Written by my dear friend Yassmine in Rafah. Read more on her blog.
Five-month’s old Eyad is one of the happiest babies I’ve ever met. Barley touch his cheeks and he smiles, tickle his little belly and he bursts out in laughter, kicking his feet in the air. He’s also really quiet when he’s alone. He just lies there, and quiets plays with his hands and feet. He doesn’t cry like other babies. But get anywhere near him, and he sees you, he starts to laugh and kick his feet up in the air with excitement so you can play with him. His mother, Jamalat, says his laughter is a blessing from God as it takes away some of her sorrow and fills her heart instead with joy.
Eyad has never met his father, and his father has never seen him. Jamalat was 5-weeks pregnant with Eyad when his father, my cousin, was killed by an Israeli sniper during an incursion in Sufa. He had just told Jamalat to prepare some tea and took his then two-year old daughter, Malak and sat in front of his house. The sniper had every intention of killing him, not injure or disable him, for he didn’t shot him once or twice or in the leg or arm but he shot him three times; in his stomach, his chest and his neck. He would have died from his stomach wound, but was shot again in his chest. He fell to the ground and laid there, half alive, but mostly dead, hanging between life and death as he looked at his daughter. And then came the final shot to his neck, which eliminated any ounce of life left in him. Jamlat was used to the sound of gunshots, so she didn’t think to check on where or whom had been shot, until Malak ran over to her crying with her father’s blood all over her face and clothes.
Ironically, he was shot from his uncle’s house, just 50 meters away. The house was raided the night before, and transformed into a military site. The sniper was on the roof when he shot my cousin. This is how Israel legally and quietly harasses Gazans. They come in quietly from the border, whether its Sufa or Biet Hanoun or Khan Younis, and raid a house. They cut off all the phone lines and the electricity and lock the house residents into a room, declaring the house a military site. For the next day or so, they assess the area, and quietly plan. No one else in the neighborhood knows that the IDF has taken over that house, and it could be days before they leave. They come to arrest or kill so called militants, and raze trees and demolish homes of so called militant supporters. They then leave quietly, pulling back their tanks and bulldozers from Gaza, and sit at the Israeli-Gaza border until they decide on the next incursion.
Jamalat says God has taken away her husband away from her, only to give Eyad the same face. Eyad is an exact image of his father. He was also given his name.
It’s hard to laugh with Eyad laugh without having your heart-broken. He has no idea the world he will grow up in. He’ll grow up with only stories and pictures of his father. He’ll see his mother struggle to feed him and siblings. He’ll be told he’s refugee, and get used to waiting in line with his mom for their food packages. He’ll learn to sleep with the sounds of Israeli planes over his head. He’ll recognize the sounds of tanks coming into his neighborhood and that’ll be his que to run home. Anger will fill his heart when he sees Israeli’ bulldozers raze and break his father’s olive trees. And he’ll live under Israeli occupation, in an unjust world, where he will think its normal to live in such conditions, and there is no other alternative.
He’ll never know or see the face of the Israeli solider that killed his father, or receive reparations for the life he will live. And the Israeli solider will never realize what he has done or who he has hurt. He never thought for a second before he shot those three shots that the man he was shooting was someone’s father, and was loved by his wife and had just invited his neighbors for tea to celebrate Jamalat’s pregnancy before sitting in front of his door to greet them.