When Mazen Al-Dalo took two of his young sons to see the Palestinian protests against Israel’s decade-old blockade of Gaza, he knew it could be dangerous. Rock-throwing demonstrators were being shot by Israeli soldiers, and armored Israeli jeeps were firing endless volleys of tear gas into the crowds. But it was important to teach the boys about Palestinian history, he said, and give them a glimpse of the modern-day struggles their people face. “Seeing things with your own eyes is different than reading about them in books,” the 44-year-old father said, explaining his decision to take the children, aged 8 and 11, one day last April. The family only ventured about 400 meters (yards) from the border — a spot Al-Dalo believed was safe, away from the violent confrontations. But just as he pointed to a group of Israeli soldiers atop a berm on the other side of the Israeli fence, a single gunshot rang out. The round ripped off Al-Dalo’s thumb and struck his 8-year-old son, Mohamed, in the leg — two more casualties in a simmering conflict that began last spring and has seen a staggering 948 Palestinians under the age of 18 shot and wounded by Israeli forces, according to the United Nations. In a statement, Israel’s military said it does “everything possible to avoid harming children.” But Hamas, the militant group that rules Gaza, “cynically uses Gaza residents, especially women and children, as human shields and places them at the forefront of the violent riots.” Hamas, which has orchestrated the demonstrations, denies such allegations. Hazem Qassem, a Hamas spokesman in Gaza, said “there is no way to prevent the people from participating. There are entire families (who go) and there is no way to prevent them.” Ever since the demonstrations began in March, children have been a constant presence among the surging crowds — some hurling stones with slingshots or burning tires, others merely watching from afar. While many are brought by parents who hold their hands and carry them on their shoulders, others make their way on their own. Published in Daily Times, December 10th 2018.