91 year old, and his grandson, among three farm workers killed by Israeli shells in Gaza

When 91 year old Ibrahim Abu Sayed left his home near Beit Hanoun in northern Gaza, yesterday morning, in order to check on his land and his animals which graze next to the remains of his former home, he took with him his 17-year-old grandson Hossam and the young boy’s friend and neighbour, 16-year-old Ismail Abu Oda. His son, Hossam’s father, didn’t want to come because it was the final day of Eid ul-Fitr, the Muslim festival that follows the holy month of Ramadan.

Despite his age, Ibrahim Abu Sayed was still mobile enough to regularly check his 3 dunums of land, as he had done for decades. The last decade had been the hardest as his house was destroyed in 2000 by Israeli bulldozers and his rebuilt house destroyed in the 3-week Israeli war on Gaza over the New Year of 2009.

But early Saturday evening would be the last time Ibrahim, Hossam and Ismail would work their land. Seven hundred metres away from their land – north of Sharab Street – at the border with Israel, tanks made an incursion into Gaza. The old man, his grandson and the friend did not stand a chance when the tanks fired shells directly at them.

“I was there half an hour before it happened”, said Mohammed Abu Oda, another relative. “I saw them by their sheep. I heard the shells from the Israeli tanks, the shells we learned soon afterwards had killed our relatives.”

They were killed instantly, and were dead on arrival at Beit Hanoun hospital, according to the doctor who examined them. Ibrahim suffered severe shrapnel injuries to his face, chest and stomach and his grandson Hossam had the back of his head blown away. ISM activists verified this immediately as they saw and photographed the mutilated bodies in the morgue. Ismail, Hossam’s friend, had arrived at the hospital 30 minutes after the others but had been buried before ISM arrived at the hospital; according to doctors much of his head was shot away.

The boys had been close friends, studying in the 9th and 10th grade respectively, and had expected to return to school after the end of Eid, the following day. But yesterday they still were on holidays, so they went to help Ibrahim, as they often would. Despite the struggle they endured after their house was destroyed and their land bulldozed, the family, who are Bedouins, had no other job except farming. Although they were obliged to farm their land close to the border, it was still far enough away to be outside the Israeli imposed “buffer zone”

“Israel claims that there’s a 300 meter buffer zone, but they were 700 meters away from the border”, said one of Ismail’s uncles, Majdy Abu Oda.

“The people there are farmers who’ve been living there for years. We, the people here, were never dangerous for the Israelis. They have photos of the people who live and work here, the area is full of observation cameras. So they knew them.”

Because of this the family considered themselves to be relatively safe, even though there were tanks at the border. It turned out they were mistaken to feel even slightly secure. While all the inhabitants of Gaza are victims of Israel’s ‘collective punishment’, a crime against humanity according to article 33 of the Geneva Convention (of which Israel is a signatory), they are the latest to be subjected to its worst manifestation and murdered with complete impunity.

If a 91 year old man, his grandson and young boy were killed while tending to their livestock on their own farm, 700 metres from a border, somewhere else in the world, there would likely be outcry. Where is the international outrage? Where is the clamour for justice? If equal standards were applied the media uproar should at least be comparable to the condemnation over the Israeli settlers shot two week ago – people who were living illegally on stolen land according to international law. Israeli armed forces have continued to wage a war against civilians in Gaza, long after the Israeli air and ground assault in the winter of 2008/2009 ended, yet condemnation of this state terrorism and its innocent civilian victims is rarely heard.

The family clearly posed no threat; they were known as long term residents of the area. But Israeli soldiers knew they could kill these three men with impunity, having previously almost entirely destroyed their livelihood.

Saber Zaneen, General Coordinator of the Beit Hanoun solidarity group, ‘Local Initiative’, released a statement following the killings, calling for justice.

“Today the occupation committed a new crime which will be added to its black list. Three martyrs now rest in heaven after the shelling and again we call on the international community and civil society to pressure the occupation forces to stop such crimes against Palestinian civilians and to start working on giving some protection to the local people in the Gaza strip,” he said.

They have also announced that tomorrow (Tuesday) morning at 10AM there will be a demonstration against the killings involving a march towards the fence, next to the Erez border. Four International Solidarity Movement activists will be there to accompany the protestors and document the likely violent repression which it may be subjected to – at the last non-violent demonstration in the area, live ammunition was used by Israeli border soldiers.

