In Gaza, young victims of Israeli bombing recount a brutal 2021

Al Jazeera talks to young Palestinians injured during Israel’s May offensive and now left with permanent disabilities

By Maram Humaid

In May 2021, the occupied Gaza Strip experienced renewed bloodshed and destruction as Israel launched a devastating 11-day-military-offensive on the besieged enclave.

It was the fourth major offensive launched by Israel on the Palestinian territory in 14 years, compounding the already dire living conditions and the high rates of poverty and unemployment in Gaza which has been under an Israeli-Egyptian blockade since 2007.

The assault in May killed at least 260 people, including 39 women and 67 children, and wounded more than 1,900, according to the health ministry in Gaza. The bombardment also destroyed 1,800 residential units and partially demolished at least 14,300 other units.

Tens of thousands of Palestinians were forced to take shelter in United Nations-run schools.

About seven months later, the reconstruction process has slowly begun, albeit with Israel continuing to prevent the entry into Gaza of many materials it says could also be used for military purposes.

Talks mediated by Egypt have failed to reach a permanent ceasefire between Israel and Hamas, the Palestinian group which rules Gaza, and tensions remain high.

Many people in Gaza have been left to cope with the aftermath of the 11-day assault, including many young people who were left seriously wounded.

Al Jazeera talked to three young people, who were injured and left with permanent disabilities during the offensive, to discuss what they endured and what they hope for in the new year.

‘Mum, I wish I could see your face’

Mohammed Shaban’s only wish for the new year is to be able to see again. The seven-year-old lost his eyesight on the first day of the Israeli offensive in May.

That day, Mohammed went out with his mother, Somayya, 35, to buy clothes for him and his siblings.

“He was very happy and could not wait to go home to show his new shoes to his sisters,” Somayya told Al Jazeera.

“Suddenly, a huge explosion hit the area. I didn’t remember what happened. Dust, chaos, people screaming, blood …”

Somayya stopped talking for a moment, then continued. “I remembered Mohammed, I started screaming: ‘Where is my son? Where is my son?’”

Mohammed’s eyes were severely wounded when an Israeli air attack hit two people on a motorcycle in Jabalia in the north of the Gaza Strip. He was rushed to hospital.

“His face was covered in blood and his eyes were bleeding terribly. I lost consciousness when I saw him,” Somayya said.

After several attempts, the doctors decided Mohammed’s eyesight could not be saved and they had to remove his eyes.

“I can’t stop crying whenever I see him. He keeps asking his siblings, ‘Why can I only see black darkness? Why can’t I go to my school?’” she said.

“Last night, he told me: ‘Mum, I wish I could see your face.’”

Mohammed was recently admitted to a school for visually challenged children, but his mother has no hope for the new year.

“After what we have seen during this year, I cannot expect any better. Our days are the same. I believe Gaza’s destiny is to face more torture and suffering,” she said.

She said her only wish for 2022 would be for Mohammed to see again. “I wish I could give him my eyes.”

report by Defense for Children International (DCIP) said 2021, which saw the killing of 86 Palestinian children in the occupied territory, was the deadliest year on record since 2014.

“During the 11-day military assault, Israeli forces killed Palestinian children using tank-fired shells, live ammunition, and missiles dropped from weaponised drones and US-sourced warplanes and Apache helicopters,” said the report on the May assault, dubbed Operation Guardian of the Walls.

‘I want to be a doctor when I grow up’

Farah Isleem, 12, feels more optimistic in the new year, despite losing her leg in May 2021.

“It was around six o’clock at morning. I was sleeping. Suddenly I woke up to an explosion. I was not able to move. Everyone was screaming around me,” she told Al Jazeera.

An Israeli raid had hit Farah’s home on the fifth floor in a building in the al-Sabra neighbourhood in central Gaza City.

Hazem Isleem, Farah’s father, is a security worker in Gaza City’s al-Shifa hospital. That night, Hazem was at work, dealing with patients and people being evacuated from bombed areas.

