libraries, books, stories, poetry; dance halls, choreography, performance; drama, theatres, ritual; photography, exhibition space, artworks.

Because we are working in contexts of ongoing, protracted conflicts, it is also the case that our work can be subject to renewed conflict and war. This is the case with our partners in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Palestine joined UNESCO on 23rd November 2011: https://en.unesco.org/countries/palestine

Artwork made from pieces of spent artillery used in previous aggressions against Gaza; made by Art Students at Al Aqsa University, Gaza, Palestine.

Our Partners in Palestine

Our partners in Palestine were subject to bombardment, the targeting of civilian populations, medical workers and journalists as part of the greatly intensified hostilities of 2021. This is in addition to the attacks on al Aqsa Mosque in East Jerusalem and the evictions for the purpose of illegal settlements in Sheikh Jarrar: https://www.un.org/press/en/2016/sc12657.doc.htm These “Settlements Have No Legal Validity, Constitute Flagrant Violation of International Law, Security Council Reaffirms.”

As part of our work to continue, even in the most extreme conditions of fear and warfare, to imagine peace, as determined by UNESCO in it’s Preamble, we offer this series of witness accounts from our partners in the Occupied Palestinian Territories and in The Gaza Strip.

“Since wars are made in the minds of people then it is in the minds of people that the defences of peace must be constructed.”

Read more about UNESCOs Constitution here: http://www.unesco.org/new/unesco/about-us/who-we-are/history/constitution/

A Word of Warning

The accounts make for very difficult reading, and are fearful and outraged in tonality – as is the case for expressions and cries of pain, and of what has been seen.

We know from the scholarship on trauma healing and the building of a sustainable peace, founded on justice, that the atrocities and violations of international law rely on witness statements, on the work of academics who can furnish details and report from what they see and experience (Atkinson, 2002; Bloom, 2006, 2010, n.d.; J. P. Lederach, 1995, 2003, 2005; J. P. L. Lederach, Angela Jill, 2010; J. P. N. Lederach, Reina; Culbertson, Hal, 2007; Weingarten, 2003)

We affirm our solidarity and support from CUSP with our partners in Palestine and continue to call for an end to the blockade of the Gaza Strip and an end to the military operations that are detrimental to peoples mental and physical wellbeing. We urge for the building of institutions of peace, inclusive of women and girls, to promote individuals’ wellbeing and the development of the Palestinian society (as per UNRWA mandate).

We refer readers to the Special Rapporteur on Human Rights: Palestine’s statements and work in this area: https://www.ohchr.org/en/hrbodies/sp/countriesmandates/ps/pages/srpalestine.aspx

We call for an end to the present hostilities and for the Responsibility to Protect: https://www.un.org/en/genocideprevention/about-responsibility-to-protect.shtml


Atkinson, J. (2002). Trauma Trails: Recreating Songlines – the transgenerational effects of trauma in indigenous Australia. Melbourne: Spinifex Press.

Bloom, S. L. (2006). Organizational Stress as a Barrier to Trauma-Sensitive Change and Systems Transformation. Retrieved from

Bloom, S. L. (2010). Bridging the Black Hole of Trauma: The Evolutionary Significance of the Arts. Psychotherapy and Politics International, 8(3), 196-212. doi:10.1002/ppi.223

Bloom, S. L. (n.d.). Trauma-Informed Systems Transformation: Recovery as a Public Health Concern. In W. M. Steele, C. (Ed.), trauma-Informed Prectice for Children and Adolescents. New York: Routledge.

Lederach, J. P. (1995). Preparing for Peace: Conflict Across Cultures. Syracuse: Syracuse University Press.

Lederach, J. P. (2003). Conflict Transformation. Intercourse, PA: Good Books.

Lederach, J. P. (2005). The Moral Imagination: The Art and Soul of Peace Building. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Lederach, J. P. L., Angela Jill. (2010). When Blood and Bones Cry Out: Journeys through the soundscape of healing and reconciliation. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Lederach, J. P. N., Reina; Culbertson, Hal. (2007). Reflective Peacebuilding. A Planning, Monitoring, and Learning Toolkit. In: University of Notredame.

Weingarten, K. (2003). Common Shock: Witnessing Violence Every Day–How We Are Harmed, How We Can Heal. England: Penguin

The Culture for Sustainable and Inclusive Peace (CUSP) is funded by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) via the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) as part of the UK Governments Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF).