16 August 2011 | International Solidarity Movement, Gaza Strip
Selma Al Sawarka, or Um Ahmad, is an active woman, a mother of seven, and a grandmother of 35, who has never quit working. August 10, 2011 dawned like most days do for her; she went out to graze her family’s goats. She took her neighbor with her, 15 year old Keefa Al Bahabsa.
They went to the same land they usually go to. At 9:30 that morning they saw an Israeli tank and an Israeli jeep near the border. Not an uncommon sight. The tank and jeep left. About 30 minutes later, the jeep returned, three soldiers got out, and opened fire on Um Ahmed and Keefa. Um Ahmed was shot in the leg, Keefa fled to get help. The soldiers also shot ten of the families goats.
Um Ahmed is used to being shot at by the Israelis as her land is only 600 meters from the border. Usually, she says, the soldiers shoot around her, or into the air, trying to drive her from her land; she doesn’t know why today was different, why they shot directly at her, why they shot her in the leg. Her scarf also has bullet holes in it; only through the grace of God is she still here.
It took half an hour for Keefa to return with help, they loaded Um Ahmed onto a donkey cart, and went to the main road to meet a taxi to take her to the hospital. When I met Um Ahmed she was laying on a mat on the floor, recovering from being shot. A pale blue scarf covered her head. Bracelets adorned her wrists. Her daughter sat next to her. The room was simple, some mats on the floor, two chairs for the guests, a dresser, and small stand with a TV.
On the wall was a picture of her son Mustapha. He was killed by the Israeli’s on Dec, 15, 2004. Sometimes, the soldiers, or even the settlers themselves, would close the road near Netzarim settlement, the only way to go anywhere was to leave the road, and walk on the beach by the sea. Mustapha was shot and killed as he walked on the beach. The house we are in used to be Mustapha’s house. Beside the TV is another picture, another of her sons, this one has been in prison for the last ten years. He has eleven years left on his sentence. Um Ahmed, like all Gazan mothers, is not allowed to visit her son in prison, for four years this has been a blanket Israeli policy. Instead, she looks at this picture, she thinks about him in prison, while her leg heals.