The paramedics and witnesses could not differentiate between the pieces of flesh of the eleven-year-old Nadi al-Attar, and those of his grandmother, 57-year-old Khairiyya, or the donkey’s, scattered on the branches of lemon and boxthorn trees on both sides of the dusty road in Beit Lahia, north Gaza.
Yesterday, the old woman and her three grandsons Nadi, Shadi (14), and Ahmed (17) were riding a donkey cart, heading to their field to collect ripe figs that fetch a good price in Gaza’s markets when Israeli rocket hit their cart and blasted two of them into small pieces.
The smell of burned flesh filled the area where several people were still collecting pieces stuck to the trees and fences of the nearby orchards. The corpse of the donkey lay near the broken cart, where a teenager phoned emergency services to inform them of the remains.
Ahmed, 17, had arranged empty boxes on the cart and left room for his grandmother and cousins. The old woman and Ahmed sat on the front of the cart while Shadi and Nadi in the back.
Shadi, who was wounded in the attack, said that his grandmother “vanished” after the attack, and said that he does not know whether the rocket was fired from a tank, helicopter or a drone.
“The rocket hit my grandmother - I flew in the air and did not see anything,” said Shadi, who is still laying in Kamal Udwan Hospital, north Gaza.
“The dust filled the area. I heard Ahmed screaming and asking for help. I did not see my grandmother or Nadi. They killed our donkey and destroyed the carriage,” he said.
Nadi al-Attar, 55, the grandfather of the deceased boy, was ashamed when he admitted that he refused to share his salad with his wife before she left to the orchard.
“She made salad and asked me to share [it with] her, but I said no and left the house to work; it was the last salad in her life,” he said while sighing deeply.
Nadi, who works as a driver, said that he was working when a radio station reported that Israeli artillery hit a donkey cart carrying an old woman and children.
“I drove so fast that I [almost drove] over several people returning home, where I realised I lost my wife and grandson,” he said.
He wondered, “Why did they kill an old woman and a child? Were they fighting or carrying weapons? They just were going to pick up figs.”
Ahlam al-Attar, 37, who lost her mother Khariyya and her son Nadi, said she knew about her mother and son from the radio.
She and her family members were to go to the hospital when some people relayed the bad news. “I do not understand why they killed my mother and son; I never imagined that I would lose any of them.”
We knocked on the doors of several houses among the trees not far from the scene of the crime, but one of the neighbours said that others had left because of the continued Israeli shelling.
In a different home, an old woman named Um Hassona said that she could not see anything when the Israelis hit the cart.
“We were astonished when we heard a very strong explosion; our house was shaken strongly, and dust filled the place. I ordered my children not to peep from the window; thus, we did not see any thing,” she said.
Um Hassona asserted that it was too difficult to find an eyewitness, as the area is mostly unpopulated after most residents left because of the Israeli bombardment.
The paramedics collected the rest of the pieces of flesh, which they took with the corpses, and the donkey was still lying under the boxthorn tree, waiting to be removed by municipality workers.
Sami Abu Salem lives in Jabalia Refugee Camp and works as an English news and features writer at the Palestine News Agency (WAFA). This article is reprinted by permission from 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.