The children of Gaza have little to eat, have had to flee their homes and have survived nearly six months of terrifying Israeli bombardment.
But for a few precious minutes children in the Nuseirat refugee camp in the centre of the Gaza Strip laughed and yelped with joy.
Clowns and acrobats performed for them in the courtyard of a school where their displaced families have been sheltering the bombing.
The unrelenting war has taken a terrible toll on Gaza’s children. Most of the more than 32,782 people killed in the besieged territory since the October first week storming of Israel by Hamas fighters have been women and children.
But for once they could forget all that horror as performers in rabbit costumes led them in a conga, pushing one injured boy in a wheelchair.
Then it was then the turn of clown Omar al-Saidi to tickle their funny bones with zany antics at the expense of another jester.
Wassim Lobed, whose support group organised the show and who acted as compere, said: “Traumas are beginning to appear on children so we are trying to provide psychological relief.
“We hope to God that this war will end for the sake of our children in Gaza,” he added.
So deep is the mental suffering of Gaza’s children that some hope to die quickly to escape the “nightmare”, a spokesman for the UN child welfare agency said on Tuesday.
“The unspeakable is regularly said in Gaza” now, said Unicef spokesman James Elder, who is in the territory. After meeting young people, he said several teenagers said they were “so desperate for this nightmare to end that they hoped to be killed”.
But Saidi, whose clown name is Uncle Zaatar, said he hoped the show had lifted some of that “burden” from the children’s shoulders.
As the children clapped and cheered at the end, he said he hoped the “smile will remain on their faces forever”.
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