US CONSULATE IN JERUSALEM IGNORED PLEA TO STOP ISRAELI ASSAULT ON PALESTINIAN-AMERICAN FAMILY
BackgroundAmr Salah, a United States citizen living in Massachusetts asks for your help in demanding a formal investigation into the deaths of his father and brother at the hands of 1,000 Israeli troops. Dr. Khalid Salah, age 51, and his 16 year old son, Mohammed were shot and killed by Israeli Defense Forces on July 6, 2004 in their home in the city of Nablus in the Israeli Occupied West Bank. Throughout the hours of assault the Salahs were huddled together in a corner of the apartment, contacting relatives on a mobile phone for help. Despite an urgent call to the U.S. consulate in Jerusalem, Consul General David Pearce nor anyone else at the consulate intervened.
Dr. Salah received his doctorate in engineering at the University of California, Davis in 1988 and was a member of the Palestine-Israeli Peace Association at An-Najah University in Nablus, where he was a Professor of Electrical Engineering. Both Dr. Salah and his wife Salam had permanent US resident status and had reluctantly made the decision to leave Nablus. They were preparing to move to the United States at the time of the assault. Their daughter Diana and son Amr were born in California and are US citizens. The Salahs had returned to Nablus in 1989.
According to Amr, “My dad was a very gentle man who loved his family, his work and his community. Despite living with war for many years he remained a man of peace and often told me that Israelis were his cousins and that he prayed that Israelis and Palestinians could live together in harmony.” Amr Salah attends Middlesex College in Lowell, MA where he studies computer science. He plans to become an computer engineer like his father.
“My Dad had turned down a good job offer in Silicon Valley. He wanted to teach in his home town and help those who did not have the educational opportunities that he had,” Amr continued. “Despite the curfews, closings and almost constant military action in Nablus during the last 15 years, my Dad managed to stimulate young minds with his love of science and, more importantly, with his love of peace. My Dad hated violent words and acts and he would not tolerate hateful words, even against the Israelis who occupied our city.”
Amr alleges that his father and brother were innocent victims of aggressive and reckless Israeli action. Shortly after the attack, his mother and sister phoned to describe the circumstances of the deaths of his father and brother. Amr was told that in the early hours of July 6, his mother and father and sister Diana (22), and brothers, Mohammed (16) and Ali (11) were asleep in their home when they became trapped during an Israeli military pursuit of two armed men. Their apartment building was attacked with rockets and machine guns during the first hours of the Israeli action, he said.
“My family somehow survived this initial attack without injury and following an Israeli command to evacuate the building, my father spoke to the soldiers in English to tell them that their damaged door could not be opened,” Amr explained.
“The soldiers then fired through a window in the top part of the front door and my father, and then my brother, Mohammed was both shot. My Dad died instantly from a chest wound and Mohammed was wounded by a bullet in the mouth when he came to help my Dad,” he continued.
“The Israeli forces then entered the apartment and forcibly removed my mother, Diana and Ali and, despite my Mom’s pleading not to abandon him, my brother Mohammed was left by the Israelis and he subsequently bled to death.” His mother further reported that there was no attempt to gain medical help for Mohammed or to allow local ambulances access to the area, and that the Israeli soldiers ridiculed and verbally assaulted her.
“The Israelis attacked an apartment building full of innocent people with tanks, helicopters and rockets and then killed my father and brother after they had caught the two men that they were chasing,” Amr said.
According to eyewitness accounts, the militants were isolated and killed in a courtyard and grounds area near the apartment building occupied by the Salah family. Israeli sharpshooters were stationed on rooftops and balconies throughout the neighborhood, and residents of the apartment building had been evacuated, except for the Salahs. The full military assault continued on the family’s apartment even after the militants had been killed.
“Newspaper reports of the incident made it quite clear that the Israeli military were actively evacuating their wounded at the time of the shooting,” Amr stated. “When my mother returned to our home three days later the building was damaged further from Israeli attempts at demolition and my family home had been extensively machine-gunned to destroy the contents.”
I was first contacted by Diana Salah shortly after a memorial poem I wrote, “Palestinian-American Family Ensnared in Israeli Death Trap” was published. When they learned that I planned to visit Palestine to attend a conference held by the Faculty for Israeli-Palestinian Peace, the family was determined that I visit.
In January, on the six-month anniversary of the attack, I met the Salah family in Nablus. Salam now lives with her mother and sister Fatema, in her childhood home and where she lived during her courtship, situated on the South Mountain directly across from Khalid’s family home on the North Mountain. Accompanied by her daughter Diana, Salam drove us in her deceased husband’s car to the site of the attack, up high on Saka Street along the south side overlooking the city.
