30 April 2011 | International Solidarity Movement, Gaza
“I dreamt of my wife last night, she said the day would have a surprise in store for me”. Nasser Abu Said (37) is pleased: an NGO has confirmed a 2000 dollar contribution to the construction of his new house. He often smiles, but his face is predominantly characterized with the traces of worries from his daily struggle for survival. I think how good it is to see him laugh, it reminds me of the happy family picture I saw of him with his wife and five children. That must have been shortly before last year’s atrocity which has caused for physical and psychological displacement of his family. On July 13th 2010, on a warm summer evening that the Abu Said family was enjoying outside, the Israeli Occupation Forces attacked them. “Five tank shells and a flechette shell”, Nasser told me, again, two days ago, with blank expression. The flechettes riddled the body of his wife, and while ambulances were prevented from entering the area, she died. Her five children, aged 3 to 12, watched her succumb and saw how her body grew lifeless.
In the evening of April 28th, Nasser was still cherishing his dream of his wife, whilelaying in the bedroom, when all of a sudden, the Israeli Occupation Forces attacked the house at 8:10 pm. Within five minutes, four shells were fired from a tank, stationed by an Israeli base by the border, 3 kilometers from the family house. The first one went straight through the bedroom wall, were Nasser was resting. The second and third shells passed through the corridor where three of his children were playing and the forth shell hit the bedroom a second time.
“It was dark, the electricity cut as soon as the attack began. I was afraid to move, even afraid to turn on the flashlight on my mobile. I was afraid that they would shell again if they would see any movement. But then I heard the cries of my children, calling out to me to get them out from under the rubble. I went into the corridor and saw Ala’ under the stones, but could only see Maisa’s hand sticking out from under the rubble”, says Nasser. “It was terrible. I didn’t know where my other children were and feared they had been killed.”
“Ala’ saw how I was panicking and just answered that he was fine when I got him from under the rubble. It was only when the ambulances arrived that he told me of his injuries”, says Nasser.
Both Maisa and Ala’ had been injured by shrapnel and were taken to Al Aqsa Martyrs hospital in Deir al-Baleh, together with Nassers’s brother, Mohammed Abu Said (43) and his wife Sana’. Mohammed has a crack in his skull, a swollen eye and his face is scratched, while Sana’ has shrapnel in her foot.
Five year old Maisa, is sitting barefoot in her pink track suit at the end of the hospital bed. She looks pale, but then I realize that she is covered in dust of the stones that fell on her when the shells crashed through the walls of her house. She puts on a courageous smile and shows me the shrapnel wound in her hand. She’s staying in the hospital overnight as she has trouble breathing. Next to her lies her eldest brother Ala’, who is suffering; his eyes flicker around nervously. His face cramps when the doctor pushes his belly softly. He tries to turn his face, but realizes there’s another wound in his neck and panics with tears in his eyes. His family members stand by in shock: “They are children! It’s outrageous!”
The Abu Said family house is situated in Johr Al-Dik’s farming land, exactly 340 meters from the border with Israel. Currently, 14 people live in the house: Nasser and his five children live on the second floor, with his parents, while his brother lives on the ground floor with his wife, two children and his sister. Other families have evacuated the area in the past decade, because of the danger, but the Abu Said family lacks resources to relocate to a safer area. Incursions with bulldozers and tanks take place every month, while gunfire is heard on an almost daily basis. These bullets pose a direct danger: in the past year, the house has been shot at on different occasions, the children have been trapped by gunfire while playing and their grandparents have been shot at while doing nothing more threatening than drinking coffee and tea by the house.
After his wife was killed, Nasser pitched a tent, a couple of hundred meters away from the house, hoping for it to be a safer haven for his traumatized children. During last month’s escalation, he moved back into the house, because how much protection can a tent offer against missiles and bombs? Once things grew calmer, he and his children spent their nights in the tents again. But they moved out again after the children had caught two big black scorpions by their beds.
Nasser has been lobbying different organizations to build him a new house, because he isafraid of a new Israeli assault. Some of his requests have been negatively answered, but most have disappeared in the NGO’s indigestible pile of bureaucracy. “Maybe they will help me now, now my house is destroyed. It’s just a shame that my wife had to be killed again; all of her belongings are destroyed in this attack. It’s very painful to lose the things she cherished.”