The two girls survived the early morning airstrike that destroyed a nearby building on May 19, two days before a cease-fire ended the war. But like so many children in Gaza, they will carry the memory of its horrors and devastation.
Batul Al-Masri, 5, and her siblings stand for a portrait in their bedroom that was damaged by an airstrike, in Beit Hanoun, Gaza Strip, May 26, 2021.
The 11-day war was the fourth fought between Israel and Hamas, the Palestinian resistance group that has ruled Gaza since 2007. It featured the same waves of predawn Israeli airstrikes, the same continuous rocket fire out of the impoverished territory, and the same lopsided casualty toll, with Palestinians making up the vast majority of the more than 250 killed.
Anas Alhaj Ahmed, 4, stands in his bedroom, in Maghazi, Gaza Strip, May 27, 2021.
In the Maghazi refugee camp in southern Gaza, an airstrike tore the roof off the bedroom that 4-year-old Anas Alhajahmed shared with his sister and left the floor covered in shattered glass. They survived as well.
It was the first war in his short life, but most Gazans vividly recall the others – including the most devastating, in 2014, which lasted several weeks. Even adolescents can point out homes destroyed in previous rounds of fighting.
Issat Al-Masri, 18, stands for a portrait in his bedroom in Beit Hanoun, May 26, 2021.
Israel blames the destruction on Hamas, claiming it made "every effort to avoid civilian casualties," though reality shows different results. Hamas says it is fighting a decadesold military occupation, using the only weapons it has against a far superior military power. It says 80 Hamas members were among those killed.
Mohammad Ismail, 4, sits in what is left of his bedroom in Maghazi, Gaza Strip, Palestine, May 27, 2021.
Mahmoud Al-Masri, 14, shared his room with six brothers. At 3 a.m., his family scrambled out of the building after the Israeli military warned them to evacuate. He didn't think he would make it. The next morning, he was hesitant to return.
“I was afraid that after we returned we would be killed by a drone in another attack," he said.
Mahmoud Al-Masri, 14, stands in his bedroom lacking a wall that was destroyed by an airstrike, in Beit Hanoun, Gaza Strip, Palestine, May 26, 2021.