[News] The people behind Gaza's statistics

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Mon Apr 23 14:52:09 EDT 2018


  The people behind Gaza's statistics

Sarah Algherbawi 
<https://electronicintifada.net/people/sarah-algherbawi> - 21 April 2018


In Jihad Abu Jamous’ family, he was seen as the lucky one.

The 31-year-old, who gathered gravel to sell to workshops and 
construction workers for a few dollars a day, was from Khan Younis in 
the southern Gaza Strip. He escaped a hereditary condition that affects 
almost his whole family, leaving most of them blind or partially 
sighted. He also avoided the chronic ailments that his mother, the only 
other person in the family with good eyesight, suffers.

But Jihad could not evade Israel’s snipers.

On 30 March, Jihad went, along with thousands of Palestinians in Gaza, 
to protest for the Palestinian right of return near the boundary with 
Israel. He never made it back.

He had promised to return home after just a few hours, according to his 
family. But the father of four had, according to his friend Samir 
al-Najjar, 28, who accompanied him to the Great March of Return, only 
been at the demonstration half an hour – after leaving his donkey and 
cart by a tree away from the demonstration with his wife and children – 
when he was shot in the head.

He died in hospital <https://www.amad.ps/ar/Details/227466> a short 
while later.

To date there have been four mass rallies as part of the Great March of 
Return <https://electronicintifada.net/tags/great-march-return> series 
of protests that began on 30 March. The demonstrations will run until 15 
May, when Palestinians commemorate the Nakba, the 1948 disaster that saw 
more than 750,000 Palestinians flee or be forced to flee their homes and 
lands in what became Israel.

They were never allowed to return to reclaim their possessions or 
properties which were instead either confiscated by the new state and 
doled out to Jewish settlers or, as in the case of some 500 villages, 
destroyed and left to disappear.

Each protest has been met with deadly force by the Israeli military, 
which has killed 40 Palestinians in Gaza since 30 March. Thirty-one of 
those killed, including four children and a journalist, were fatally 
wounded during protests.

    His family’s eyes

In a time of tragedies, the killing of Jihad will be especially keenly felt.

“Jihad helped me with everything,” said Zuheir Abu Jamous, 52, Jihad’s 
blind father who had felt his way slowly into the living room where he 
spoke to The Electronic Intifada.

“He was my sight. He helped me in everything, from going to the bathroom 
to taking a shower to providing for me. I’m only a breathing body now: 
my soul died with him.”

The family has Leber Hereditary Optic Neuropathy, a rare genetic 
disorder that can affect whole families. In the Abu Jamous case, and 
unusually, all four of Jihad’s sisters are blind, while his two brothers 
are partially sighted.

The disease normally affects young men worse.

Jihad’s sisters are now left to contemplate the enormity of his absence. 
Yasmin, 30, called him the “family’s only eyes,” while younger sister 
Shaima, 17, has cut her hair since there is “no one left to care for it.”

Diana, 22, suggested it would spell the end of her college studies – she 
is studying Islamic law at the University College of Applied Sciences – 
since she relied on Jihad to take and collect her.

“I saw life through Jihad’s eyes. I never felt blind like I do now. Now, 
all I can see is black.”

The Abu Jamous family is originally from the village of Burayr 
<http://www.palestineremembered.com/Gaza/Burayr/index.html>. And though 
his absence is a serious blow to the family, Jihad’s mother, Tahani 
al-Najjar, 49, a diabetes patient with hypertension, insisted she was 
proud of her son.

He died, she told The Electronic Intifada, defending the rights of his 
family and his people.

    Sand artist

Just 15 hours before that first protest on 30 March, artist Mohamed Abu 
Amr, 27, went to the beach where he would regularly go to pursue his 
passion and create sand sculptures. This time, he simply sculpted two 
words in Arabic out of sand: “I’ll return,” they translate as. He took a 
photo and posted it to his Facebook page 

It was just minutes into the 30 March demonstration when he was shot and 
killed, according to a friend, Muaman Sukar, who was with him at the time.

