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Gaza: Woman plays oud for displaced children to block out sound of war

A displaced Palestinian woman, Roya Hassouna, plays the oud for children at a camp in Rafah, creating a musical circle in a bid to support their mental health   -  
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RAUL ARBOLEDA/AFP or licensors


In the bombed Gaza Strip, a musical break in the middle of the war.

Around Rouaa Hassouna and its oud, displaced children sing and mask the din of drones and the war in the Gaza Strip. A way like any other to have fun and soothe anxieties.

Children represent half of the 1.9 million people displaced since the start of the war in the besieged Palestinian territory, according to the UN.

They have been forced to abandon their daily lives and live under the bombardments of the Israeli army since the bloody attack by Hamas on October 7 on Israeli soil which left around 1,140 dead, according to an AFP count at based on the latest official figures.

This war between Israel and the Palestinian Islamist movement has considerably affected children, underlines musician Rouaa Hassouna.

This 23-year-old young woman, along with others, offers activities to children in makeshift camps in the southern city of Rafah (south), where a large part of the 2.4 million inhabitants of the country are crowded together in precarious conditions. Palestinian territory.

“We are trying by any means to remove children from the war,” she explains. “The aim of blackmailing them is to alleviate their stress” and the psychological distress in which they find themselves after more than two months of hostilities.

When Rouaa Hassouna intones the first notes of music, the children around her "no longer hear the buzzing of the +zanana+ (Arabic word for drone). They ignore the +zanana+ to listen to the sound emanating from the oud and sing with the oud", the oriental lute.

On the faces of the children with marked features, a few smiles emerge, then shy sounds and clapping of hands. Carried away by the music and the warm atmosphere, a boy even starts dancing among the crowd.

- "Living my childhood" -

The musical interlude lasts three hours and every day, Rouaa Hassouna goes to the displaced camps to involve a new group of children in the activities.

A UNICEF spokesperson on Tuesday described the Gaza Strip as the "most dangerous place in the world" for a child.

After spending two weeks there, James Elder spoke of the fate of children hospitalized after having been amputated and who were then "killed in these hospitals" by the bombings and siege of the Israeli army.

The war declared by Israel on Hamas in Gaza has left more than 19,667 dead, the majority of them women, children and adolescents, according to the latest report from the Palestinian movement's Ministry of Health.

Around fifteen people take turns in the camp for displaced people in Rafah, a town on the border with Egypt, to offer dance shows, acrobatics or story readings.

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