His seven children were rushed to the hospital after the bombing. Six suffered minor wounds, but Farah was badly hurt.

“When I first saw her, I realised her leg would have to be amputated,” he said. “It was shattered and bleeding severely.”

Farah was given a medical referral to Jordan, where she travelled with her mother three days after she was injured.

After trying to save her leg for 15 days, the doctors decided it would have to be amputated. A prosthetic limb was fitted to her leg later.

“Imagine your beautiful and intelligent child having her leg amputated at this young age. It is a very hard feeling,” Hazem said.

Upon Farah’s return from Jordan after a month, her family and school organised a reception party to welcome her back.

“My big focus now is my studies at school,” Farah told Al Jazeera. “I face some obstacles going up and down the stairs, but my family always helps me.”

Farah told Al Jazeera before her injury, she was afraid of the sight of blood and of injuries. But now she wants to be a doctor, and her New Year’s wish is to learn English fluently as it would help her achieve her dream.

“I was in so much pain during the treatment process. But thanks to God everything is ok now,” she said with a smile.

According to UNICEF, before the escalation in violence, one in three children in Gaza already required support for conflict-related trauma. The UN body stressed the need for mental health and psychosocial support for children facing dire living circumstances.

The organisation also said tens of thousands of children in Gaza will require humanitarian assistance to access safe drinking water and basic sanitation over electricity shortages affecting water production in the besieged territory.

‘I wish I could walk again’

Eighteen-year-old Mahmoud Naim lies on his back in bed, unable to move.

He is paralysed and unable to feel the lower part of his body since the shrapnel from an Israeli shell hit him in the back and pierced parts of his stomach on May 18.

“I went out to the street to buy bread for my siblings. I saw a friend and stood there talking to him. Suddenly there was an explosion. I don’t remember anything after that,” Mahmoud told Al Jazeera.

“My life has been turned upside down,” he said.

Mahmoud stayed in the intensive care unit for several days before he was referred to Egypt for further treatment. He underwent seven surgeries and still needs intensive physiotherapy sessions and medication.

Shrapnels are still stuck in Mahmoud’s back. They should be removed as soon as possible so that his condition improves.

“Currently I can’t move at all on my own. My mother helps me, but my brothers are [too] young,” he said.

“Sometimes I stay on the bed waiting for my cousins to come if I want to move.”

Before his injury, Mahmoud worked in a shop to support his family. His father has been sick for a long time and his condition deteriorated after his son’s injury.

Mahmoud told Al Jazeera he heard of reports claiming the shell that hit him was not Israeli, but a Palestinian shell that hit him by mistake.

“It was a continuous state of war in which everyone was under bombardment and terror, and the victims were all innocent people,” he said.

“Despite what happened to me, I am optimistic about the beginning of 2022 as every year is a new start.

“Enough of the war and enough of what is happening to us in the Gaza Strip. I hope calm prevails, our living conditions improve and I wish I could walk again.”

(Source / 06.01.2022)

What’s behind the deal to release hunger striker Hisham Abu Hawash?

After 141 days on hunger strike in an Israeli prison, Palestinian prisoner Hisham Abu Hawash has agreed a deal with the occupation authorities that his administrative detention will end on 26 February. The Detainees and Ex-Detainees Affairs Commission announced the deal between Abu Hawash and the Israeli occupation authorities, but did say what led to the agreement or who played a role in it.

The Palestinian Prisoners’ Society (PPS) said that the hunger strike and deal highlighted the issue of the prisoners held by Israel. “The struggle by Abu Hawash has brought the issue of the prisoners, specifically the issue of administrative detention, back to the forefront, despite all the challenges,” said the society.

Father of five Abu Hawash, 40, is from Dura, south of Hebron in the occupied West Bank. He was detained on 27 October, 2020, and was immediately put under administrative detention for six months. Facing neither charges nor a trial his detention order was renewed several times, prompting him to go on an open-ended hunger strike in protest.

