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GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip — A grieving father has recounted to NBC News how his five-month-old son froze to death after the family's Gaza home was bombed by Israel. Sami Abu Khesi is among the Palestinians who have yet to rebuild in the wake of last summer's conflict which left more than 2,100 people dead.
His son, Wadie, was born in Gaza's Nasser Hospital as fighting raged between Hamas militants and Israeli forces on August 15. After the cease-fire, Wadie was brought home. But amid the worst winter weather in years, Wadie was found dead on January 15. "His mother was nudging but there was no life," Khesi said in what remains of his home in Gaza City's Shijaiyah neighborhood, some walls nothing more than scrap metal and nylon sheets. "So I looked at the boy and he was frozen. She woke me up and I found that he was frozen."
The Gaza Ministry of Health has not issued an official cause of death, but the family believes it was hypothermia. Relatives say he had previously been in good health. The ministry has confirmed four children have died as a result of hypothermia this winter.
According to the United Nations, more than 18,000 homes were destroyed or severely damaged by the summer conflict in densely populated 139-mile-square Gaza. More than 100,000 people were left homeless, the U.N. said, and countless more continue to live without heating or running water. This year's harsh winter has forced many to survive by building campfires inside the exposed shells that once were their homes.
"We have never seen a winter like this," said Khesi, whose two other daughters, Jannat and Suna, remain bundled up in heavy clothes even when inside. "It has been cold in the past, but at least we could put them in homes to protect them. Now, there is nothing to put them in. All we have is nylon."
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