Author: Katie McRoberts

Nadeem Nawara and Mohammad Mahmoud Odeh Abu Daher: Fatalities

Palestinians across the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip held marches on May 15 to commemorate the Nakba or “catastrophe”, which marks the forced displacement and dispossession of Palestinians from their homeland in 1948.

On Nakba Day in 2014, in the West Bank town of Beitunia, local Palestinians decided to gather around Ofer military court and prison to protest in solidarity with over 100 prisoners on a hunger strike against their administrative detention by Israeli authorities.

Among those to join the protest were 17-year-old Nadeem Siam Nawara and 16-year-old Mohammad Mahmoud Odeh Abu Daher.

Ahmad Badwan of the Palestinian Medical Relief Committee: The protest “began peacefully” and “turned into violence when the Israeli army used live fire to disperse stone throwers.

Israeli forces began firing tear gas canisters at the crowd, causing the youth protesting to retreat back toward a nearby driveway.

Later, as a couple of youths were returning to the area, witnesses heard a total of four distinct shots. The witnesses recognized the sound of live ammunition, which differs from rubber bullets.

Approximately an hour later… At 1:45 pm Nadeem Siam Nawara sustained a fatal gunshot wound to the chest.

Mohammad Abu Daher sustained a fatal gunshot wound to the back.

“At the moment of the killings nothing was going on and no stone throwing was taking place” Fakher Zayed, witness who lives in the house where the shootings took place, said.

DCI Palestine’s documentation team obtained the video footage from the security cameras of a local business during their investigation.

The lethal shot fired at Mohammad Abu Daher, has a different sonic fingerprint to the 4 other shots captured news video footage. This analysis demonstrates that he was killed by live ammunition and not rubber coated bullets.

“Our preliminary investigation, both by the commanders in the field, and we had senior commanders in the field on the spot, indicates that no live fire was used during this demonstration.” Israeli military spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Peter Lerner, May 20th 2014

The medical reports for the two boys confirm that in each case the direction taken by the bullet was synonymous with that of a live bullet.

A metal casing of a bullet was found in Nadeem’s backpack after his death. CNN reported that it appeared to be from a 556 NATO round, the standard ammunition used in M-16 rifles carried by Israeli security forces.

“The preliminary inquiry up until this point still does not indicate any use of live fire by the forces… So what caused the deaths, is a question mark that needs to be answered.” – Israeli military spokesman  Lieutenant Colonel Peter Lerner, May 20th 2014

Mohammad Abu Daher and Nadeem Nawara were buried May 16, 2014.

Since 2000, Israeli Security Forces have killed over 8,896 Palestinians. At least 1895 of those have been children. From 2000 to 2013, only 5.2% of all investigation files initiated by MPCID resulted in indictment. In the last 3 years, chances of indictment are even slimmer -down to 1.4%. The Israeli Forces have still not concluded any investigation as of the cause of death of Mohammad Abu Daher and Nadeem Nawarah.

Prayer: God, we take the time to mourn the loss of life of these children. Your precious creation taken from this earth and from their families too soon. We ask for the investigation to move forward with your hand of justice. That the families would find comfort and rest from their mourning. Show us, Holy One, how we continue to support the families in Gaza. We ask that stories like these would convict us to pursue a just peace for all the people in the Holy Land, so that the children will know no more war or violent death.

This story was initially shared on Defense for Children International – Palestine’s website and is reprinted here with permission. CMEP is very thankful for the writers who contribute to our Prayers for Peace blog. However, CMEP does not necessarily agree with all the positions of our writers, and they do not speak on CMEP’s behalf.

Alaa Balata: Right to a Childhood

In Jabalia, Gaza’s most populated refugee camp, some 110,000 refugees pack an area of only 1.4 square kilometers.

Lacking a steady supply of basic services, like water and electricity, Jabalia has been hit hard by the eight-year Israeli siege on Gaza.

On July 28, 2014, 17-year-old Alaa Balata moved with his family to his uncle’s house deep inside Jabalia refugee camp and farther from the Israeli tanks shelling everywhere along Gaza’s border.

“[My father] thought we would be safer here.”

Alaa’s uncle, Abdel Karim Balata, recalled the day the shells reached his neighborhood.

“It was after lunch, around 3:30 in the afternoon,” he said.  “Alaa had just stepped outside to get water when the shells hit.”

The path to the home was strewn with shrapnel—the same dense metal that tore through every member of Alaa’s immediate family on the afternoon of July 29.

During Operation Protective Edge, the Israeli army fired 34,000 artillery rounds into Gaza.

Despite Israeli claims that they did everything possible to protect innocent lives, Idan Barir, a former Israeli infantryman, tells a different story.

“The shells have caused unbearable damage to human life and tremendous destruction to infrastructure, the full scale of which will only be revealed when the fighting is over.”

“Those who use artillery weapons in Gaza cannot honestly say that they are doing all they can to avoid harming innocent civilians.”

Even Israel’s allies were shocked by the intensity of its shelling on civilian areas.

US military officials called the shelling of Shuja’iyya, the Gaza City neighborhood south of Jalablia, “absolutely deadly” and meant only “to kill a lot of people in as short a period of time as possible.” According to a Pentagon briefing, Israel pumped 4,800 shells during a seven-hour attack on the area.

Speaking to Al Jazeera America, Lt. Gen. Robert Gard said: “That rate of fire over that period of time is astonishing. If the figures are even half right, Israel’s response was absolutely disproportionate.”

