Gaza ‘Nippers’ among thousands of children killed in Israel’s genocide

June 4, 2024
Gaza Nippers enjoying the program in Gaza last year. Several have been killed by Israel. Photo: Gaza Nippers Project

Years of persistent work went into a unique people-to-people Australia-Palestine solidarity project.

Adapting the classic Australian children beach safety program to the beaches of Gaza, the Gaza Nippers project was officially launched in July last year.

But since Israel’s brutal attack on Gaza, several of the 100 children who took part in its first season have been killed, along with some of the adults running the program.

The Gaza Nippers project was first developed in 2016. The key partners were the Northern Beaches Committee for Palestine, the Coalition for Justice and Peace in Palestine and North Steyne Surf Lifesavers Club, the second-oldest surf lifesaving club in Australia.

Shamikh Badra, program coordinator, told Green Left that the objective was to “give hope to the people of Gaza” and “to let them know that they were not alone after 17 years of Israel’s blockade”.

“We wanted to give the children opportunities to spend happy times on the beaches through an experience of the Australian Nippers program.”

It was not until 2019 that training got underway, with Palestinians Mohamed Saleh and Hasan Alhabil coming to Gadigal Country/Sydney from Gaza to train with the North Steyne Lifesavers Club.

It took two years just to get them visas to Australia.

Just after they returned to Gaza, the COVID-19 pandemic hit. Due to Israeli attacks on Gaza, it was not until 2022 that a Gaza Nippers pilot project began.

The Gaza Nippers had their official launch and first season in July-August last year.

The project had to “overcome many challenges” to even get underway, but everyone was very happy when it was finally launched, Badra said. Then, in October, the latest and most serious genocidal attack by Israel began.

“Many thousands of children have been killed in this genocide and among them some of the children who took part in the Gaza Nippers," Badra said. “Hundreds are still buried beneath the rubble.

“We heard that eight children have been killed. But we are now announcing the names of the four children whose deaths in the genocide can be definitely confirmed.”

The four children are Mohamed Mdukh, Omar Mdukh, Maha Al Barae’e and her brother Zuhair, who wanted to visit Australia to see the North Steyne Nippers program at Manly Beach.

“Some of the adults supporting the project and members of our team have also been killed,” Badra said, including his father Khalil Badra.

“My father was a very strong supporter of the project,” Badra said. “He went down to the beach every week when the Nippers had their first season. He had worked for 43 years as a school teacher in a United Nations school.” Badra last saw his parents 10 years ago.

“My father was a survivor of the Nakba in 1948 ... He was born in the Nakba and killed in the genocide.”

After the genocide began, the Israeli military bulldozed the home his father built in Gaza. “Sick and deprived of medicines, decent food, electricity and running water, my father took his last breath there on December 27.”

Badra had begged his parents to come to Australia, even for a short visit, but his father told him: “They came from Europe and invaded us and bulldozed our house. This is my home; I built it. Why should I leave?”

His elderly mother remains in their seriously damaged home during the day, with kindly neighbours allowing her to spend the nights with them.

Badra’s brother Iyad and his family were looking after his parents but now they are missing, presumed killed and buried under rubble, along with many others.

It was too dangerous to bury his father in the cemetery; he is buried in their backyard.

Badra shared photos of three other adults in the project team who have been killed: Project manager Safa’a Abu Saif; ambulance officer Hatem Awad; and photographer Mustafa Thrayya.

“We are asking ourselves, what should we do next? We succeeded in evacuating Mohamed [Saleh] and his family, but it is very hard to even send help to our own families in Gaza.”

Badra and the Gaza Nippers project team are determined to rebuild the project after a permanent ceasefire.

Meanwhile, he wants the stories of the killed Gaza Nippers to be shared “with ordinary people who are perhaps not much interested in politics”.

“These stories refute the Israeli claims that they are just fighting Hamas. They are killing children and they are killing civilians. This is the truth.”


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