Israel killed my grandmother

Israel has caused major destruction to al-Shifa hospital and its surrounding area. 

Khaled Daoud APA images

My grandmother Naifa al-Sawada was born in June 1932.

A beautiful girl with blue eyes, she was the only daughter to her parents. They were originally from Gaza but moved to nearby Bir al-Saba, where Naifa’s father Rizq worked as a merchant.

She did well at school and in 1947 obtained the necessary certificate from the British – then the rulers of Palestine – to attend university.

She did not do so, however. Her father was fearful about what could happen to her at a time when war in Palestine appeared imminent.

At a young age, she married my grandfather Salman al-Nawaty and went to live in Gaza.

Between 1947 and 1949, Zionist forces expelled approximately 800,000 Palestinians from their homes.

Among those directly affected by the Nakba – Arabic for catastrophe – were Naifa’s own parents, who fled their home in Bir al-Saba for Gaza.

Having witnessed the Nakba, Naifa encouraged her own children to defend Palestine.

Naifa gave birth to four girls and six boys.

Great loss

Like so many mothers in Gaza, she experienced great loss.

Her son Moataz went missing while traveling to Jerusalem in 1982. It is still not known what happened to him.

Another son Moheeb, a journalist, left Palestine for Norway in 2007. Three years later he traveled to Syria.

In January 2011, he went missing.

The Syrian authorities subsequently confirmed to the Norwegian diplomatic service that he was imprisoned. But he has not been allowed to contact his family.

We do not know his current whereabouts or even if he is alive or dead.

My grandmother witnessed the first intifada from 1987 and 1993.

On the streets around her, youngsters with stones and slingshots rose up against armed Israeli soldiers in tanks and military jeeps.

During that time, her son Moheeb – the aforementioned journalist – was held for more than a year without charge or trial. That infamous practice is called administrative detention.

My grandmother lived close to al-Shifa, Gaza’s largest hospital.

Naifa al-Sawada 

She took great care of arranging everything in her home with her delicate hands. She used those same hands to comb her hair into braids.

She memorized the Quran and took great interest in the education of her children and grandchildren.

On 21 March this year, Israeli troops broke into my grandmother’s home.

The soldiers displayed immense brutality.

They ordered the women in our family to evacuate on foot and arrested the men. They would not allow the women to take my grandmother, who had Alzheimer’s disease, with them.

The soldiers claimed that my grandmother would be safe. That was a lie.

The invasion of my grandmother’s house took place amid Israel’s siege on al-Shifa hospital.

My grandmother’s house was destroyed during that siege and she was killed. Her remains were found days after the Israeli troops eventually withdrew from the hospital earlier this month.

She was killed – alone – in the same house where she had lived since 1955.

We do not know if she suffered or if she died quickly.

We do know that she was older than Israel’s merciless occupation.

Mariam Mohammed Al Khateeb is a writer in Gaza.