From Dreams to Tragedy: The Heartbreaking Journey of Awni, Gaza’s Young Gamer Sensation

“In an emotional video posted back in August 2022, a spirited 12-year-old Palestinian boy named Awni proudly shared his dreams for his YouTube gaming channel. Holding a microphone and flashing a bright smile, he declared, ‘So now folks, let me introduce myself: I am a Palestinian from Gaza, aged 12 years old. The aim of this channel is to reach 100,000 subscribers, or 500,000, or one million.’

Little did anyone know that just over a year later, Awni would become one of the first Palestinian children to lose their life in the devastating war. Tragically, his family home in Gaza was hit during an Israeli strike on October 7, only hours after a Hamas attack in Israel.

Awni’s poignant video, now with millions of views, along with his silent gaming videos, has garnered a massive following, with nearly 1.5 million subscribers on his YouTube channel. To his family, he was a cheerful and helpful boy known as ‘engineer Awni’ for his love of computers. To the world, he has become a symbol of the profound loss suffered by children in the Gaza Strip.

The heartbreaking reality unfolds as Awni’s aunt, Ala’a, recounts the night of the tragedy. Two bombs suddenly struck their three-story building in the Zeitoun neighborhood, claiming 15 family members, including Awni. Awni’s uncle and a neighbor mentioned receiving no warnings, emphasizing the devastating impact on civilians.

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) did not comment on this specific incident but stated that they targeted military sites and pointed out Hamas’s practice of operating in densely populated areas. They expressed regret for any harm to civilians and pledged to examine and learn from all operations.

As Ala’a received messages about the attack, she initially refused to believe them. However, a photo of her brother with the caption ‘Rest in peace’ confirmed the tragic news. Awni’s family now joins the over 20,000 people reported killed in Gaza during the war, over a third of them children, according to the Hamas-run health ministry.

Awni’s passion for computers and gaming was evident in the YouTube videos he created, showcasing games like Pro Evolution Soccer, Blur, and Counter-Strike. Despite his young age, he aspired to emulate successful YouTubers and sought advice from professionals in the field.

After Awni’s untimely death, established YouTubers, including Kuwaiti gamer AboFlah, took notice of his channel, causing a surge in views. AboFlah, moved by messages Awni had sent him, created an emotional video expressing his sorrow and admiration for the young gamer.

Awni’s story has resonated globally, with fans seeing a reflection of themselves in his dreams and aspirations. His entire family may have tragically perished, but Awni’s legacy lives on, and his surviving relatives express pride in the unexpected fame he achieved after his passing.

‘It’s a gift from God that so many people around the world love Awni,’ says Ala’a. ‘He used to talk about it enthusiastically, about his channel. He is more happy in heaven now.'”