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8-month-old Laila al-Ghandour: Gaza’s youngest martyr

Laila died early Tuesday after being exposed to excessive Israeli teargas

Anadolu Agency

The hugs and kisses of her eight-month-old baby, Laila, are still fresh in her mother's memory.

But alas, the excessive teargas used by the Israeli army on Monday against unarmed demonstrators near the Gaza-Israel border fence made her daughter’s tender embraces a thing of the past.

At dawn Tuesday, the Palestinian Health Ministry pronounced Laila dead as the result of excessive exposure to teargas.

“The Israeli army deprived me of my life’s first joy,” Maryam al-Ghandour, Laila’s mother, told Anadolu Agency through her tears.

Laila, the grieving mother said, “had been a source of joy in the house; she would smile at anyone who paid attention to her”.

“Israel is fully responsible for Laila’s death, which was caused by Israeli teargas that is internationally banned,” she asserted.

Maryam had decided not to bring her daughter to Monday’s rally near the border fence, instead taking her to her mother’s home on the eastern outskirts of Gaza City.

Later, however, Laila’s uncle took his young niece to the demonstration, in which her grandmother had been participating.

Maryam’s mother, Hayam Omar, told Anadolu Agency that the Israeli army had used excessive teargas despite the widespread participation by children in the rally.

As the demonstrators were blanketed by teargas (some of which was dropped by Israeli drones from above), Hayam’s son, Ammar, carried Laila in his arms in an effort to protect her from the smoke and teargas.

“But he could not prevent her from inhaling it,” Hayam recalled. “Afterward, I returned to my home in Gaza City’s Sabra district, but Laila’s body had begun turning blue.”

“I rushed her to the hospital, but the doctor there told me she had died due to teargas inhalation,” the grandmother said, visibly shaken.

She went on to demand that the Israeli army be prosecuted for its crimes against peaceful protesters, including children.

On Monday, at least 62 Palestinian demonstrators were martyred and hundreds more injured by Israeli troops deployed along the Gaza-Israel fence.

Monday’s demonstration coincided with Israel’s 70th anniversary -- an event Palestinians refer to as “The Catastrophe” -- and the relocation of Washington’s Israel embassy to Jerusalem, which took place the same day.

Since the Gaza rallies began on Mar. 30, more than 100 Palestinian demonstrators have been martyred by Israeli army gunfire.

On Wednesday, the Geneva-based Euro-Mediterranean Observatory for Human Rights stated that Israeli teargas was composed of substances that can “cause loss of consciousness and may lead to chronic inflammation of the lungs and nervous convulsions”.

*Ali Abo Rezeg contributed to this report from Ankara

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