The most important fact in his case is that the Israeli authorities agreed on his release against their wishes. Neither the politicians nor the military wanted him to be released. They waited for him to end his protest, but when his health condition deteriorated critically and he was on the verge of dying, they accepted that he preferred death over administrative detention. So why didn’t Israel just let him die?

Palestinian news agency Wafa reported that the Israeli authorities came under massive pressure from the Palestinian Authority to release Abu Hawash. PA President Mahmoud Abbas and the head of the General Intelligence Service, Majed Faraj, are said to have made intensive representations to the Israelis for his release.

However, Israeli journalists dispute this. Although the PA should have played a major role in getting Abu Hawash released from prison, I doubt that it did. The evidence for this is the PA’s own detention of Ziad Al-Kilani, a Palestinian from Jenin who was released recently by Israel. With their own prisons full of Palestinian political prisoners, many of them ex-prisoners of the Israelis, why should Abbas and Faraj seek to have Abu Hawash released?

Commenting on the reports about Abbas’s involvement in the deal to release Abu Hawash, former West Bank hunger striker Sheikh Khader Adnan said, “If the PA’s political pressure is effective, it should seek the release of Marwan Al-Barghouti or hunger striker Naser Abu Hamaid, who is on the verge of death.” Adnan added that if the PA is able to do anything at all, it should at least push Israel to end the isolation of the Palestinian prisoners in Al-Ramla Prison.

Immediately following the announcement of the deal between Abu Hawash and the Israeli occupation authorities, the Times of Israel reported that his marathon hunger strike attracted intense interest from Palestinians as well as international pressure on Israel. UN Spokesman Stephane Dujarric welcomed the deal, and said, “We have always made it clear that detainees must be tried according to legal procedures or released.”

Israel did not want to release Abu Hawash precisely because it will now come under more pressure to release prisoners held without trial under the archaic administrative detention system. Moreover, the government will be condemned by extreme right-wing Israelis for buckling under pressure from “terrorists”. On hearing about the deal, one extremist member of the Israeli parliament, Itamar Ben-Gvir, stormed into the hospital where Abu Hawash is being held and tried to attack him.

The Palestinian resistance did not claim to have put any pressure on Israel to release the hunger striker, but hailed his patience and resilience. However, Israeli media have revealed that pressure from the Palestinian resistance in Gaza pushed Israel to promise to bring his administrative detention to an end.

Israeli public broadcaster Kan reported that threats from Gaza prompted the Public Prosecution Service to agree on Abu Hawash’s release on 26 February. According to Israeli journalist Gal Berger from Kan, “The release of Abu Hawash reiterated the connection between Gaza and the West Bank.”

Baruch Yedid of Channel 14 told me that it is not in doubt that the threats from Gaza played a role in the release of the hunger striker. “Currently, Israel does not want a confrontation. It does not want a confrontation with Hamas.” He confirmed that many right wing Israeli media are using this incident to attack the government.

Well-respected columnist Gideon Levy of Haaretz told me that Israeli did not want Abu Hawash to die. “They know that this would cause more unrest in the West Bank and rockets from Gaza,” he explained.

The Israeli government, said Meron Rapoport from +972 magazine, reiterated to me that Israel did not want a dead prisoner. “It seems that the release of Abu Hawash was related directly to Gaza, but Israel always gives up at the last moment.”

The PA may be trying to claim the credit for the end of Abu Hawash’s hunger strike and his release next month, but it shows itself up by doing so. If Abbas and Faraj think that political prisoners should be released, then they should empty the PA’s own prisons of every member of every resistance faction. The fact that they won’t tells us all we need to know about their real intentions.

(Source / 06.01.2022)

Israeli settler runs over, kills Palestinian worker west of Ramallah

Israeli settler today, Thursday, ran over a Palestinian young man and killed him on his way to work in the occupied lands of 1948. The young man was identified as Mustafa Yassin Salama (25 years), from the village of Safa, west of Ramallah, sources confirmed.