It was her first venture outside her mother’s home since her husband and son were brutally and willfully murdered, I was told. Salam has since lost over 40 pounds and her features have become gaunt. Though the front door and windows were replaced, bullet and mortar holes are still visible on the porch and throughout the apartment. Blood stained rugs are rolled and Khalid’s and Mohammed’s blood has soaked deep into tiles. She stated that Israeli tanks fired from vantage points on Saka Street as well as from the streets of the city below.
Salam and Diana led me into the kitchen where all the pots and pans are riddled by bullets as well as the cupboards, refrigerator, floor and ceiling. In the bathroom, I saw beautiful, hand-painted floral tiles shattered along with the bathroom fixtures. The parent’s and children’s bedrooms are riddled by bullet holes and their clothes pock marked and shredded. The computer in the boy’s room is also shot-up as well as posters along the wall. Salam continues to pay rent on the apartment and intends to keep it as a memorial to the deaths of her beloved husband and son. She also confided she cannot bear to have their blood further desecrated by tossing away the tiles and discarding the rugs.
Salam said neighbors informed her that prior to the attack, the Israelis had checked out the neighborhood and knew the names and backgrounds of the residents and the exact location of the Salahs, including the fact that Khalid was a well known peace activist. Two physicians who also lived in the apartment building were evacuated during the attack but prevented from treating Dr. Salah and his son, despite pleas from Salam.“Not once has anyone from the US Consulate’s office in Jerusalem contacted me to help or send someone to witness what was done, despite the fact that Khalid had permanent US resident status, and two of my children are American citizens with US passports,” she said. “No one from the Nablus Municipality or police has examined the apartment nor has any effort been made to investigate the deaths, despite that fact that the assault was widely reported by the media.” Salam finds unbearable the knowledge that one of their relatives had successfully placed a call to the US Consulate during the attack. They could have stopped the assault but they chose to do nothing. They are partly to blame for the deaths of her husband and son, she believes.
The Israeli paper Ha’aretz published an article in their weekly magazine section, “Death in a Cemetery” by Gideon Levy that described the military assault in vivid and gruesome detail. Salam and I sat on her mother’s living room couch as we leafed through the article and others written in Arabic plus keepsakes from the memorials and many tributes to her husband and son. Glossy posters of the Salah martyrs are posted in the hallway, living room and dining room as well as the bedrooms of the home. Salam dresses in widows’ black and wears a leather strap around her neck with photos of Khalid and Mohammed. It is a struggle for her to focus on anything but her loss though she is concerned that her surviving children not be permanently scarred by the tragedy.
Though her grief is obvious, Diana is a bright, vivacious and attractive young woman, quite popular with many friends. She appears to be adjusting, but Ali is 11 years old and remains deeply affected and somewhat withdrawn since the loss of his father and brother. He too has many cousins and friends who shower him with attention and seem to understand, for the children of Nablus are no stranger to death and live with nightly assaults and rampages by the Israeli armed forces. These assaults have continued since the election of Abbas and the so-called truce, despite Israeli claims to the contrary.
In the evening Salam and I watched a video that had been dropped off by a friend of TV footage of the attack, scenes in the hospital where the bodies of Khalid and Mohammed and the militants had been brought, the separate funerals, and graveside observances. She is determined that those responsible for the deaths of her loved ones will someday be brought to justice.
Two years earlier, Dr. Salah and his son Mohammed had been visited by the Israeli Channel 2 sports commentator, Itai Engel, during the Mondial, the World Cup of soccer. Engel’s task was to report on reactions from a Palestinian family on the game between Brazil and Turkey. In the Ha’aretz article following their deaths, Gideon Levy reported, “They talked about peace and about soccer.”
Please contact Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to request a formal investigation into the killing of Dr. Salah and his son Mohammed. Letters should be sent to the attention of Secretary Rice at the U.S. Department of State, 2201 C St. NW, Washington, DC 20520; telephone 202-647-4000; Email statements may be sent through the website.
Letters and petitions requesting that Secretary of State Rice conduct a formal investigation should also be sent to US Senators and Congressmen, heads of state and legislators throughout the world and by contacting Jerusalem Consul General David Pearce, P.O. Box 290, Jerusalem 91002; Email: jerusalemACS@state.gov as well as to the Office of Israeli and Palestinian Affairs, Email: email@example.com