The narrow streets of the 70 acres of Gaza City’s densely crowded Beach refugee camp were never so quiet as today. The poor camp on the western part of the city is famous for starting life too early every day, with the fuss of street vendors, donkey cart drivers and the vegetable market, which is filled with customers by 6:30 am.
All of these faded this morning, one day after Ibrahim Abu Thurayeh, 29, was shot dead during skirmishes with the Israeli army east of the city.
In front of his old family home, Abu Thurayeh’s friends began to set up a condolence tent for his relatives and neighbors. His 27-year-old cousin Mahmoud Abu Thurayeh was delivering the chairs shortly before mourners arrived.
“Ibrahim has always been the first to offer help to set up such tents for the martyrs of the camp,” Mahmoud said. “But today it seems he will not, forever”.
Ibrahim had lost his legs in an Israeli attack on Al-Bureij refugee camp in central Gaza. He was injured in 2008 by an Israeli helicopter that targeted him after he took down an Israeli flag along the border and raised a Palestinian one.
Since that time, he has been active in the clashes–until he was killed with a bullet above his eye fired by an Israeli soldier.
About 150 Palestinians were injured and four were killed near the border fence in Gaza on a day of clashes that erupted also in the West Bank in protest of the U.S. recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
In a video clip two days before his death, Ibrahim said he had come to participate in the clashes in Nahal Oz (east of Gaza) because he wanted to cross the occupied land on the other side of the barbed wire border even once in his life. But his dream ended with a fatal shot.
“The Israeli army is cowardly and does not appear to fight except behind the concrete cubes,” he added in the video. “We only have small stones that reach only 50 meters, and every day I will come crawling on my hands.”
“I am here to deliver a message to those soldiers: ‘This is our land and we will not give up. The United States should withdraw its declaration over Jerusalem.'”
Losing his legs did not mean he was helpless, said Sameer Abu Thurayeh, 32, Ibrahim’s brother: “My brother was an icon of confrontations and was always found in the first rows. He lost his feet 10 years ago because he replaced the Israeli flag on the border, and yesterday was killed while a small Palestine flag was in his lap.”
“Ibrahim came here only to express his anger at the Trump’s declaration, so he was the victim of murder,” Sameer said, adding that the Israeli soldier “was involved in killing a young man without feet crawling on the ground.”
The older bereaved brother, who took part in Ibrahim’s funeral, recalled for Mondoweiss their last conversation during breakfast last Wednesday. Ibrahim saw that the demonstrations were becoming deadly. “Mom, bro… please forgive me for any mistake I have ever did, I have lost my legs for my country and I think that is not enough, I must sacrifice my whole body for the sacrifice of the homeland,” Ibrahim said.
“I did not know a friend or a brother but Ibrahim,” Sameer said. “Israel robbed me of everything. Why they fear a wheelchair bound man?”
At the morgue doors of Shifa Hospital, a crowd of relatives and associates from the skirmishes gathered to catch a final glimpse of his body. I met Nael Abu al-Reesh, 23, who apparently had not changed his clothes since the clashes erupted a week ago. I could smell the fumes of burning tires, while his sweater was filled with bits of dry grass picked up on the eastern border.
“Once we arrived at the confrontation on Friday afternoon, I was pushing Ibrahim’s wheelchair at his request to the nearest soldiers’ point. He was carrying a slingshot and a small flag,” Nael said.
“Suddenly a soldier raised his thumb.” The soldier’s look said, you are doing a wonderful job guys and I will show you something soon, Nael said. “In a minute we were rained with dozens of gas bombs and everything turned like fog. I felt that I had lost the wheelchair handles and no longer heard the words ‘Push me more forward.'”
“After a few seconds, I found Ibrahim’s forehead bleeding heavily, there was a hole above his left eye, and then I realized that his soul had gone forever,” Nael said, standing near an ambulance preparing for his funeral.
“I will go back to Nahal Oz now. I feel there is a duty to do over there,” Nael told Mondoweiss.
While those young men in the West Bank and Gaza confront Israel with stones, Israeli soldiers fire rubber bullets and live ammunition.
Since Trump has turned his back on decades of U.S. and international diplomacy by saying Jerusalem is the Israeli capital, the international community warned of uncontrollable reactions, and Hamas vowed to open “doors of hell” and called for a “new intifada.” Demonstrations have swept the Palestinian territories. Eight Palestinians have died and hundreds have been injured in clashes with the Israeli army, while dozens have been arrested.
All photographs by Mohammed Asad.