Head of UN inquiry accuses Israel military of ‘extermination’

The disfiguring facial burns of 10-year-old Hanan Akel show how Israel’s military campaign in Gaza is not only causing thousands of deaths but terrible injuries afflicting both old and young.

Hanan lay in a hospital cot in Deir Al-Balah in central Gaza Strip, struggling to move her mouth as she spoke and with her eyes partly shut, patches of her forehead still raw and stitched scars across her nose and lips.

When her mother Walaa Akel tried to clean her, she wailed.

Hanan was out walking in Al-Bureij refugee camp where the family had taken shelter after leaving their home when she was caught in Israeli shellfire, her mother Walaa said.

Instead of spending the Eid Al-Adha festival playing with friends, she has spent it in the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Hospital being treated for second and third degree burns on her face and limbs.

“I used to go with my friends. Play, buy things, eat and celebrate Eid. We were happy. We used to play on the swings and we used to wear our Eid clothes. We used to wear nice new shoes,” she said.

Now she hopes for treatment and for her face to heal.

“I want to go back to what I was like before,” she said.

Since Israel expanded its offensive last month to include the southern city of Rafah, where the border post to Egypt is located, the frontier has been closed and Gaza residents have been unable to go abroad for medical help.

Doctor Mahmoud Mahani, the plastic surgeon treating Hanan at the hospital, said she needs urgent treatment somewhere with more advanced equipment.

Walaa Akel said her daughter used to be “as beautiful as the moon”. Now, Hanan often wants to look at videos and pictures of what her face was like before.

“She says to me ‘mama, I wish I could walk. Mama, I wish I could stand. I wish I could play with my siblings’,” said Walaa.


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