Mohamed was well-known 
locally for his sand sculptures. These were sometimes formed as 
drawings, sometimes as calligraphy. Much of it had a political motif and 
Mohamed’s father, Naim Abu Amr, 58, said Mohamed was trying to present 
the Palestinian cause in his own unique way.

“Mohamed used to spend most of his time by the sea, doing what he loved 
the most,” Naim told The Electronic Intifada. Mohamed’s dream, he said, 
was to create a map of Palestine on the beach so big it could be seen 
from space. But that kind of scale needed tools the unemployed artist 
could not afford.

Still, his dream came through in a way. When news of his slaying found 
its way to Osama Sbeata, 24, a fellow artist, Mohamed’s mentor on the 
sand and a friend, he decided to make Mohamed’s map.

It took three days, and did not quite reach the scale Mohamed had 
envisaged. But Sbeata’s map <https://bit.ly/2uZS5LZ> still spanned some 
100 meters and – when Naim saw it after Sbeata called him down to the 
beach – reduced Mohamed’s father to tears.

“I was glad to make my friend’s dream come true,” Sbeata told The 
Electronic Intifada. “I am glad too that it made his father proud.”

    A last goodbye

In al-Zawayda village near the central Gaza Strip town of Deir al-Balah, 
the al-Saloul family erected a mourning tent for their son Musab, 22, 
who was killed on 30 March, that is still receiving people.

Normally, the time for condolences would have long passed, but the 
family is still waiting to receive their son’s body from the Israeli 

Musab and Muhammad al-Rabaia, also 22, were killed on 30 March in what 
witnesses said were targeted killings by Israeli forces in the Juhor 
al-Dik area near Deir al-Balah in the central Gaza Strip.

They were shot not far from an Israeli military watchtower on the 
boundary with Israel that is known locally as the Camera military 
installation, for its role in monitoring the area.

Yousif Abu Saqir, 27, who witnessed the incident, said that after the 
firing had ended, a “group of Israeli soldiers crossed the fence and 
took their bodies.”

The Israeli military has acknowledged that it holds the two men’s 
bodies. According to Yoav Mordechai 
<https://electronicintifada.net/tags/yoav-mordechai>, the head of COGAT, 
the bureaucratic arm of Israel’s military occupation, Israel wants the 
of the remains of two of its soldiers killed during the 2014 offensive 
against Gaza.

Israel is holding the bodies of approximately two dozen Palestinians 
killed by its forces since 2014, with the aim of using them as 
bargaining chips 

Israel also claimed that al-Saloul and al-Rabaia – both members of Hamas 
– were armed and were shooting at the soldiers.

Zuheir al-Saloul, 55, said Israel’s accusations are simply untrue.

“Being a Hamas member is not a charge that allows Israel to keep the 
body of my son. They claim my son was armed and was planning to execute 
an operation, but that’s not true.”

Musab studied electronic engineering at the Islamic University of Gaza 
and has an identical twin brother, Muath, who studies medicine in Germany.

“I dreamed of seeing both my sons graduate. Now, Israel has destroyed 
half that dream,” said Zuheir, a civil engineer.

Muath told The Electronic Intifada over the phone that he and his 
brother had been close growing up.

“We were always together. The first time we spent any time apart was 
when I left to study, three years ago. It never occurred to me that that 
would be our last goodbye.”

    Working the land alone

The al-Rabaia family has similarly had no closure. Muhammad, a farmer, 
was killed in the same incident as his friend Musab and the family now 
awaits the return of their son’s body to their home in the Nuseirat 
refugee camp in central Gaza.

His father, Muharib, 47, has been in contact with the International 
Committee for the Red Cross, but to little effect. The ICRC is working 
to restore the bodies to their families, but had no further information 
to give the grieving father.

“I can’t imagine working the land alone without Muhammad,” Muharib told 
The Electronic Intifada. “My son loved the land. But now he can’t even 
be buried in it.”

/Sarah Algherbawi is a freelance writer and translator from Gaza./

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