A relative of the martyr stated that at about six o’clock in the morning, while Mustafa was crossing the street to go to work in the occupied lands of 1948, a settler ran over him and later died of his injuries.

It is reported that the martyr is married and the father of a one-and-a-half-year-old child.

Later today’s morning, the Israeli occupation forces shot dead a Palestinian youth during confrontations to the east of the occupied West Bank city of Nablus.

(Source / 06.01.2022)

Israeli occupation approves about 3,000 settler homes in occupied West Bank

Days Of Palestine – West Bank – The Israeli occupation authority on Wednesday approved plans for the construction of more than 3,557 settler housing units in east Jerusalem, according to Peace Now, an anti-settlement monitoring group.

Peace Now said the construction of these settler homes would largely cut off the city from the southern part of the occupied West Bank, further complicating any efforts to create a functioning Palestinian state.

The projects were approved by a municipal committee and will be considered by a district committee on January 17.

However, it would likely be years before any construction takes place, but Peace Now says once the approval process is underway, it becomes increasingly difficult to freeze the plans.

One plan would build 1,465 housing units between the illegal settlements of Givat Hamatos and Har Homa, further cutting off east Jerusalem from the Palestinian city of Bethlehem and the southern West Bank. Another 2,092 homes would be built elsewhere in east Jerusalem.

(Source / 06.01.2022)

Israeli occupation forces arrest 19 Palestinians in West Bank

Israeli occupation forces early Thursday launched a large-scale arrest campaign in various West Bank cities and the occupied Jerusalem, during which they arrested 19 Palestinians.

In a statement, the Palestinian Prisoners Society said that Israeli occupation troops stormed the cities of Nablus, Bethlehem, Tubas, Qalqilya, Jenin, Ramallah and Al-Bireh, and several neighborhoods in occupied Jerusalem, and apprehended the 19 Palestinians.

Also today, confrontations were erupted in the Nablus’s villages of Burqa, Bazariya and Sebastia between Palestinian youths and the occupation soldiers, who fired live and rubber-coated metal bullets against locals, leaving dozens of them injured and hundreds others suffocated.

(Source / 06.01.2022)

Former Dutch Prime Minister Criticized for Revealing Israeli Settlers of Poisoning Palestinians

A former prime minister of the Netherlands, Dries van Agt, said in an interview for a recently aired documentary that Israeli settlers poisoned their Palestinian neighbors in 2015, his statement angered the Zionist lobby in the world.

“The colonizers who conquered the hill a week or two earlier came each night to pound on their door at night, to achieve maximum intimidation, to tell them to go away and they refused,” Van Agt said in the interview for a documentary on antisemitism that was aired in November by the KRO-NCRV broadcaster.

“And then one morning something terrible happened: The olive grove and the vegetable garden below — the colonizers always take to top hills – were strewn with poison. And a three-year-old child became very ill. The only explanation was that she drank the milk of a poisoned goat. She was poisoned.”

Incident occurred in 2015 near Nablus, Van Agt said.

His interviewer, Frans Bromet, asserted: “These things, they’re not unusual.Van Agt replies: “Oh, no. That’s what the wonderful people from the peace organization say. This happens all the time in Palestine.”

B’Tselem spokesperson Dror Sadot confirmed that his group is aware of one case of poisoning by Israeli settlers, resulting in no human casualties.

The Zionist institutions launched a new wide campaign against Van Agt, accusing him of anti-Semitism, because he said the truth of what is happening in Palestine, and the reality of Israeli crimes against the Palestinians.

It is noteworthy that a similar campaign was subjected to the English actress Emma Watson due to a post on her account on Instagram, in which she expressed her solidarity with Palestine against the Israeli occupation crimes.

It is worth noting that the Zionist lobby always resorts to accusing the solidarity activists of anti-Semitism in an attempt to absolve the Israeli occupation of its crimes against Palestinian civilians.

(Source / 06.01.2022)