Get all your news in one place.
100’s of premium titles.
One app.
Start reading
Newcastle Herald
Newcastle Herald
Damon Cronshaw

Sorrow for children caught in war as horrifying humanitarian disaster unfolds

Mohamed and Safa Elosmany with their children Yousuf, 7, Omar, 3 and Hala, 9. They have Palestinian heritage and family in Gaza. Picture by Simone De Peak

A Newcastle family with Palestinian heritage has expressed anguish for their relatives in Gaza and sorrow for children caught in the conflict, as the horrifying humanitarian disaster unfolds in the Middle East.

Mohamed and Safa Elosmany, of Fletcher, have uncles, aunties and cousins in Gaza.

Mr Elosmany, a pharmacist, said it was hard to help his children - Hala, 9, Yousuf, 7, and Omar, 3 - understand why kids were being killed in the war.

"They ask me innocent questions like why Australia or the police can't stop it. Australia is the world for them," he said. "We try not to expose them too much to the pictures, but they hear the news and see us talking about extended family there."

Mr Elsomany said on Wednesday morning: "We just received a message last night that two families related to my wife have been completely wiped out".

"All family members were killed, including many kids."

Mr Elosmany said his wife's cousin Ahmed was killed in Gaza 10 days ago.

"He was shopping at the local market. We saw the videos of his parents and kids around his coffin grieving him. There aren't enough words to describe what we felt about it," he said.

Mr Elosmany struggled to sleep, often waking hourly to check messages from Gaza like "the bombing is too much tonight" and "we don't know if we can make it".

"Can you imagine living there with bombings day and night? Even if there's no bombing, they hear the drones and aircraft making scary noises," he said.

"They see dust through the windows and smell death around them. Can you imagine the psychological effects on the Palestinian kids if they are lucky enough to stay alive in Gaza?"

He noticed his own kids had been "having panic attacks and feeling insecure".

"They wanted to feel like they were part of a story to express their emotions and tell people what's happening. They feel a responsibility to do something and raise those questions about why kids are killed."

Mr Elosmany came to Australia as a skilled migrant from Egypt, where he was a Palestinian refugee. His wife is Palestinian/Jordanian. She previously lived in Jordan.

While his kids don't understand international law, they know enough to say that "a ceasefire must be called and a humanitarian corridor allowed into Gaza immediately".

"They're smart and sensitive kids," he said.

Mr Elosmany had tried to contact his uncle in Gaza, but couldn't reach him.

"After many unsuccessful attempts, I managed to speak to his wife who told me they had to split the family. I was shocked," he said. "It's very common for Palestinian families in Gaza to have six kids or more. And three generations often live in the same multi-storey houses, including grandparents."

Family connections there are strong.

"So when a house is destroyed, you're talking about the whole family being wiped out. This is happening," he said.

"So they split the family between many neighbourhood houses and use the local school for shelter. Many schools in Gaza are managed by the United Nations.

"At least if the house is bombed, part of the family might have a chance to survive." He was concerned, though, about the bombing of a hospital and church in Gaza.

And he felt deeply about the more than 2 million Palestinians in Gaza being "deprived of food, water, electricity and medicine".

Israel declared war and began its attacks on Gaza after Hamas killed more than 1400 Israeli people during an offensive on October 7.

Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has backed the US president's decision to call out Hamas for its barbaric attack on Israel.

"The actions of Hamas are against the interests of both the Israeli population, clearly, but also against the interest of Palestinians," he said.

He called for humanitarian aid to be allowed into Gaza and urged Israel to adhere to international laws in its response to the massacre.

Sign up to read this article
Read news from 100’s of titles, curated specifically for you.
Already a member? Sign in here
Related Stories
Top stories on inkl right now
Our Picks
Fourteen days free
Download the app
One app. One membership.
100+ trusted global sources.