As the war rages on in the Middle East, four World Vision sponsored children have been killed in Gaza due to Israeli airstrikes and violence.
Because of the magnitude of the violence, Christian organization World Vision has temporarily suspended its operations in the region, which included work at Jabalia Elementary Girls School. The school, which had been transformed into a U.N. shelter, was bombed yesterday in an attack which killed 16 people and injured 30. The organization's staff had led "psychosocial programming for children who'd been affected by the violence and displaced from their homes" at the school prior to the bombing.
According to the Associated Press, World Vision, which is a nonprofit organization, notified all of their sponsors prior to sharing information about the slain children.
Mohammed Zeyad Al-Rahel died on July 19 after an Israeli tank shell hit his room July 19, a Saturday morning. In the attack, Al-Rahel's uncle and another sponsored child were also killed. The child's father, mother, brother, sister, uncle and grandmother were "critically injured and are still hospitalized."
Palestinian boy, Saher, 5, was also killed in the attacks.
"His mom expressed her devastation noting how she was looking forward to him starting school in August. Her dream was for her son to grow up and become a doctor. Unfortunately, he didn't live to fulfil her dreams, or his," stated World Vision.
Saher, 5, was a "handsome young boy" and participated regularly in World Vision activities before his death, including one event where children flew kites to promote peace and hope for a brighter future amidst rising tensions."
Mustafa Siyam, 9, was killed on July 31, along with eight other family members as they tried to evacuate their home.
"Among the victims were his 32-year-old mother, his 8-year-old sister and his 8-month-old baby sister," stated World Vision.
Mustafa's grandfather expressed grief at his family's deaths.
"What is the fault of my family? What did these children and women do to the Israeli Government? I am very sad to lose my family, it is an unbelievable feeling," he told World Vision.
Since early July, thousands of civilians have died as in the conflict between Israeli forces and Islamic militant group Hamas. Israel has accused Hamas of disregarding Palestinian civilians by using schools, mosques and hospitals to store weapons and from which to launch rockets at Israel.
"The many mosques in the Gaza Strip serve not only religious functions, but are also put to military use by Hamas and other terrorist organizations," the Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center said according to the Washington Post. "They are used to hide terrorist operatives, store weapons, as sites from which rockets and mortar shells are launched."
In addition, accusations have surfaced by Israeli leaders that Hamas has used Palestinian children as human shields to carry out their acts of violence and deter any targeted attacks by Israeli forces.
As the two groups continue to battle, Dr. Mae Elise Cannon, World Vision's senior director of Advocacy, called for an end to the fighting on behalf of the children.
"Children are precious in the eyes of God. Our government and political leaders engaged in this conflict must do everything within their power to protect the lives of innocent children who are literally being caught in the crossfire and continue to suffer the devastating consequences of the increasing humanitarian disaster in Gaza," she said in a statement.