Wales

Lending a hand as hard, difficult winter heads for Gaza

Children play among the rubble of war-torn Gaza

For the people of Israel and Gaza it was a summer of explosions. Fifty long, fearful days.

More than 2,100 Palestinians and around 73 Israelis died during the conflict.

Four months on we made the two-and-a-half thousand mile journey to Gaza City to visit some of the humanitarian projects there funded from Wales.

All around there were buildings battered by air strikes and tank fire, whole streets destroyed as Israeli troops fought militants and targeted their tunnels.

In Shejaiya, one of the districts worst affected, the damage has meant mobile healthcare facilities are in high demand.

In the back of a white van parked on a side street we met a dentist treating a young boy. The mobile dental clinic has treated over 4,000 patients this year, funded by the Church in Wales.

Image caption A patient is treated in the mobile dental clinic funded by the Church in Wales

Inside there were Welsh flags and the van also has a "Cymru" sticker on its windscreen.

Gaza holds a special interest for the current Archbishop of Wales, Dr Barry Morgan, who has visited in the past: "A mobile dental clinic may seem like a very small thing to support in a place where there has been so much destruction and there are so many urgent needs," he said.

"But it is one way in which we can offer support, hope and simple humanitarian care."

Image caption Dentists make use of of the mobile clinic to treat people in Gaza City

More than half of Gaza's population are children and young people, and the events of the summer have left their mark.

We visited two centres in the southern town of Khan Younis, which help children deal with what they have seen through music, drama and art, as well as providing free education programmes.

Run by a Palestinian institution called the Culture and Free Thought Association (CFTA), it has been supported by money raised by Christian Aid in Wales.

'Horrible experiences'

Here we met Lama, a 15-year-old girl with a talent for drawing. She had attended classes and had been given materials to help develop her work at the CFTA's centres.

"During the summer I had many horrible experiences," she told us. "My uncle died, my mother was injured and our house was targeted whilst I was inside. It was so frightening."

"But I release all these negative feelings through pencils and paper."

Branwen Niclas, of Christian Aid Wales, who was also visiting the region, told us more about how the charity's working with other projects in Gaza.

"We had an amazing response from the people of Wales after the emergency appeal for Gaza was launched. We work through partners on the ground trying to support people's livelihoods, help with medical care, as well as projects that focus on young people and education."

"Gaza is the same size as the Llyn Peninsula," she said, "but 1.8m people live there, many in dire circumstances."

Image caption Rebuilding work takes place in Shejaiya district, Gaza City

Israel says it too paid a heavy price during this summer's conflict.

We travelled to the town of Sderot on the Gaza border. People there were on the frontline as some 4,500 rockets were fired by militants into Israel.

It is a place where even children's playgrounds have bomb shelters.

'Frightening living here'

We met eight-year-old Idit and six-year-old Eitan, who were very familiar with having to run for cover when a siren blares.

"It can be very frightening living here," their father, Israel, told us.

"It's been quiet since the summer and we hope and pray that that will continue."

Image caption Idit, Eitan and their father, Israel, in a park in Sderot. Behind them is a concrete bomb shelter

But though the ceasefire between Israel and Hamas has held since the summer, it is a fragile peace - with simmering tensions on both sides.

Here there are fears a new generation is being swept up by the long war between Israelis and Palestinians.

In Jerusalem we met Sarah and Malka, sisters in their 20s from Cardiff who moved to Israel after finishing school to study Judaism and work in the city.

"It's been a worrying time," Sarah said. "It seems like the summer was so long ago because so much has happened since, with attacks in train stops and even in a synagogue. It feels like nowhere is safe."

"I stopped using the train for a while," Malka added, "but you can't do that for so long - you have to live your life."

Since the summer Israelis and Palestinians are as far apart as ever.

With Gaza still in ruins and elections on the horizon in Israel, there are fears simmering tensions could escalate into something more.

Meanwhile the humanitarian work to help those affected by the latest fighting goes on in a region facing an uncertain future.

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