Palestinian relatives and friends of the Al-Loulahi family mourn during two of the family members’ funeral in Rafah, southern Gaza Strip, 18 May 2007. The two were killed by an Israeli air-strike on their vehicle. (Hatem Omar/MaanImages)
In an isolated barley field, located just few hundred meters away from the Israel-Gaza border line in eastern Rafah city, a heap of barely lies in the middle of the field. The field is now abandoned — why? Not because there are no farmers in the area, but rather because the Loulahi family, who had been harvesting barely, were hit by Israeli missiles.
Samah, the daughter, was killed, and Ahmad, the son, killed as well. The father Sulieman was wounded, while A’isha, 19, is being treated at the nearby European Hospital after sustaining shrapnel wounds to her leg.
With her pale and yellow face, while surrounded by relatives and friends, the simple Rafah farmer spoke out with a sadness and bitterness which she would have never felt unless the Israeli missiles hadn’t killed her “soul.”
Despite her pain, A’isha spoke out: “It was 6:30 pm. We were harvesting the barely near the Sufa crossing, the sun was setting, while myself, my father and my brothers and sisters were all bending down in our field.
“My father asked us to leave our brother Mohammad in the car. We left the field, then the Zannana [unmanned drone plane] fired a missile that hit us directly,” Aisha says.
“My father rushed to us and called for the ambulance, then another missile was fired. I kept dragging my body until I arrived at our house and asked help from the neighbors, then a third missile was hit. By then, I heard people saying, ‘the car was went off’ and I learned that my sister Samah and my brother Ahmad were killed, while my father was injured,” A’isha recalls.
“There were no gunmen near us, it’s our field, we come here everyday to harvest the barely. Why did they hit us? What is our fault?” A’isha wonders, while sighing bitterly at the loss of her family.
A’isha’s family is not to the first and, unfortunately, probably not the last civilian causality as a result of the current Israeli attacks on the Gaza Strip. Just upon writing this piece, an Israeli tank fire killed three Palestinian shepherds while they were tending to their livestock in the northern Gaza Strip city of Beit Hanoun.
On Thursday, Israeli air forces involving F-16 jetfighters, Apache helicopters and unmanned drones as well as artillery fire, have been hitting several targets across the Gaza Strip, under what Israel termed to be a response to the Palestinian homemade shells being fired by Palestinian resistance groups into nearby Israeli towns.
The attacks have so far killed 36 Palestinians and wounded scores of others, including bystanders, and caused severe damages to civilian infrastructure.
The Palestinian Authority’s information minister condemned the Israeli raids on Gaza, calling them “war crimes” and stated that Israel should talk peace instead of stepping up aggressive actions against the Palestinians.
“War crime” is a description that was not only wielded by the Palestinian Authority, but also by the Israeli Human Rights Group B’Tselem, which sent an urgent letter to the Israeli Defense Minister Amir Peretz urging him to stop what the group called “a form of collective punishment.”
The group considered these attacks as an act of revenge that would not stop the homemade Qassam shells being fired at Israeli targets.
Indeed, it appears the offensive won’t prevent the firing of homemade shells, or at least that’s what was insisted by Abu Adnan, member of the political leadership of the Popular Resistance Committees in the Gaza Strip.
Abu Adnan believes that the Palestinian resistance is determined to keep up resisting the occupation until it wins the battle the way the Lebanese resistance did in southern Lebanon last summer.
“Israeli politics seems to be locked down in extreme darkness as Israel has so far rejected all peace offers including the Palestinian prisoner swap deal, the Palestinian willingness for direct peace talks with Israel and most recently, the Arab states’ peace initiative,” says Abu Adnan.
“Israel also has yielded no effort to further strangulate the Palestinian people, by blocking movement, closing border crossings, attacking the West Bank and shunning all peace proposals. Amid such Israeli arrogance, what do you expect from the Palestinian people? To keep their hands cuffed?” Abu Adnan wonders aloud.
Chief of the Arab League, Amr Moussa, speaking at the Amman World Economic Forum on Saturday, blamed Israel for the deteriorated situation in the Gaza Strip, saying that Israel’s policy of starving the Palestinian people, leading to an unemployment rate of 70 percent, has largely contributed to the current conditions.
Moussa rejected the latest offer by Israeli Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert to open direct talks between Israel and 22 Arab states, saying that Israel should first halt settlement activity in the West Bank and resume direct talks with the Palestinians and consider the Arab peace proposal, which he believes opens up a genuine chance for a lasting peace.
The Israeli government rejected in late March an Arab peace proposal that calls for full Israeli withdrawal from Arab lands Israel occupied in 1967 and Israeli recognition of the Palestinian people’s right to return, in exchange for normal Arab-Israeli ties.
Coincidently, in recent days, the Israeli army had killed nine Palestinians in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, endangering a six-month old ceasefire with the Palestinians, which halted the firing of homemade shells and put an end to last summer’s deadly Israeli offensive on Gaza that killed more than 450 Palestinian men, women and children and destroyed much infrastructure.
In 2002, the year in which the Arabs first launched their peace initiative, then-Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon attacked the West Bank completely within his military offensive “Defensive Shield,” intended to stamp out the Palestinian resistance.
Sharon then said “the initiative is not worthy of the ink on its paper.” It seems that his successor Ehud Olmert has also adopted the same stance, by further striking the Palestinians with last year’s “Summer Rains” offensive and now, apparently, with new rains this spring.
But wait, one more civilian causality has just fallen in northern Gaza. A 15-year-old this time, but who knows who is next?
Rami Almeghari is currently contributor to several media outlets including the Palestine Chronicle, aljazeerah.info, IMEMC, The Electronic Intifada and Free Speech Radio News. Rami is also a former senior English translator at and editor in chief of the international press center of the Gaza-based Palestinian Information Service. He can be contacted at rami_almeghari at hotmail.com.