Said al-Hisoumi lost both his father and his sister when Israel bombed the northern Gaza Strip town of Beit Lahiya earlier this month.
“My father [Muhammad Awad] struggled throughout his life up to 12 March 2012,” al-Hisoumi said. “At noon on that day, my father and my sister Fayza were bending down, working in a greenhouse right here, when an Israeli missile tore their bodies apart.”
As he spoke, al-Hisoumi pointed to the spot where the Israeli missile struck.
Muhammad al-Hisoumi, a 72-year-old native of Beit Lahiya and his daughter Fayza, 30, were watering vegetables when an Israeli drone attacked their greenhouse.
This was part of an Israeli air offensive on the coastal territory that left 24 Palestinians dead and 74 injured, according to the Palestinian Center for Human Rights’ weekly report for 8–14 March, and damaged or 32 houses, a school, a Palestine Red Crescent Society center and a workshop.
In retaliation, Palestinian resistance factions began firing rockets at Israel, and Israel escalated its attacks on the Gaza Strip until a ceasefire, brokered by Egypt, was reached four days later.
Al-Hisoumi recalled how his father recently visited Germany, Sweden, the Netherlands and France to see his relatives in Europe.
The elderly victim of the Israeli missile had a hard life. Before Israel occupied Gaza in 1967, he worked as a school teacher in Saudi Arabia. He had also been a steelworker for an Israeli company. In the early 1980s, Muhammad began to work as a farmer inside Gaza, eventually acquiring a small piece of land.
Fathi Taha, 68, a neighbor and brother-in-law of al-Hisoumi, spoke to him briefly just before he was killed.
“I saw him and his daughter, moments before they were killed and I said to him, ‘Take care Abu Said Muhammad, the situation is scary with the continuous air strikes on Gaza,’” Taha recalled.
“He responded to me by saying, ‘I am an elderly person and this is my land which I am used to working on; just don’t worry, brother Fathi.’”
“May God lay him to final rest. Muhammad was a man with strong values. I worked along with him inside Israel and once our Israeli boss didn’t like my work and was threatening to sack me. Muhammad didn’t feel comfortable and decided to stop working in protest that day,” Taha said.
Walking on al-Hisoumi’s small piece of land, Taha added, “Muhammad’s good deeds were many. For example, I wanted once to send my son to Germany to study medicine but I couldn’t afford the financial guarantee of $20,000, but Muhammad met that financial demand with pleasure.”
“Father to us all”
Ahmad al-Hisoumi, Muhammad’s 60-year-old brother, spoke while surrounded by his small grandchildren in the vicinity of Muhammad’s family home.
“My brother Muhammad was not only a brother, he was a father for all of us. He was at the center of every family occasion. Recently, my son Yousef got married with a great deal of financial help from my brother Muhammad.”
“A dark house” now
At the front door of Muhammad’s two-story house, a group of women sat consoling Muhammad’s ageing wife, Um Said.
“Abu Said was a very good man to me, to my children and to all others around us. Now I am left alone, after he and my daughter Fayza died. I am the only one left at home now and I feel the house is so dark without them,” Um Said said.
Akaber al-Hisoumi, a sister-in-law of Muhammad, told The Electronic Intifada that she experienced a great deal of kindness from the al-Hisoumi family since she married Muhammad’s brother Asad 25 years ago.
“Fayza was such a quiet and kind girl, who was very tender, sensitive and generous. She used to be so helpful, just a couple of days before she died, I returned from being in the hospital to find that Fayza had cleaned my home. On the day she was killed, she even promised to bake bread for me.”
Akaber added that Fayza had been helping out nieces and nephews who had lost their father. “She used to tell me that taking care of orphans will be rewarded by God. Fayza’s income from her farming work used to be almost entirely spent on her orphaned nieces and nephews.”
Rami Almeghari is a journalist and university lecturer based in the Gaza Strip.