One child dead, two critically injured as Israeli army attacks Balata

Khalid’s mother, sister and two aunts wait for his body to be brought to their home. (ISM Nablus)

I’m tired. Not just from sleep deprivation — the Israeli occupation forces have entered several nights this week — although that is some part of it, or the anaemia I’ve now succumbed to. I’m tired by the frustration and heartbreak of being 50 metres away again when the Israeli army shot another Palestinian child, 16 years old Khalid Mohammed Msyme, the brother of a friend of ours.

A friend once described our role here as babysitting, watching the eighteen year old Israeli boys with guns so they don’t think they can shoot Palestinian children in the homes with impunity. I fear the truth is they do act with impunity. I’ve lost count of the outraged reports I’ve read of children being killed by an invading Israeli army in Palestinian towns. I’ve lost count of the number of times we’ve reported invasions, arrests and killings in breach of the Sharm Al Sheikh agreement and I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve hoped this breach will be the one the world notices at last.

Friends of Khalid comfort eachother. (ISM Nablus)

Before the army came tonight a Palestinian friend was telling me about all the killings and atrocities he’s witnessed. Occasionally he thinks of the smell of charred flesh or of the feeling of what he called “meat from their bodies” in his hands but mostly these graphic memories don’t trouble him. He says it was shocking at first but it’s normal for him now. I hope I never get to that point. Seeing the army murder should never be normal. When I called to tell him what happened tonight he sensed my frustration and guilt. I didn’t say anything, I knew it wasn’t right to but somehow I wanted to apologize for not stopping them shooting the boy. When I told him wearily they killed another boy, he said gently “It’s alright.” In that moment I was overwhelmed with resentment for everything he’s been through and utterly humbled that he wants to protect and reassure me. Why should he have to live through all that and then take care of a stupid foreigner too?

It’s light now, I haven’t slept; my emotions are still too high. Angry, frustrated, resentful, disappointed. The Israeli Army was in streets of Balata Camp again. In the heart of the West Bank of Palestine . The residents are refugees, people already displaced by Israel once. The children are continually under attack in this refugee camp, their home. I was never optimistic about Sharm but I’m still desperately disappointed. I’m frustrated, sad and weary that another child died. We were a few metres too far away. I wish this would never happen again but part of me wishes everyone there would have this experience. If everyone felt this sadness and frustration you would all pressure our governments and corporations to stop funding Israel’s occupation of Palestine.

The funeral procession in Nablus. (ISM Nablus)

Arriving at the gate of the Balata refugee camp shortly before 11pm, the Israeli army opened fire into a group of civilians without warning. One fourteen year old boy was shot in the head and is critically injured. Two sixteen year olds were shot, one fatally, in clashes overnight. The army occupied three homes. The Balata Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade has said they will no longer keep the ceasefire.

Israeli armed vehicles arrived at the camp late in the evening. Despite the presence of two large groups of civilians, including two internationals, the soldiers began firing live rounds directly into the camp. The internationals had not heard any Palestinian gunfire. When medics arrived on the scene minutes later the internationals learned that a child in the other group 50 metres away had been shot in the head. The jeeps continued to fire and entered the camp, smashing market stalls and preventing the internationals reaching the scene.

Residents gather at the cemetry in Nablus. (ISM Nablus)

Residents called for assistance after their home was occupied by the Israeli army. The soldiers prevented medical teams from returning to the area, declaring it a closed military zone. Jeeps remained in thecamp and continued shooting all night. The internationals were forced to take cover inside a house from where they heard firing, explosions, army dogs and announcements from nearby jeeps.

The mosque was broadcasting noise all night. I don’t know if it was a coincidental malfunction or a tactic of the army. At the call for the pre-dawn prayer I could still hear jeeps and a woman crying. Then ethereal echoes of more distant mosques, the unified broadcast muezzin rebounding off the hills. Finally the Balata mosque joined in after 4am. It was comforting.

At 7:25 the mosque announced the death of another boy, 16 year old fighter Khalid Mohammed Msyme. He died in a clash with the army during the night. The first boy, Noor Njam,14, although shot with a live bullet in the head, is not yet dead but not expected to live. Sometimes it takes a long time to die. A third boy, also 16, from Sanegre family, is critically injured too, having been shot in the stomach.

At the morgue boys not as high as my elbow jostled to see Khalid’s body. Khalid’s teenage friends sat outside in silence, dazed and shocked. An older friend tried to offer comfort but he was shaking with emotion himself. Khalid was a fighter and a martyr at just sixteen years old. Men lead the funeral procession back to the camp, praising the child as a hero. Meanwhile the women waited near his mother’s home. One of her sons died before the intifada, another has been imprisoned by Israeli for the last three years. In that time a second brother died and today Kahlid. His mother has lost three sons now, his brother has been incarcerated while two brothers were {blocked}ed.

During the funeral service we sat in silence, exhausted. New visitors were exhausted and shocked. Palestinian friends were silent in their grief. For myself I am just very weary. The futility of all this death is heartbreaking. The deaths of yet more children in a so-called ceasefire is devastating. I’m not hopeful the killing will stop anytime soon.