About Adie Mormech

Adie Mormech is a human rights advocate based in the Gaza Strip.
Posted in Israel/Palestine | Tagged , , ,

{ 23 comments... read them below or add one }

  1. James says:

    stories like these are so depressing… when will the people of israel or the usa and the world for that matter reach a point of realizing how wrong this is, and how their gov’ts have taken such a wrong turn to support either directly, or indirectly actions of the idf such as this?? it seems the media is complicit in never covering stories that appear here at mondoweiss regularly…

  2. Israel’s buffer zones always seem to expand so that even the buffer zone has its own buffer zone. And anyone in it gets an automatic death sentence…by tank rounds no less!?!

    If they were settlers this would be all over the news. I’m guessing this won’t be (cuz it was like, you know, justified and stuff).

    • sherbrsi says:

      Israel’s buffer zones always seem to expand so that even the buffer zone has its own buffer zone. And anyone in it gets an automatic death sentence…by tank rounds no less!?!

      The nature of the occupation: Israel is the judge, jury and executioner, usually in one fell swoop, as witnessed in this mass murder.

  3. sherbrsi says:

    91 year old, and his grandson, among three farm workers killed by Israeli shells in Gaza

    Killed by Israeli shells in Gaza. Note that the headline does not read that the three farm workers were killed by Israeli shells, while the Palestinians expelled the Israeli populace, demolished farms and villages with bulldozers or took over homes with military backup, keeping its original residents homeless. They were merely civilians going about their daily life while the intruding Israeli army shot them dead.

    That is the difference between this latest round of routine Israeli killings of Palestinian civilians and that incident of Hamas violence against militant Zionists.

  4. Hard to convey the disgust this engenders in any civil-minded person. The complete disregard Israel has for human life is beneath any contempt I can feel for them. To then compound the crime by claiming in its insouciant and utterly callous way that they were perceived as a threat – one very old man and two boys, all well known to the border patrols – is beyond savage. Will apologies and full compensation as well as an immediate enquiry and the conviction of the IDF responsible for this now take place? Of course not, yet Israel mouthpieces will continually tell us how they are the ‘only’ country with a separate judiciary and an accountable system. Sick Sick B*stards.

  5. David Samel says:

    The headline of the Jerusalem Post article on this incident proclaims: “IDF foils attempted terror attack at Gaza border fence”. AlJazeera, on the other hand, uses the headline: “Israeli shelling kills Palestinians: Farmers believed to be among three dead in Beit Hanoun in barrage following rocket fire from Gaza” AlJazeera reports the Israeli army version, that the IDF “opened fire at a group of terrorists preparing to fire an RPG [rocket-propelled grenade]” at Israel, but does not trumpet that idiotic claim as its headline.

    Why does Israel feel it can kill with impunity and then tell bald-faced lies about its murders? Because it gets away with it all the time. Will Obama or Hillary Clinton announce that this cowardly and brutal triple-murder will not derail the peace talks? Or that they demonstrate that Israel is not serious about peace? Will they say that the transparent lies of the IDF call into question every excuse it gives for its killing, from Gaza to the Mavi Marmara to hundreds and hundreds of incidents just like this, when ordinary Palestinians die and the world takes no notice?

    • Bumblebye says:

      And this David, was a far more opportunistic and random murder than that carried out on the settlers. This was simply because they could, so why the hell shouldn’t they. No consequences at all for them. Morality is for Palestinians, psychopathology for the state of Israel and its soldiers.

      • David Samel says:

        Of course it was, Bumblebye, far worse. For so many reasons. I hope my condemnation of the settlers’ murder did not give the impression that I find something like this to be equivalent. They may have thought they were retaliating for sporadic rocket fire — you fire a rocket, we’ll kill some of you — but morally, that even makes it worse.

        • piotr says:

          Not true. Morality is carefully measured by Israel, and it is regularly found that theirs is superior. There is a variety of methods, but I like two if them.

          1. Could kill/did kill ratio. For example, it was explained many times that were Israel genocidal, they could EASILY kill many more. So IDF kills an minuscule fraction of its capacity, while Hamas, Hezbollah and the even more pitiful outfits are close to 100%.

          This metric is so important that sheds light on some aspects of military and foreign policy. For example, nuclear weapons are Weapons of Mass Moral Superiority. Were Iran in possession of such weapons, it would be a calamity, ESPECIALLY if those weapons were not used.

          2. Vibrancy of democracy. It was somewhat awkward when Russia was involved in a war that we wanted to criticise. Clearly, Russia could “flatten” Georgia, and she did not, so by criteria developed above we should praise Russia. But careful research revealed that Russia’s democracy is not vibrant. And if Saakashvili borrowed, slavishly! every trick from Putin’s book, it was clearly the fault of Putin, who, after all, invented these tricks.