Returning to the house after the blast, Alaa found two men carrying his younger brother, Yahya, wrapped in a blanket.

“I need to go with him. I need to go with him. My brother is alive.”

In the taxi to the hospital, Alaa hoped that his brother might somehow survive.

“I kept talking to him, but there was a big hole where his stomach used to be, and I couldn’t figure out how to do it — how to hold his insides in.”

When they arrived to the local hospital, eight-year-old Yahya was barely breathing. Doctors rushed him immediately to the better-equipped Gaza City’s Al-Shifa Hospital.

Yahya did not survive.

By the time Alaa got the news, he had just heard that the rest of his family — his father, his mother and his six sisters — were gone, too.

Alaa’s family is one of 142 families that lost three or more members in single incidents during Operation Protective Edge.

Children died at a rate of 10 a day, every day.

Parents, too, perished in unprecedented numbers, leaving more than 1,500 of Gaza’s children orphaned.

Prayer: God, we take the time to mourn the loss of life. In Alaa’s young life, and for many in Gaza, they have experienced more loss than most of us know in a lifetime, and we ask for your comfort. God be with them. We pray your strength embodies Alaa and the people of Gaza. For the people of Jabalia refugee camp, we ask for divine relief. That Gaza would come to know a day without constant war and strife. Let us press on in our commitment to speaking against the violence in this conflict against innocent children and families, especially in Gaza. We come to Lord, and ask you to the break chains that besiege Gaza and we lift up the 1,500 children who were orphaned in 2014 in prayer. For them to have loving families here on earth, and come to know the love of their heavenly Father.

This story was initially shared on Defense for Children International – Palestine’s website and is reprinted here with permission. CMEP is very thankful for the writers who contribute to our Prayers for Peace blog. However, CMEP does not necessarily agree with all the positions of our writers, and they do not speak on CMEP’s behalf.

Fadel Abu Odwan: Injuries

On the afternoon of February 21, 2014, 11-year-old Fadel Abu Odwan was on his way to help his brother bring their sheep in for the night. The flock was grazing on land near the Sufa crossing between the southern Gaza Strip and Israel.

Before reaching his brother, Fadel was stopped by three Palestinian officers stationed at their usual spot.

The officers took Fadel’s slingshot, which he carries for hunting birds, and began to play with it.

Suddenly, Fadel saw two Israeli military jeeps speeding toward them from the other side of the border.

“I started running so fast because I was scared of them and thought they would shoot us. I ran for about 100 meters [328 feet], away from the fence.”

The soldiers opened fire, injuring Fadel in his groin and leg.

Fadel was left bleeding on the ground, unable to move, for three hours.

“I would lift my hand and look up and see the sky, and realize I was not dead yet, so I would close my eyes again and wait for death.”

After about an hour, feral dogs began to approach him.

Interviewer: “Did anything approach you during the time you were lying on the ground?”

Fadel: “Yes, two dogs and my brother on a motorcycle. Soldiers started shooting at him and the two dogs.”

Interviewer: “There were soldiers watching you while you were bleeding?”

Fadel: “A soldier asked me to crawl towards him so that he could rescue me.”

Interviewer: “What did you say to him?”

Fadel: “I told him I could not. He asked me to crawl and I told him I could not.”

Interviewer: “Did he come to rescue you?”

Fadel: “No. The soldier got off the jeep and wanted to cut through the fence to reach me but then another soldier shouted to him and ordered him not to do it. Then my brother Ala’ came on the motorcycle. It was getting dark. Soldiers started shooting at him and the dogs. I said ‘Oh God’ and closed my eyes. Then my brother came with my cousin and the two neighbors.”

Later that evening, Fadel’s brother returned in a car with two neighbors and a cousin. They rushed Fadel to the hospital where he underwent surgery to remove his testicles, before being placed in intensive care.

“This injury will cause Fadel lifelong physical and psychological damage, and will certainly affect his ability to marry and have children.” Fadel’s doctor said. 

“They shot me for no reason,” said Fadel. “They could have rescued me, but they just left me there for three hours. I will never forget what they did to me.”

“This is a horrific example of Israeli soldiers injuring children with impunity. When a child is shot and left for hours without being given medical attention the perpetrators must be brought to justice.” – Ayed Abu Eqtaish, Accountability Program director at DCI-Palestine

Fadel is one of several children who have been injured by Israeli forces near the Gaza border fence in 2014, with the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reporting at least 16 children wounded and one killed by live ammunition in the surrounding area.

More than 1,500 Palestinian children in the West Bank were injured by “weapons other than live ammunition” between January 2011 and December 2013, according to a recent report by the human rights group Amnesty International.

At least 67 children were “shot and severely injured by live ammunition fired by Israeli soldiers in the West Bank” in the same time period.

Prayer: The God of Hope, we seek you. We ask you for physical healing of the children who have been injured but also spiritual and psychological healing from the violence that happens in Gaza. Protect these children, and all the children in the Holy Land from the effects of the conflict. There is so much suffering and loss of innocence, and we ask that you show us how we can continue to help. Show us what tangible ways you call on us to help the children of Gaza. Heal their suffering. Heal the Holy Land of it’s turmoil, Lord. We ask these things in your name.

This story was initially shared on Defense for Children International – Palestine’s website and is reprinted here with permission. CMEP is very thankful for the writers who contribute to our Prayers for Peace blog. However, CMEP does not necessarily agree with all the positions of our writers, and they do not speak on CMEP’s behalf.