From The Guardian - The place where nine-year-old Najia Warshaga lives in Beit Lahia, Gaza, with her mother, Majdolen, and her five-year-old brother, Ali, was once the garage of a three-storey building. It is 50 metres square, there are a few mattresses on the ground for sitting and sleeping, and a few blankets for warmth piled in the corner.
Their own home was bombed. They stayed for a while with an uncle at his home. Now they live here.
The place has a little toilet which Majdolen, 31, cooks next to. The family’s laundry hangs on a rope warmed by the winter sun. It is a stark, cold and unhygienic place for which she has to pay 300 shekels a month (£50) despite having no income.
In August, her daughter, Najia, became a symbol of the Gaza conflict – a picture of an injured girl, her weeping face smeared with blood. The image was taken by the Associated Press photographer Khalil Hamra and was shared on social media around the world after it featured on the Guardian’s front page.
The family had fled their rented apartment in Beit Lahia to the shelter of a UN school in nearby Jabaliya, also in northern Gaza, then to a second school where the family had sought sanctuary.
Except it was not safe. Crowded with about 3,300 people, Najia and her family were sleeping in a classroom with seven other families when it was struck by a missile at 4.30am. Fifteen people were killed, and more than 100 were injured, including Najia, Majdolen and Ali.
These days Najia is a symbol of something else. In a coastal strip where – according to some estimates – 100,000 people still remain displaced, Najia and her family have become a metaphor for the limbo into which many Palestinians have been pushed by the Gaza war. Najia has become a representative of not only the war but an aftermath that has barely been ameliorated.
The nine-year-old seems a little less shy and withdrawn than last time the Guardian met her. Then she was almost catatonic, wrapping herself – her mother said then – in a blanket even in the August heat. Five months on she is more able to speak and smiles from time to time. But the trauma is still present.
“I am OK now, but I still dream of the days of the war,” Najia says, echoing what many other children caught up in the violent events of the summer also describe. Nine days after the attack she had recounted to the Guardian what happened. “I was in classroom number one, sleeping,” she said then. “There was a huge boom. My mother hugged us, then another missile landed. I was screaming and crying.” more