          Again, democracy of Palestinians and Lebanese is not vibrant, unlike in Israel.

          3. Originality. IDF was widely praised for “unprecedented measures to save innocent lives”. Usually, without elaboration, I am sorry to say, so one could ponder if white phosphorus belongs to such unprecedented measures (it was used before to create smoke screens or as incendiary weapon, but never in the annals of wars to save innocent lives). But some reports were more concrete: how IDF drone operators were carefully watching a Palestinian climbing onto a roof, thus resembling a legitimate target (he/she could dangerously stare at IDF ground troops mere miles away), but upon closer observation it was clear that he/she was hanging out laundry, and thus an innocent victim was spared.

          It stands to reason that after meticulous observations, the degree of innocence and “civilianality” of the targets was determined, and apparently, found wanting.

        • RoHa says:

          What an excellent analysis!

          I thought the Israelis used a primitive “superior virtue of the descendants of the formerly oppressed*” method, but the methods you describe are much more sophisticated.

          I’m sure they can measure tiny increments of moral difference even in very complex circumstances, and save us from foolishly thinking that there could ever be anything questionable about Israel’s morality.

          (*Some of them actually were oppressed, some of the time.)

    • sherbrsi says:

      Why does Israel feel it can kill with impunity and then tell bald-faced lies about its murders?

      Just read the report you posted, and I am reminded of the recent article on Corrie’s trial, and Israel’s “defense” that was produced out of thin air. That’s what it is always like and has been. There is no burden on the Israelis to produce anything even close to a credible explanation or evidence for its atrocities (not that there could be). Just “remember the Holocaust” and everything makes sense: Israel = eternal victims, Palestinians = raging terrorists.

  6. eljay says:

    >> So a 91 year old man, his grandson and a friend of his were killed while tending to their livestock on their own farm, 700 metres from the border with Israel. Where is the clamour for justice?

    It’s disappoint that, although ethnic cleansing is “not currently necessary”, the “better wheel” of shooting at unarmed, innocent civilians remains in full force. However, as long as we apply “enough Zionism” to the situation, there’s no need for justice.

  7. Chaos4700 says:

    WHEW. It’ll be nice to have one really good article that the Zionist will be completely absent from.

  8. I expect our local Zionists to be wringing their hands right now about the morality of ‘executing’ helpless 90 year olds in their arbitrarily defined prison for surplus non-Zionists. Witty, hophmi, Schwartzman, et al?

  9. eljay says:

    >> I expect our local Zionists to be wringing their hands right now about the morality of ‘executing’ helpless 90 year olds in their arbitrarily defined prison for surplus non-Zionists.

    There will be no hand-wringing, only calm, sterile disapproval (“the killing is disappointing, unhelpful”) and distraction.

  10. annie says:

    may their souls rest in peace.

  11. Antidote says:

    Recent headlines:

    IDF foils attempted terror attack at Gaza border fence‎
    Jerusalem Post – 20 hours ago

    Attacks from Gaza on Israel increase‎
    Jewish Telegraphic Agency – 12 minutes ago

    Editorial: A message for Hamas
    By JPOST EDITORIAL
    09/13/2010 04:29

    “It is Hamas’s destructive policies, such as the current attempt to escalate the conflict with Israel, that are the source of Gaza residents’ miseries.”

    Artillery shelling in Gaza kills 3
    Boston Herald – ‎9 hours ago‎

    “GAZA – Three Palestinians were killed and two others wounded yesterday during an Israeli artillery shelling in the Gaza Strip, officals said.

    An Israeli Army spokesman told reporters that the shelling in the northern Gaza Strip city of Beit Hanoun was carried out to thwart an attempt to fire a rocket at Israeli forces.

    The attack was also in response to two mortar shell firings yesterday into the southern Israeli region of Negev by Gaza militants, the spokesman said. The shells reportedly did not cause any injuries or damage.”

    Israeli tank kills 3 Palestinians
    ABC Online – Anne Barker – ‎16 hours ago‎

    “Israeli troops have shot dead three Palestinians, including a 91-year-old man and his teenage grandson, in a Gaza town near the Israeli border.
    The Israeli military says a group of Palestinians were preparing to fire a rocket-propelled grenade into Israel.
    Soldiers opened fire from a tank, hitting an unknown number of people.
    Three men were killed, including the 91-year-old and his grandson.
    Hours earlier Israeli forces had fired warning shots at a group of men approaching the border fence.
    Palestinian militants fired one rocket into Israel but no-one was hurt.
    At least seven rockets or mortars have hit Israel in the past week.
    Hamas, which rules Gaza, is vehemently opposed to the new peace talks between Israel and Palestinian leaders, which resume for a second round tomorrow.”

