The killing of Fuad Abu Ghali

Fuad. It means “heart.”

The ambulance was on its way to pick up a patient in the East Side of Jenin when the dispatcher put out an urgent call that someone had been wounded in that neighborhood. “Wounded” inevitably means “attacked by the military power that dominates the population.”

House numbers are rare so the ambulance usually finds a patient by asking people on the street to direct him to a landmark. This time was different. At every corner of the route winding uphill, clusters of people were pointing out the direction and urging us to hurry.

We reached the site of the attack, and stopped the ambulance about six metres from the body which had fallen to the ground. As we jumped from the ambulance and ran to him on the crest of the hill, three soldiers identifiable by their identical olive uniforms appeared running up from the other side of the hill. Suddenly I felt it was a race, and it was important to win it.

The ambulance workers and the army reached the body simultaneously, and I could see now that this was a young man lying motionless at our feet. We did not yet know if there was life in him. The soldier closest to the body seemed crazed. Hysteria overtook him as he seemed to claim his booty.

“Where is the weapon? Where is the weapon?” he yelled repeatedly in Arabic to the stunned old man coming from the house to see what had happened, leaning on his cane.

The soldier, with frantic eyes, quickly turned his frenzy on the medic, holding his rifle to the unarmed man’s head, and demanding that he produce the young man’s weapon. I used a calm voice, more than the logic of the words, to try to calm his fear.

“We have just come to pick up the wounded. This is our responsibility here. We are just collecting the wounded man.” The other medic leaned down to check for signs of life. The soldier stopped shouting but the fear and frenzy remained. He seemed shocked by what he had done. He hunted his prey successfully only to discover that his prey was unarmed and anything but dangerous.

As the old man approached his son, the soldier’s wrath resurfaced in the form of barked commands: “Rouh!” (“Go!”). He would not permit the father to have a last moment with his son. The hunter-soldier was flanked by three comrades on their guard against other unarmed civilians in the neighborhood.

The young soldier on my left looked at the scene, and then at me as I looked at him. He seemed to be trying to comprehend what happened, and to be realizing that the fallen young man was not so different from himself. The frenzied blond soldier turned around and ordered the others to be on guard, at which point they pointed their rifles again in every direction. No danger.

Fuad’s mother came from the house and helped the medic put her son on the stretcher before he would be separated from them by the ambulance door. I found the sandal that had come off one foot and placed it inside the door to the front yard that he had just come from moments ago.

Fuad’s father, banned from approaching his beloved son of twenty-one years, now walked down the street waving his cane. How could he express his shock and his grief at what had happened so suddenly? The bullet hit Fuad’s heart before it made any sound. Fuad was struck down first, and his father only heard the M-16’s supersonic bullet after the impact.

One bullet. A former soldier told me that if he felt threatened by an enemy, he would set the gun to shoot three bullets or a continuous round, but not a single shot. It is the hunter who chooses to shoot a single shot, usually aiming at a victim who is moving slowly.

Did the Israeli Army sniper know that Fuad was the only one of the four children who had normal intelligence? Did the sniper know that his prey was named Fuad/”Heart”? Is this why he chose to target Fuad’s heart? Of course he probably did not know his name, but he did know where to find his heart.

This mystery sniper revealed himself. Will he be taken in for questioning, for identification by eyewitnesses, for a trial in a court of law? An Israeli soldier is unlikely to be put on trial for murdering a Palestinian at his doorstep. How much are you raising your voice against this attack on civilization and rule of law?

Fuad Ahmad Abu Ghali, killed in Jenin in occupied Palestine on 27 October 2002. Fuad means “heart.” If his name had meant “foot,” would his murderer have shot him in the foot? Fuad means “heart.”

Dr. Annie Higgins is an Arabic and Arabic literature lecturer at the University of Chicago and is a former recipient of the Fulbright-Hays Fellowship. She is currently in Jenin.