The devastating psychological effects of war in the Middle East’s Hamas-controlled Gaza region pose huge challenges to peace and an even greater security risk in the future to everyone involved there. Post-traumatic stress disorder in Gazan youth in particular, acts as a catalyst for violence and poses a huge risk, not only for Gazans but also Israelis and Egyptians who are similarly concerned with the peace process in the region.
Several studies, including a joint 2009 Israeli-Palestinian study revealed that inhabitants of the Gaza Strip, which has been governed since 2007 by the Islamic militant group Hamas, suffer more greatly from PTSD than either Israelis or West Bank Palestinians, according to an article published in the New York Magazine. “Gazans have dealt with more direct violence than anyone else since 2008,” writes NYMag.
These PTSD is the direct result of suffering caused by suicide bombings, late-night house raids and the sounds of guns going off, among other frequent incidences. There are also and increasingly PTSD concerns in Israel for Israeli children due to air raid sirens and the onslaught of Gaza-fired rockets into Israel.
Akihiro Seita, the director of health for United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East, revealed to NYMag that Gazan children with untreated PTSD suffer from a variety of ailments which include “higher risks of developing attention deficit disorder (e.g., anxious state, hyperactivity, attention problems, phobias and impulsivity), violence, adopting extreme ideas, low school performance, addiction, criminal conduct, and other antisocial behavior and ideas.”
These feelings of fear and remorse brought on as a result of the untreated PTSD in Gazan youth places a tremendous damper on the peace process potentially inciting greater hatred and violence towards nations such as Israel and Egypt who are attempting to achieve peace there. The NYMag notes that 63.8 percent of Gazans are age 24 years or younger.
An earlier study, conducted in 2004 validates the onslaught of a PTSD catastrophe which is gripping Gaza’s youth population. NYMag notes that “The study found that 32.7 percent of Gazan children between 10 and 19 exhibited signs of severe post-traumatic stress disorder, while 49.2 percent showed signs of moderate PTSD. A full 83.2 percent of all the children sampled had witnessed shooting, while 66.9 percent had seen injured or dead victims of the violence — and that was several rounds of violence ago.”
The PTSD, if untreated, only worsens over the years. Unfortunately, Gazan youth who require adequate treatment for PTSD, including access to better medical facilities such as those in Israel and Egypt, are not able to access them due to the violent nature of their Hamas leadership, which is directly contributing to the PTSD catastrophe in the Gaza Strip.
Hamas has stated explicitly that an onslaught of newly-built tunnels extending from Gaza and into Israeli territory were created expressly for launching attacks on Israel. Hamas has made it clear that these tunnels are just one of the “surprises” it has in store for Israelis, according to an article published recently in the National Geographic.
The NatGeo writes that news reports have discerned that the “new network of Hamas-built tunnels into Israel was created expressly for launching attacks.” This has causally resulted in less access for Gazans into either region due to mounting security concerns.
“All of these problems, of course, are compounded in a society that’s isolated from the rest of the world and run by a radical group that has, in the past, been known to recruit young men to blow themselves up in crowded markets,” writes NYMag.
Israel and Gaza have been engaged in 16 days of fighting so far where Hamas has violated several cease-fires. Even when the current conflict which has been gripping the region comes to an end, the youthful civilian population there will be paralyzed by the unknown fear of when the next streak of violence will occur NYMag notes.
The brewing symptoms resulting from the PTSD, such as “violence” and “adopting extreme ideas” will lead to the “compromise [of] the future of the economic, social and cultural development of the whole nation,” said the United Nation’s Seita.