OPT - Cast Lead Aggression 1st Anniversary, Day 2: The Kishku Family, Az-Zeitoun in Gaza City

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Just after 7pm on 28 December 2008, an Israeli F16 dropped a bomb on the Kishku family home in Az-Zeitoun neighbourhood of Gaza City. Abdullah Kishku, 49, his wife Sabah, 49 and four of their children, Mohammed, 11, Latifa, 15, Fatma, 18 and Talal, 24 were sitting outside on the patio along with Talal's one-year-old daughter, Islam. Talal's wife, Maisa, 21, and Abdullah and Sabah's youngest daughter, Ibtihal, 8, were inside the house when the bomb struck. Al Mezan interviewed Fatma, now 19, about how the family is coping almost a year after the attack.

Sitting on the Patio

"I was sitting with my parents and siblings on a piece of land in front of our house as there was no electricity during the (Cast Lead) offensive," Fatma explains. "My father, Abdullah, had just sent Ibtihal upstairs to tell Maisa, my sister-in-law, to come and join us outside. Suddenly, I felt a strange pressure and heat all around me. Then I found myself lying on the ground with my niece, Islam, in my arms. Her father (my brother), Talal, had been holding her seconds before. At first, I thought that one of my brothers had knocked me over as a joke because I'd been swinging on my chair. But then I smelled a strange chemical smell which made my stomach hurt. Talal started to shout and yell, 'What's happened? What's happened?'"

Searching for the Wounded

When Talal and Fatma realised they'd been attacked, they began to search frantically in the dark for their parents and siblings. "I heard Latifa, groaning, followed the sounds and found her against a wall covered in rubble. She managed to get up and then we heard my father from underneath the rubble calling for help. We tried to move bits of stone but still couldn't find him. Then, I saw some torches in the distance and decided to go for help. Latifa and I ran towards the lights and found some young men standing around. I begged them to come to help us but they were too scared that there would be another attack. I left Islam and Latifa with them and ran back to save my parents. I just kept thinking, I want to live with my family or die with them. I can't stand waiting for the ambulances to come while they are dying."

For over an hour and a half Talal and Fatma scrambled around in the rubble trying to rescue their family. Eventually relatives who had heard about the attack on the radio arrived to help followed shortly by an ambulance which transported the most severely injured to hospital. The rest of the family followed in a civilian car. Fatma explains what happened next, "I was sitting on a bed waiting to be treated and I saw a woman being brought in on a stretcher. She had blood coming out of her mouth and one of her eyes and bits of stone all over her body and face. Suddenly, I realised it was my mother. I ran over and started saying, 'It's me, Fatma, it's me,' but she just kept shaking her head. Then she tried to speak, she was saying, 'ib....ti....hal...ib...ti...hal.' It was only then that I remembered. Ibtihal and Maisa were still in the building when the Israelis attacked."

Losing the Youngest Child

Palestinian rescue teams went to the house but in the dark they couldn't find Ibtihal or Maisa. They went back at dawn and recovered their bodies. In addition to losing her youngest child, Sabah was seriously injured. A year after the attack, she still struggles to walk. "A column fell on my mother when they bombed our house," says Sabah, "She was very seriously injured. She sustained a broken hip, a broken leg, and internal stomach and chest injuries. The doctors sent her to Egypt for treatment and she stayed there for over two months." Due to the severity of her condition, Sabah's husband, Abdullah decided not to tell her straight away that Ibtihal had been killed. "She was devastated when she found out," says Fatma, "Completely destroyed that her youngest child had been killed."

The Kishku family had bought their home just six months before it was bombed. They lost all of their belongings and cannot rebuild as the unlawful Israeli siege, now in its 30th month, prohibits the entry of basic building materials such as bricks and cement into the Gaza Strip.