Haaretz’s Gideon Levy continues his recent series documenting the suffering inflicted on Gaza civilians by the IDF’s ongoing invasion there. Today’s harrowing story depicts a week-long concentrated attack on the Gaza neighborhood of Saja’iya, during which 22 civilians died, five of whom were children. One of them, Mohammed Al-Zakh, was blasted by two tank shells which severed his body in two:
Mohammed was buried twice. He was 14 years old at the time of his death. He was killed last week, three days before the start of the new school year, so he never got to enter ninth grade. Did the [IDF] planners of the operation give thought to the children who would be killed before giving it the satanic name “Locked Kindergarten”? Did the IDF computer that comes up with the names know that there would be five children and adolescents among the dead?
…This sprawling, overcrowded residential [Saja’iya] neighborhood was occupied for almost a week by the IDF. The army wreaked destruction in it. A monstrous bulldozer maliciously potholed a few roads, scarring the asphalt with gaping wounds, for no apparent reason. Houses were hit, street tiling was uprooted, electricity poles were cut down, cars were crushed, dozens of trees were destroyed and 22 residents were killed. For almost a week the tens of thousands of residents lived in terror, some of them unable to leave their homes.
…[Just before he died] Mohammed walked toward Mansura Street, the neighborhood’s main thoroughfare, where the tanks were. According to one account, he was asked to go there to see how his uncles, who lived in the line of fire, were doing; another version has it that he went to see the tanks and help the “defenders,” as they call themselves in this fighting family.
…Last Tuesday his sister came to the house and said there was a wounded boy on Mansura Street. Abdullah rushed to Shifa Hospital. “I looked everywhere but couldn’t find him. I thought maybe he was in surgery, but no. I had a feeling that Mohammed was a shahid [martyr].
“I thought maybe he was transferred to another hospital and I sent relatives to look in Al-Quds Hospital. They didn’t find him there. The feeling that he was a shahid grew stronger. I thought that if he was not in the hospital, he must be lying at the place where he was killed. It would be very hard to get there and get him out. We know that if anyone is wounded there, no one can get close enough to get him out. We know that the army shoots at anyone who approaches there, even at rescue parties. There were cases of people who tried to rescue the wounded and were shot.
“Then I thought he must be in the hospital refrigerator. I asked my cousins to go and check. There were a few shahids there, and they saw them, but they came back and said they did not find Mohammed. The feeling that Mohammed was a shahid grew stronger in me. But there was no announcement.
“I decided to go to the morgue and look. I went in but I didn’t find Mohammed. Then I saw half a body, the only one that was not identified. I saw that it was Mohammed’s half-body. By the belt. It’s a belt that I bought him. And the shoes he wore. I looked at the socks and I knew it was Mohammed. I was sure it was Mohammed. The upper half of the body had disappeared.
“Mohammed was killed by two shells fired by a tank, and both shells hit him. Mohammed is fourteen years and four months old. He was not armed and he didn’t know what a weapon was. They saw that he was a boy. Maybe he went there to see the defenders, maybe he wanted to take part. Maybe he threw stones at a tank. They fired a shell at him. That is Mohammed’s story and that is the end of Mohammed.”
Mohammed was buried that day. The next day, last Wednesday, when the IDF left Mansura, they went to the killing place to look for the other half of Mohammed. They found his body parts together with the body parts of Yusri Abu Jabber, a press photographer for the Al-Quds network, who was also killed there. The rest of Mohammed’s body was buried on Wednesday. Abdullah, the father: “Mohammed was a schoolboy. That is the whole story of Mohammed. It happens every day, every day. Can a boy like this, like Mohammed, be a danger to them? And if he was a danger to them, they could have wounded him instead of killing him. They could have thrown a teargas grenade at him. Even if he was a danger to them, you don’t fire a shell at him.”
The IDF Spokesperson’s Office, this week: “The IDF is not aware of a 14-year-old boy being hit other than from media reports, and is not familiar with the circumstances in which he was hit. It should be noted that on the day the report was published there were heavy exchanges of fire, which included the firing of antitank missiles, the detonation of explosive devices, and light-arms fire against IDF forces.”
His youngest child, Ibrahim, is on his knees, scribbling on himself with a pen. Abdullah gags every so often. Abir is pregnant, and if it’s a boy they will name him Mohammed.
And what do you think this newborn Mohammed will grow up to be? And why do you think he will grow up to avenge his brother? Because an IDF spokesperson doesn’t have the human decency to say a kind word about a lowly Palestinian boy killed by two of its rocket shells which tore his body to pieces for no good reason. Because a stupid IDF and Israeli government doesn’t have the vision to embrace a negotiated end to this horrific conflict that kills the soul, spirit and bodies of both nations.
Hat tip to Haitham Sabbah.