We began our journey and were barely able to reach the town of Abd Rabo. As we drove along, our car dipped to the right and to the left. The ground was rutted from the holes that the Israelis tore into the streets with their bombs, their bulldozing, and their fires. The land was also wounded. A once lush and tranquil neighborhood had been transformed into hell on earth. Our eyes were filled with nothing but devastation, and masses of people covered the place like flies.
Our car came to a halt and we walked down the street to Khaled’s shattered home. And there was Khaled himself, sitting in the rubble of what was once a happier time.
“This house used to have four floors, and a nice garden. It brought us peace and tranquility,” he began to tell us. “The Israeli army came to this house many times before, but the last was in March of 2008.”
He explains how they invaded his home and investigated him and his family. “They found nothing. I am a police officer in the Ramallah government; I have nothing to do with Hamas.
“That day when they left us, they did not take anything or harm anyone,” he continued. “I remember it was 12:50pm on the fourth day of the military ground invasion when the army took control of the region. A real battlefield was born and thousands of people were trapped. Nobody could leave due to the excessive fire from the Israelis, and the soldiers kept on coming, and coming, and coming.
“And then the tanks came. One of them was based only meters away from my house. There were twenty-five of us, and we were all told to leave,” he said as his voice trembled and he began to cry. “The soldiers were eating chips and chocolate, and they were smiling when they killed my daughters.
“My mother, my wife, and my three daughters all held white flags when they tried to leave the house. We saw two of the soldiers get out of their tank, and we told them how we wanted to leave. We waited and waited for their response but were given no answer. Then, to our own surprise, a third soldier emerged and he opened fire on the children with insanity.
“Souad was only seven years old, Summer was three, and Amal was of only two years. My mother was shot as well, and I watched all that I loved fall to the ground. I screamed for them to stop! I ran into the house to call civil defense, ambulances, anyone who could help.
“For one hour the injured were bleeding, and two of my daughters were killed despite the so called ceasefire. No help was able to come to us in time. One of the ambulances tried, but the Israeli soldiers stopped the paramedic and forced him to remove his clothing. They then bombed the ambulance and it was buried in rubble. The paramedic fled naked while their fire surrounded him.
“I left the house with some of my family members,” Khaled continued. “We carried my mother in a crib. I held Summer in my arms, and she was still breathing despite her gaping spinal wound. I thought to myself, ‘no way can I leave little Summer, even if I end up dead like my other two daughters.’ I passed her to my brother and then took the body of Souad in my hands, and my wife held Amal as we left the house.
“The soldiers were firing uncontrollably above their heads and everywhere around them. Many of the houses were demolished by their tanks. As we crossed one of the roads, there was a man and he tried to save us but the snipers saw this and killed both him and his horse. When we finally reached the town of Jabaliya, we saw that everyone had brought all of the injured citizens here. So shocked were we by what we saw that we threw our bodies to the ground, and for one hour we remained there unable to fathom what has become of our people.”
We asked him why he thought they would kill his children. He replied, “I am certain they were drunk, or were given orders to kill everyone including the children. This was on Harets a couple of days ago, that many Israeli rabbis were giving orders to leave no one alive,” he explained. “I don’t know why my daughters were killed. They never committed any crimes, they were children! They did not fire rockets at Israel, although Israel claims to only aim at those who have first fired at them.
“We are a very peaceful people, we have nothing to do with fighting or rockets. I know if I go to the court about what has happened the Israeli army would create thousands of pretexts to make their soldiers appear innocent. They have done this with many other cases before,” he went on.
“It was not a war between two immense armies. Obviously, it was a war between civilians and the fourth largest army in the world: Israel. But they do not call it a war. They call it an operation.”
An operation where tens of thousands of Gazans were either killed or psychologically and physically wounded. The devastation did not only effect the people, but all you can imagine. Yet buildings can be repaired and the land will grow again, but Khaled’s mayhem will never be alleviated. He will never hear the laughter of Saoud and Amal again, but he will hear the aching cries of Summer. She is now paraplegic due to her injuries. The only thing that functions is her mind. A mind that will forever be telling the nightmare of what happened to her life. Even during her first interview in the hospital, in every single detail, she narrated the story to Al-Jazeera as Khaled did to us.
Photos of Khaled and the scene of the crime.
Sameh Habeeb is a twenty-three year old journalist based in the Gaza Strip. He has been active for years to bring out the word of his people’s suffering.
Janet Zimmerman is a twenty-one year old journalist and an American citizen, determined to help after she had seen the horrendous crimes that perpetrated in Gaza by Israel. She crossed thousands of miles to evaluate the situation with her own eyes, her own mind, and her own heart. She stumbled across Sameh’s work online, and it was not long before they became friends and united in the struggle to open the eyes of the world to the agonies in which they are so often closed