He lost his whole family, then he lost his legs: One child's experience of the war in Gaza

ITV News Correspondent Rachel Younger, Producer Aisha Kherallah and Cameraman Jake Langtree travelled with three-year-old Ahmad from Egypt to Italy, as his uncle shared with them his nephew's tragic experience of the war in Gaza

Three-year-old Ahmad Shabbat has never been on a plane.

He only knows the frightening roar of Israeli F16 jets which have been relentlessly bombing his homeland.

Over the past seven months airstrikes on Gaza have killed Ahmad’s mum and dad and his big brother Mohammed. His legs are gone too, amputated back in November.

Undaunted, he speeds around Cairo airport, handling his electric wheelchair like a dodgem.

Having made it across the border to Egypt, Ahmad is heading to Italy for medical treatment on the first private rescue flight to Europe, run by British charity Save a Child.

Getting him out of Gaza has involved hours of work by the international team of women at Gaza Kinder Relief. They’ve lobbied embassies, governments and consulates to get Ahmad his passport, permits and papers.

ITV News is travelling with him and over the next few hours, his uncle shares Ahmad’s story. It soon becomes clear that it is also the story of this war, from the very first night it hit Gaza.

  • This is Ahmad's story

Ahmad, 3, pictured before the war in Gaza, before he had his legs amputated. Credit: ITV News/Supplied

In the northeastern town of Beit Hanoun, Ahmad, known for his cheeky smile, is starting to get excited about his first day at nursery.

He is looking forward to joining his big brother Mohammed on the daily walk to school.

As news of Hamas’ assault on Israel begins to emerge, the Shabbat family, like everyone else in Gaza, brace for Israel’s response.

With no bomb shelter, we don’t know if they are asleep when their home is one of the first to be hit in the early hours of October 8.

Ahmad's family home was destroyed by an Israeli airstrike on October 8. Credit: Supplied

What we do know is that, despite the desperate attempts of the emergency services - which are still fully functioning on that first night - Ahmad's mother, father and brother are gone.

Ahmad’s beloved grandparents are also killed.

There is no one left to explain to Ahmad what is happening as he is taken to the Indonesian hospital, in the Gaza strip, to be treated for his injuries, which are miraculously only minor.

The bodies of Ahmad's family members are carried through the streets during their funerals. Credit: Supplied

On the streets outside, the funerals of his family quickly take place as the bodies of his parents are carried through the streets.

Ahmad calls repeatedly for his mum, Diana, as the Israeli bombardment intensifies.

By October 10, Beit Hanoun, the only place Ahmed has ever called home, is unrecognisable.

The Israel Defence Forces (IDF) drop leaflets from the sky, warning those left to move to safer areas.

Nuseirat, a small town 16 kilometres south, is one of the areas listed. So, now in the care of two of his uncles, Ibrahim and Salah, the toddler is taken there in a bid to seek safety.

Once in Nuseirat, they take refuge in a UN-run school which has become home to hundreds of displaced Gazans.

When he cries out at night it is his youngest uncle, Saleh, who comforts him. The pair become inseparable.

Saleh is aged 26 and has just got engaged to be married. He is set to become Ahmad's guardian and primary carer.

On November 13, the pair walk to the market to try to buy food. It’s the last time Ahmad walks anywhere.

The stalls are hit by an Israeli missile which blows off the three-year-old's legs.

His uncle Saleh cannot keep the promise he’s made to raise Ahmad as his own because he doesn’t survive the blast.

At Gaza's Al Aqsa hospital, surgeons exhausted by five weeks of treating the wounded manage to save Ahmad’s life.

They have no choice but to amputate his legs at the thigh before he’s moved to a bed in a hospital corridor.

Ahmad in hospital being comforted by his uncle. Credit: Supplied

It is impossible to comfort the little boy who has lost everyone he loves and is in unimaginable pain.

But his uncle Ibrahim tries, stroking his nephew’s hair as he cries out in pain.

It takes almost two weeks to get Ahmad out of Gaza - doctors say if he stays he has little chance of surviving.

Ibrahim has to make the agonising decision to leave his wife and one-and-a-half year old daughter behind to get his nephew out.

Only after a direct plea to Egypt’s president are the pair allowed to cross and head for a hospital that can help them in Cairo.

Ahmad and his uncle on the flight from Egypt to Italy. Credit: ITV News

Somehow, thanks to the love and care of his uncle and the doctors and nurses who tend to his injuries, Ahmad starts smiling again.

He loves to race around the hospital corridors, using a joystick to navigate his new electric wheelchair, speeding down hospital corridors.

Ahmad needs prosthetic legs and Italy has offered to take him in and provide him with medical care, after the UK Home Office refused him entry.

For a boy who’s brushed so close to death, Ahmad is bursting with life and mischief. But he still asks for his mum and sometimes screams at his uncle that he wants his old legs back.

Ibrahim always calms him with cuddles, whispering “It’ll be alright, habibti".

Ahmad loves to race around using navigate his new electric wheelchair. Credit: ITV News

The years ahead will be full of painful surgeries and Ahmad will have to face them without the parents he loved so much by his side.

Given all that he’s lost it’s impossible to describe him as lucky.

But he is at least safe now, unlike so many children like him, still trapped in Gaza and struggling to survive.

Save a Child is responding to the humanitarian crisis in Gaza by arranging medical evacuations for up to 100 sick and injured children from the region. For more information about the charity, visit: www.saveachild.uk

Another charity, Kinder Relief Foundation, also helps facilitate evacuations out of Gaza.

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