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Across a border, lives upended by the war in Gaza

Written by on November 18, 2023

Ahmad Hasaballah/Getty Images

(TEL AVIV, Israel) — As the Israel-Hamas war continues with no end in sight, the lives of millions have been upended and their plans and dreams have been abruptly placed on hold.

At least 1,200 people were killed by Hamas in Israel in the Oct. 7 surprise terrorist attacks, with more than 230 believed to have been taken hostage into Gaza, according to Israeli officials. In the retaliatory campaign that followed, more than 12,000 in Gaza have been killed, including 5,000 children, according to the Hamas-run Gaza Ministry of Health.

ABC News has collected the accounts of two young people from both sides of the conflict, showing how the war has changed their daily lives and the hope that one day it will end.

‘Crushed’ by the war

Tala Abu Shab, a 17-year-old from Khan Younis, a city in the southern Gaza Strip, had her final year of school interrupted by the outbreak of war on Oct. 7.

“I’m supposed to graduate this year, but since the war, schools are mostly closed, and we never know when they’re going to open back,” she told ABC News. “I was planning on studying interior design abroad and try and help and tell the world about Palestinians. Now it feels like the war crushed it. Like it’s never going to happen.”

Tala said her daily life, as well as her future ambitions, have been completely upended.

“Before the war, after school, we’d usually hang out,” she said. “We would go out to a lot of the beautiful places that are now destroyed. We used to see people, like actually meet them. And now it feels like everyone’s a stranger around you. It feels like there’s like a piece missing. Like it’s not the people you used to be around. Everyone is scared of each other.”

Tala was staying at her grandparents’ house on Oct. 6 for a sleepover when she woke up to the news that changed her world forever.

“Then suddenly, the next day, we woke up and it was war,” she said. “We had to come back home with my family because it’s safer here in the south.”

One day later, she said, her grandparents’ home was destroyed by an IDF strike.

“It held a lot of memories,” she said. “Well, it got bombed.”

‘Life has changed’

Shahar, 30, was called up as a reservist and now serves in Brigade 261 of the Israel Defense Force. He was, like so many, affected personally by the Oct. 7 attacks.

“Life has changed in a way that I don’t think is going to be the same,” Shahar, who also asked not be fully identified, told ABC News. “I have lost a very close friend, Daniel, who was organizing my wedding. He was murdered in the massacre, he was going to dance at a peace festival and never came back.”

Shahar’s loss helps motivate his sense of duty, he said.

“Every time we go in there [to Gaza], I feel like I’m literally protecting my fiance, my family, my friends,” he said. “One of the reasons I fight is to make sure that our wedding list won’t get any shorter.”

Shahar compared the current tragedy to another tragedy his family suffered.

“I’m a grandson of Holocaust survivors, and they kept promising that they’re building Israel to make sure it never again and it never felt so close to being again,” he said. “So now ‘never again’ is now. And this is something that we keep in our heads every time we go in.”

As the war intensifies, he said he hopes that someday life will return to normal.

“I’m heartbroken for every civilian that lost their lives on both ends,” Shahar said. “We don’t want revenge. I want to get back to my life, to my fiance. I want to marry her, to have kids. I want to start my own company someday. I don’t want to be in Gaza.”

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