US aid group destroyed in Israeli airstrike promises to rebuild Gaza office
(CNN) – Weam Elastal was linked to his father on a broken television set the night an Israeli military plane bombed their family’s home in 2014, his father said.
The house in the southern Gaza city of Khan Yunis immediately collapsed, raining heavy stones and concrete blocks over their heads. Weam, only 9 at the time, was knocked out.
When she woke up, Weam found herself in a hospital with needles in her arm and sound emitters around her bed. She was almost in shock when she learned that after three failed surgeries her left leg had to be amputated, her father said.
“When Weam’s injury began, she wasn’t sure whether she could live a normal life again or be like other children,” Mohammed Elastal, her father, told CNN. “It was difficult for her to go to school in a wheelchair and she couldn’t play with other children.”
The US-based nonprofit sent Weam to a hospital in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, where she was fitted with her first prosthetic leg. Two years later, after passing her, PCRF sent her to Atlanta, where she lived with an American foster family while receiving treatment and a new prosthesis.
Weam is just one of nearly 86,000 Palestinian children that PCRF has provided free of charge since its inception in 1992. Among its many services, the group offers drugs, surgeries and cancer treatments, as well as therapies. mental and physical.
The group is also sponsoring volunteer medical teams to treat sick and injured Palestinian children in the West Bank and Gaza, and has built two pediatric cancer centers in the Palestinian territories.
But all of PCRF’s progress in Gaza was almost lost last week when its office was destroyed in an Israeli airstrike nearby.
“The bombing of our office in Gaza makes it much more difficult for our team to provide direct assistance to sick and injured children, for mothers to bring their needy children to our attention, for us to organize and to deliver direct humanitarian aid at a time when the children of Gaza need it most, ”PCRF founder and president Steve Sosebee told CNN from the group’s main office in Kent, Ohio.
“ We will never stop – with or without an office ”
PCRF’s office is located on the third floor of Ghazi Shawa, a commercial building on Al-Wehda Street in the Al-Rimal neighborhood of Gaza City.
The region is a hub for medical care. Just across the street is the Al-Rimal Clinic, one of the only facilities in the territory that can handle coronavirus tests, and the Ministry of Health, which, like other administrative entities in Gaza, is run by Hamas.
The offices of the International Committee of the Red Cross, the Qatar Red Crescent Society and other international humanitarian groups are nearby.
But on May 17, in the latest round of fighting in the decades-long Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the area was hit by Israeli fire.
An Israel Defense Forces spokesman told CNN at the time that he targeted the main Hamas internal security forces’ main center of operations in the same neighborhood, and that the target building was close to medical clinics. and help desks.
PCRF’s office was destroyed, but no employees were injured, Sosebee told CNN.
This Israeli airstrike was one of several in the 11 days of renewed violence in the region.
Israel and Hamas agreed to a ceasefire that began on May 21.
“It’s a very frustrating situation,” Sosebee said. “An office can be rebuilt, you can buy another computer and get another office, physical things can be replaced, but lives cannot.”
Sosebee said the bombing was a major setback for PCRF, but he vowed to continue.
“This will not stop us from our 30-year mission of helping the world’s most vulnerable and neglected children, the children of Gaza. We will never stop – with or without an office,” Sosebee said.
“ As adults it is our responsibility ”
News of the airstrike quickly spread among PCRF’s dedicated supporters and volunteers, many of whom expressed concern on social media or donated to the group’s fundraising campaign to support victims of the conflict.
Rania Jubran, a former volunteer with the organization, says PCRF and other humanitarian groups deserve respect, especially in times of war, when their services are most vital.
In their San Diego home, Jubran’s family welcomed six children PCRF brought to the United States for medical treatment. Among them was Farah, a 3-year-old girl from Beit Lahya, in northern Gaza.
The Jubran family looked after Farah as she underwent nine months of skin transplant treatment.
“She was very traumatized. It took a long time for her to even hear him speak,” Jubran said. “At the time, I was finishing my Masters in Clinical Psychology with a focus on children, so it was very dear to my heart to see PTSD in its own right before me. It was really difficult.
After her treatment, Farah returned to live with her family in Gaza.
“We have seen her grow up from trauma to be a normal child here,” Jubran said. “Firing her was heartbreaking.”
Witnessing the impact of PCRF’s work made the news of the airstrike incredibly difficult to bear, she said.
“They help improve the quality of life for children, parents and families,” Jubran said. “It’s a golden thing. It should be common sense how wrong it is and the world should be watching.”
For Sosebee, the airstrike only strengthened his resolve to help children in need.
Since the bombing, PCRF has provided urgent medical supplies to hospitals and clinics in Gaza and raised funds to provide more. Sosebee says he also plans to rebuild.
“If airstrikes can hit our building, what about apartment buildings? What about schools? And hospitals? They can and have been hit and the loss of life and innocent people is unjustifiable, ”Sosebee said. “Children will continue to bear the brunt of this conflict, and as adults it is our responsibility … to do the hard work to find a solution.”