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Months after Gaza ceasefire, psychological scars remain

By Isla Binnie

LONDON (AlertNet) - Civilians in Gaza still struggle to sleep, eat and go to school, two months after the week of rocket fire and air strikes that hit the Palestinian territory late last year, aid agencies and health workers say.

The number of people being treated for psychological trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder doubled after the conflict which killed 170 Palestinians and six Israelis in November, according to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA).

The most recent crisis in a dispute which has remained unresolved since the Islamist group Hamas took over the Gaza Strip in 2007, sowed lasting fear among children in particular, according to Unicef.

Three-year-old Mohammed Saleh has been clinging to his parents since the November bombardment, becoming catatonic at night if he hears any sounds, his father says.

"He's screaming, screaming, screaming and his body becomes as hard as wood," Mohammed's father said, in quotes provided to AlertNet by UNRWA.

"He's bedwetting, he covers his ears, he flinches whenever he hears a door bang, he cannot sleep for more than a full hour," said the boy's father, who lives in Jabalia in northern Gaza. "During the war he was very attached to me and his mother, now he's holding on to us constantly."

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