Israel executes Gaza’s elders

“I remember Christmas being a very special celebration in Gaza,” Hammam Farah says in this video.

The Gaza-born Palestinian Canadian therapist recalled seeing photos from the holiday season a year ago when his relatives and friends in the territory’s close-knit Christian community got together for the lighting of the Christmas tree.

“Those pictures looked so festive, so joyous,” Hammam recalls. What a terrible contrast with the present, when the Christmas season in Gaza is being marked not by celebrations but by Israel’s genocide.

Hammam Farah was speaking to The Electronic Intifada livestream last week from Toronto about how Gaza’s Christian community – among the world’s most ancient – is on the verge of extinction at the hands of Israel’s military, which treats mosques, churches, hospitals, schools, homes and civilians as legitimate targets.

One of the victims of the genocide Hammam talks about in detail was a beloved Gaza elder, his 84-year-old great aunt Elham Farah.

A musician and retired educator, she had been displaced to the Holy Family Church in Gaza City in early November but according Hammam, “she couldn’t stand being sheltered at the church anymore, so she found a ride to take her back to her house.”

“Relatives tried to tell her that she should stay in the church for her own safety … but she was quite an independent woman,” Hammam says.

The driver would not risk taking her all the way to her house, so she got out. As she walked the final stretch, an Israeli sniper shot her below the knee and she fell to the ground.

Left to die in the street

Elham used her mobile phone to call relatives back at the church who said they would try to send help. But that proved to be impossible. The Red Crescent would have to get permission from the Israeli army which – as they habitually do – denied access.

Family members called the neighbors but no one could do anything with so many Israeli forces in the area.

“My great aunt herself was telling my relatives over the phone, ‘I see tanks and I see snipers all over the place,’” Hammam says.

As she lay bleeding to death within sight of others who could do nothing to help, Elham was able to speak by phone with her loved ones. She also talked to the priest, asking him to pray for her the prayer of death.

It was only the next morning, when neighbors were fleeing south to escape the merciless Israeli onslaught, that they were able to check on Elham. But unfortunately she had died of what was likely a treatable injury.

On the livestream, Hammam revealed that his family had only just learned how during the so-called humanitarian pause in Israel’s genocide in late November, church personnel went to try to retrieve Elham’s body.

“They only found parts of her body because it was run over by a tank,” Hammam says.

Elders executed, crushed to death

Israel’s horrific and apparently deliberate murder of Elham Farah is sadly far from an isolated incident.

“The Israeli army has executed dozens of older Palestinians in the Gaza Strip in direct shooting operations,” Euro-Med Human Rights Monitor said last week.

“This incredibly vulnerable group of civilians is suffering twice over,” the human rights group adds, “as Israel has turned all people in the Strip into targets since the 7 October start of its ongoing genocide against Palestinians there.”

More than 1,000 older people have been killed by Israel, about one percent of this age group, according to Euro-Med. Seniors represent one in 25 of all deaths in the genocide.

“The majority of them were crushed to death under the debris of their homes or the shelter centers where they sought safety after Israeli aircraft bombed their homes, or while being forced to seek basic necessities in the streets and marketplaces,” Euro-Med Monitor states.

“Alarmingly, however, dozens were targeted in killings and field executions.”

Testimonies collected by the rights group document incidents of “soldiers shooting elderly people immediately after ordering them to evacuate their homes, and in some cases, executing them just moments after their release from hours or days of arbitrary detention.”

15 faces of men and women placed together in a montage

The faces of some of the older Palestinians murdered by Israel during its genocide in Gaza. (Euro-Med Monitor)

Photographed for propaganda, then shot

In one particularly shocking incident on 10 November, Israeli occupation forces executed 71-year-old Bashir Hajji, who lived in Gaza City’s al-Zaytoun neighborhood.

“His murder occurred shortly after the Israeli army published a picture showing one of its soldiers talking to Hajji; in the picture, the soldier is pretending to be protecting and assisting Palestinian civilians during their displacement,” Euro-Med Monitor states.

Hala Hajji, his granddaughter, told Euro-Med Monitor that Hajji died after being shot multiple times in the head and back.

The army photo, along with images of Hajji after his execution, were published by media at the time.

Stripped and abused

Israel has also attacked the fragile infrastructure that cares for the most vulnerable elders.

In November, Israel bombed the al-Wafa hospital and home for the elderly care in Gaza City’s al-Zahra district, killing its director, Dr. Midhat Muhaisen.

Israel has not spared Gaza’s elders any of the abuse it metes out against the rest of the population.

Photos and videos of the Israeli military detaining hundreds of Palestinian men in al-Yarmouk stadium in recent days “shows the detainees, including children, older people and persons with disabilities, being forced to strip to their underwear in degrading conditions,” UN monitoring group OCHA stated on Tuesday.

In video testimonies after their release, detainees “including older persons, alleged that they had been tortured and ill-treated in captivity, with video footage showing bruises and burns on their bodies,” OCHA states. “They also reported being deprived of food, water and access to toilets and being exposed to the elements.”

Palestinians with family in Gaza have been honoring their elders, many of whom survived the Nakba, the British-backed Zionist ethnic cleansing of Palestine in 1948, only to be murdered in Israel’s genocide of 2023.