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Gaza circus performers put smile on faces of Palestinian children

The Gaza Free Circus Center performing for Palestinian children   -  
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Gaza attack

Members of a circus performing group have been looking to bring a temporary smile to the faces of displaced children in the conflict-ridden Gaza Strip, helping them to briefly escape the horrors of war as they visit shelters to offer some light relief.

Palestinian children are enduring harsh conditions following months of bombing and destruction that have haunted them as they have been forced to move from one displacement camp to another since the outbreak of the Israel-Hamas war last October.

However, in amongst this devastation, performers from the Gaza Free Circus Center are offering some colorful entertainment and acrobatic performances as they tour shelter centers in central and southern Gaza with the mission of healing their hearts.

According to the troupe's founder Mohammed Khader, easing children's psychological suffering is one of the most important goals.

"Through the events and activities we offer in light of the situation in the Gaza Strip, we aim to alleviate children and treat post-traumatic stress disorder, and to get them out of the current atmosphere, and give them some joy and put a smile on their faces, even if it is small, in light of the pain, bombing and destruction that we are currently living through. We try to introduce a more joyous atmosphere to them through these activities," he said.

Dozens of Palestinian children gather to watch, even if only for a short time, to get away from the tragic reality they have been living in since the beginning of the war.

One of the displaced children said his family has been forced to move at least four times, and that he now spends most of his time inside a tent. However, heading out to watch these performances offers a welcome reprieve.

"We were sitting in the tent and heard songs. We came and found there were games and clowns. I brought my siblings too and we had a great time. We hope that these events will be repeated after the negative events we went through during the war," he said.

One of the friendly clown performers paints his face, wears a brightly-colored costume and spreads a little joy with his acrobatic movements. He says the group is trying to doing what they can to help reduce the mental anguish endured by the children.

"Through this activity, we aim to convey an image of peace to children, and to relieve them of the pressures they experienced during their displacement in the Gaza Strip. We aim to make children forget the forms of destruction and blood spilled in the Gaza Strip through these fun games," said the performer.

The Gaza Free Circus Center was established back in 2018 and previously put on weekly performances while training some 250 Palestinian children in the art of circus skills.

However, following the outbreak of the war, many of its employees were displaced from their homes in northern Gaza last November and subsequently moved to the southern city of Rafah which is now itself under threat of bombardment.

Now, the circus troupe is continuing its core aim to make children happy and weave threads of hope, love and joy even under the most difficult circumstances.