Sisters killed in Gaza “reborn” through cousins

Three young Palestinian sisters; Shahd Okal, eight months old, Maria Okal, five years old and Somaia Okal, 15 years old, and their mother were killed when an Israeli rocket hit their house on 26 July 2006 while they were swinging inside their house. But on 18 March 2008, Shahd, Maria and Somaia were born in the same Izbet Abed Rabbu neighborhood of Jabaliya town in the northern Gaza Strip.

Nisreen Okal, 23 years old, gave birth on tuesday to quadruplets, three girls and one boy, all in good health at Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza City.

The unemployed father, Ata Okal, 31 years old, decided to give the three sisters the names of their cousins who were killed less than two years earlier. He gave the name of his grandfather to the boy, Abdelkareem.

“We are so happy, we feel that God helped us to compensate the three sweet girls who were killed by Israeli troops two years before,” the father said.

“It is a promise for the innocent children, I promised my cousin Samir if we have baby girls I will give them the same names of his daughters,” Ata added.

Nisreen said that she passed through hard times especially in the last Israeli incursion in which 130 Palestinians were killed, most of them civilians.

After the quadruplets’ birth, Nisreen expressed her joy, and mentioned how hard it had been to have children after several miscarriages in the last three years.

Dr. Hassan Al-Louh, Deputy Director of Al-Shifa Hospital, said that the infants and their mother are all in good health. He mentioned that the mother gave birth by cesarean section that went very smoothly with no difficulties.

On 26 July 2006, Shahd, Maria and Somaia were all playing on a swing in the family’s home as their mother sat nearby. Israeli artillery hit their house killing the mother and her three daughters.

The father of the three dead daughters, Samir Okal, 37, recalled the moments when the Israelis killed the innocent children, “The Israeli tanks were close to our house, so I closed the window and ordered the children not to look [from the window], after we had our lunch, a rocket hit my house.”

“Dust covered our house, I remember that I couldn’t see anything but heard the cries of my daughters everywhere,” the father said while tears filled his eyes.

Samir expressed his “warm congratulations” to his cousin Ata and hoped a beautiful life for the four newborns far away from the Israeli rockets.

Sami Abu Salem lives in Jabaliya Refugee Camp and works as an English news and features writer at the Palestine News Agency (WAFA). He has also worked at the International Press Center of the Palestinian Authority State Information Service, and works as a freelance writer for local newspapers, focusing on literature and arts. This article was originally published by Ramattan News Agency and is republished with the author’s permission.

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