    It’s too depressing to cite more

  12. Avi says:

    It’s quite sad that a human being survives for 91 years, grows old while seeing his grandchild becoming a young man only to be killed by an occupying murderous army. Most people at 91 pass away of natural causes, but this man had his life ended at the barrel of a gun.

    • Oscar says:

      Avi, it gets even more depressing. Here’s the official line from Israel, reported verbatim from NY Times award-winning stenographer Isabel Kershner:

      Friction along the Israel-Gaza border has been mounting since Sunday, when three Palestinians, including a man in his 90s and his teenage grandson, were killed in northern Gaza by Israeli mortar fire.

      Wednesday’s airstrike was on a tunnel that the Israeli military said was operated by Hamas and “used to smuggle terrorists” into Gaza. Witnesses said the man who was killed was working in the tunnel.

      And the two kids they shot in the face? What did the “witnesses” say about them?

      The new IDF lie is to simply link the murder of a Palestinian to either presence at a “tunnel” or a skirmish at the “border.”

      • Sumud says:

        NQR Oscar. The killing of 3 in northern Gaza (the senior senior citizen & his grandson & a mate) on Sunday was a different incident to the tunnel bombing.

        Still, your thesis (that Israel lies habitually) holds water, this is how Israel MFA (now just @Israel on twitter) referred to the Sunday killing of three:

        For the Second Time in Three days, IDF soldiers Met with RPG-Carrying Militants in Gaza, 14 Sept 2010 link to ow.ly
        link to twitter.com

        So now we know, the 91 year old man and his teenage grandson and grandson’s mate were in fact RPG-carrying militants..

        I really find it disgusting how MSM journalists let Israel get away with such blatant lies

  13. For additional insight as to how the very sanctity of the buffer zone trumps all else, remember this story.

    Not Guilty: Israeli Soldier Shot Palestinian Girl 17 Times

    From: link to opposingviews.com

    [excerpt]

    An Israeli army officer, who killed a 13-year-old Palestinian girl by shooting her 17 times, has been acquitted on all charges by an Israeli military court.
    Last year, Iman al-Hams walked into a security zone at an Israeli army post along the Gaza Strip border, an area forbidden for all non-military personnel. She was also carrying a backpack, which is a common carrying-case for explosives for suicide bombers.

    A soldier in a watchtower saw the girl, and radioed troops on the ground. In a recording obtained by an Israeli television station, the soldier describes Iman as “a little girl” who was “scared to death.” Troops opened fire. She dropped the bag and started running. They then fired at the bag, establishing that it did not contain explosives. The recording reveals she was running away from the army post when she was shot.

    An officer identified only as “Captain R” moved in for “confirmation of the kill,” which is apparently standard procedure. But Palestinian witnesses say while she was lying on the ground, Capt. R opened fire at the girl, emptying his weapon.

    On the tape, Captain R “clarifies” to the soldiers under his command why he killed Iman: “This is commander. Anything that’s mobile, that moves in the (security) zone, even if it’s a three-year-old, needs to be killed.”

    Captain R was not charged with her killing, rather he was charged with illegal use of his weapon, conduct unbecoming an officer and perverting the course of justice by asking soldiers under his command to alter their accounts of the incident.

    Captain R claimed he did not fire the shots at the girl, only near her. But Dr. Mohammed al-Hams, who inspected the child’s body, counted numerous wounds.

    “She has at least 17 bullets in several parts of the body, all along the chest, hands, arms, legs,” he told the British newspaper the Guardian shortly afterwards. “The bullets were large and shot from a close distance. The most serious injuries were to her head. She had three bullets in the head. One bullet was shot from the right side of the face beside the ear. It had a big impact on the whole face.”

    Following the verdict, Captain R burst into tears, turned to the public benches and said: “I told you I was innocent.”

    Israel often points to the terrorist actions of Hamas or Palestinian leadership such as Arafat to drive home the point about the unrepentantly violent and aggressive nature of those they face. Yet Israel’s terrorism has always been an official arm of the state and they reserve sole power and discretion to reprimand or not as they see fit. Looking the other way over even the most egregious incidents send the message that cover will always be more important than justice. Captain R retaining his anonymity is yet but another way in which he can blend back into the woodwork of “respectable” society.

    Not very hard to do as he did not “murder”, but rather only faced charges for illegal use of his weapon – and having the nerve to try to get others to lie about it. Considering typical IDF behavior regularly approved, you’d think this would earn him the Israeli equivalent of the Medal of Freedom.

    Heckuva job, Capt. R!