It took eight days. Eight days since the last innocent was killed. You watch people die here one after another, getting killed one by one, without consequences, without justice, without an outcry in the media. Innocent people who have never done anything wrong in their lives other than try to make a living from something amidst the stifling four year siege. Civilians. Palestinian civilians, whose life doesn’t seem to be worth more than an entry in the statistics. And you feel like your hands are tied. “So that’s what I can do: register it in my notebook. It is registered, and there is an empty line after Shaban’s name. That is for those who they kill tomorrow”, wrote the American writer Max Ajl after the farmer Shaban Karmout was killed. It took eight days, and the place was filled. Amjad ElZaaneen, was 17 years when he was killed today. Too young, too early, too meaningless, too many names in all of our laptops.
Amjad collected stones that morning, on the 01/18/2011, as on every morning, with his three cousins and his brother, the youngest of whom was eleven. Five boys, children, with a horse and a cart full of stones, about 300m from the border with Israel, and near to the village of Bait Hanoun. They had just loaded their cart full as they saw Israeli tanks and bulldozers coming to invade the land, why, who knows. A group of resistance fighters approached the area, including fighters from PFLP, the Communist Party, to fight them out again, to prevent them from again uprooting the land. A more symbolic act, the country was destroyed hundreds of times before, by tanks and bulldozers, one more time, what difference does it make. Amjad and the others ran for their lives, successfully, they arrived safely at home.
But the horse was still there, after all, and all the stones they had collected with difficulty, for which they had risked their lives to have some income that day, and for the next one maybe, who knows whether the situation then wouldn’t be even more dangerous. So they returned, as they thought the situation had calmed down, and the tanks and bulldozers had withdrawn from Gaza's land, after they had flattened it one more time, why, who knows. But when they arrived at their horse, and just wanted to take it back home, Israeli soldiers fired a shell at them, and Sharaf Raafat Shada, 19, was hit by a piece of shrapnel in the chest. Amjad, the oldest, tried to pull him away, to lay him on the cart to somehow take him to the hospital, but Sharaf was too heavy for him. So Amjad made the decision to try to reach Bait Hanoun in order to get help. He hadn’t gone far when a shell directly hit him into his belly, leaving a wound so large that he bled to death within minutes.
The young boys broke out in panic and ran off to get to safety. Ambulances and people living nearby arrived to try to rescue the boys, waving white flags, but that didn’t stop the shooting. It took a long time until they managed to reach them.
Ismael Abd Elqader ElZaaneen, 16 years old, is now in hospital in Bait Hanoun, with bandages on nearly every part of his body. "We ran in all directions, but they fired about ten artillery shells at us. I got shrapnel deep in my back and smaller pieces all over my body. But I kept running nevertheless, until I got to the main road from Bait Hanoun." Even the injured Sharaf somehow managed to reach refuge at the main street without being hit by the shelling again. The eleven-year old Abdel Qader Oday Elzaaneeen was slightly injured by shrapnel to his cheek. He was standing in the hospital and crying, visibly in shock, his cousin is dead, and his brothers are injured severely. "I have no idea why the Israelis have done this," he says quietly. He is too young to stand here and cry, he is too young to run for his life between shells, he is too young to have lost his cousin today. And Amjad was too young to die today, by a grenade that has torn his stomach apart.
As his mother heard what happened, she collapsed in the hospital. And even as she regained her consciousness, she remained lying down silently, her eyes closed. How can the world be still there if her son is no more.
The uncle of Sharaf, who is standing next to his bed, said: "The Israelis are committing crimes every day here. None of us civilians can enter his fields anymore. The brutality is escalating dramatically in recent times, farmers, shepherds, stones collectors, we are all murdered. They don’t have mercy on anyone, neither for the elderly, nor for children. People out there must begin to help us, because every day, every week and every month we have to mourn new injuries and deaths. Since 1948, we are suffering and it’s getting worse and worse. We don’t get support from anyone. But we need help. All Palestinians are potential targets. All of us. No one is excluded, no one is safe."
Each of the relatives, waiting in the hospital, could be the next victim. As a farmer on the field, as a shepherd, while collecting stones. Today Amjad ElZaaneen was the next name on the list of innocent deaths, of senseless killings. On the long list in all of our laptops, in all of our consciences.
Vera Macht lives and works in Gaza since April 2010. She is a peace activist and reports about people´s daily struggle in Gaza (Vera.Macht@uni-jena.de)