Israel-Palestine: The girl who showed the world the suffering of Gaza's children
The video of 10-year-old Palestinian Nadine Abdullatif, tearful and devastated as she stands in front of the newly obliterated remains of her neighbour's home, has now been viewed more than 13 million times.
"You see all of this?" she asks, eyes red, gesturing at the rubble behind her. "What do you expect me to do? Fix it? I'm only 10."
Her voice breaks with emotion. "I just want to be a doctor or anything to help my people, but I can't. I'm just a kid."
The internet carried images of the recent spate of violence around the world over the past two weeks, as Israel once again dropped bombs on Gaza, a small stretch of land that is home to more than two million people - 40 percent of whom are under 14.
Yet despite Israel's best efforts and heavy-handed moderation - if not outright censorship - of pro-Palestinian posts by several social media platforms, it seems to have lost the battle for control of the narrative in large parts of the online space.
The reaction to the video of Nadine is just one example.
"When they bombed the house next to us, I heard the sound and it was very loud because they are very close to us, and I was very scared," Nadine told Middle East Eye in a phone call.
"My younger brother, who is six years old, was terrified. I hid the fear inside of me so that my brother doesn't get too scared. I always try to hide my fear because I try to take care of my brother. I want him to feel safe.
"When the shelling takes place I hold him tight. I stay by his side and sleep beside him. I keep him away from the windows because he will start crying."
Since last Monday, Israeli bombs have killed 243 Palestinians living in the enclave, including 66 children.
Eleven had been receiving trauma counselling from the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC). Aged between five and 15, they were all killed while sheltering inside their homes.
Among the children was 15-year-old Lina Iyad Shar, who was killed with both of her parents on 11 May in Gaza's al-Manara neighbourhood.
NRC said that Shar's two-year-old sister, Mina, sustained third-degree burns and remains in a critical condition.
The same attack also killed four-year-old Zaid Mohammad Telbani and his mother, Rima, who was five months pregnant. Zaid's sister remains missing and is presumed dead.
"They are now gone, killed with their families, buried with their dreams and the nightmares that haunted them. We call on Israel to stop this madness: children must be protected," said the NRC's secretary-general, Jan Egeland.
Days later, five members of the Eskuntuna family were killed by Israeli bombs. Riad Eshkuntana, 46, spent seven hours trapped under the debris of his home, hearing the voices of his wife and children grow fainter, before being rescued with his four-year-old daughter, Suzi.
His wife, Abir, 30, and their four other children, Dana, nine, Lana six, Yahya, five, and two-year-old Zayn, were all killed.
'They're just kids'
"You see all of the kids around me?" Nadine asks in the viral video, as three boys, solemn-faced and silent as they watch her speak, come into shot. "Why would you just send a missile to them and kill them? It's not fair."
For many of Gaza's children, this was not their first experience of life under Israeli bombs.
Hundreds have been killed in similar offensives in recent years: 333 children in 2008-09 and 551 in 2014.
And the psychological consequences of the years of conflict and loss on those who have survived, many of whom have only known life under siege, are unfathomable. Especially as the blockade by Israel and Egypt, in place since 2007, means they are largely unable to leave.
Almost 90 percent of 11- to 17-year-olds in Gaza have experienced personal trauma and seen property demolitions, according to a 2020 study, while more than 80 percent have witnessed trauma to others. These are the three biggest contributors to post-traumatic stress disorder, the study adds.
According to Islamic Relief, roughly 38 percent of young people in Gaza have considered suicide, and mental health services were too few and underfunded even before the latest offensive, which saw 24 health facilities attacked, according to the Palestinian Ministry of Health.
"We never saw this intensity in attacks in previous wars," Mohamed Abdullatif, Nadine's 26-year-old brother, told MEE. She has five siblings.
"Although the shelling around us was strong, and they were threatening a house close to us, we did not leave. We will stay here because there is no place for us to go."
Like countless children, Nadine, who learned English from cartoons and computer games, publishes videos online about her daily life.
Some videos on her Instagram page feel typical: in one, she quizzes her little brother on how well he knows her ("what's my favourite ice cream flavour?"), in another, she films two stray dogs on the beach and screams as one runs towards her.
"Then," said her brother Mohamed, "she started vlogging about the war, and the suffering she and my little brother endured."
She went out to film the morning after their neighbour's house was bombed, Mohamed added, (which was when she spoke to MEE reporter Sanad Latefa). "But even though she tried to hide her fear, she was afraid. Frankly speaking, even adults are afraid when the shelling starts."
Nadine told MEE she hopes her videos will "show the world the suffering that my people and my country are facing".
"I want to keep informing the world about what's happening, about our usurped rights. I want to defend the children who can't defend themselves.
"We are ordinary people," she added. "I don't understand why they are carrying out these massacres against us and robbing us of our rights. They have robbed children of their right to learn, play, and live in safety."
This article is available in French on Middle East Eye French edition.