OPT - Cast Lead Aggression 1st Anniversary, Day 21: Left to Bleed to Death, the Shurrab Family, Khan Younis
Series of Personal Testimonies, Reveal How One Year after Operation Cast Lead, Life in Gaza is Not Back to Normal
Left to Bleed to Death, the Shurrab Family, Khan Younis
Shortly after 2pm on 16 January 2009, during the Israeli declared 'humanitarian' ceasefire hours, Mohammed Shurrab, 65, and his two sons, Ibrahim, 18, and Kassab, 28, were injured as they were returning from the family farm in the east of Khan Younis to their home inside the city. The vehicle came under heavy fire from Israeli soldiers stationed in a building along the road. Kassab was shot in the chest and died almost instantly, Ibrahim sustained a non-fatal injury to his leg and bled to death while Israeli forces prevented ambulances from evacuating the wounded for some 22 hours, and Mohammed sustained shrapnel wounds to his arm. Al Mezan interviewed Mohammed a year after the attacks to see how he and his family are coping with the aftermath.
Post traumatic stress
"Now, I can't sleep unless I take sleeping tablets," says Mohammed in clear, articulate English. "As soon as I put my head on the pillow and close my eyes I am watching what happened right in front of my eyes. It's as though I'm watching a video tape."
The day of the attack, Ibrahim and Kassab had just come out to the farm for a few hours to check on their father and bring him some food. Mohammed decided to drive his sons back to their home in Khan Younis city during the Israeli declared 'humanitarian' ceasefire hours.
"We were driving back and then I heard something hit the front window. I realised it was bullets and I yelled at my sons to get out of the car and shelter behind it. As Kassab was getting out he was shot in the chest. He walked about five steps and then fell on the ground. I told Ibrahim to get out too. I told him that as soon as the Israelis realised we were civilians they would stop shooting at us. As he got out of the car they shot him in the leg.
Ibrahim started shouting, "Dad, I'm injured, I'm injured, get an ambulance." I told him not to worry, I could see that he'd been shot below the knee and I told him he'd be okay and that the injury wasn't fatal. He took out his mobile phone to call 101 (the emergency number for ambulances) but a solder started yelling at us, 'Put the phone down or I'll kill you!' The soldier asked Ibrahim who we were and he told him. Then the soldier said, 'Don't use the phone. Stay silent or I'll kill you.'"
After begging the soldiers to call an ambulance, Mohammed was eventually allowed to use his mobile phone. He telephoned the emergency services, but they were prohibited from approaching the area. "I kept telling the ambulance service that it was safe to come, that there was no fighting in the area. It was only me and my sons and the soldiers. Ibrahim was getting so cold. He was shivering and shaking. I covered him with my jacket but he was still freezing so I covered him with the dirty laundry I'd been taking to our home in the town."
Despite repeated calls for help and intervention by an Israeli NGO, Physicians for Human Rights - Israel, with the Israeli authorities, no ambulance was allowed to come. When the NGO contacted Mohammed at around 1.15am, he told them that Ibrahim had already died from an injury in the leg.
Why did they shoot us?
"Why did they shoot us?" asks Mohammed. "Why were they so cruel? They could have shot at the car to stop us or fired warning shots. They shot to kill and then they laughed as we were pleading for help. I wasn't rescued until the following day; we were there for nearly 24 hours. I was kept in hospital for five days and so I couldn't even bury my two sons.
None of us will ever be the same. When my wife saw the place where they killed our boys it killed her. She doesn't want to come to the farm anymore because she just remembers how the boys used to pick the fruits; we planted the trees for them. I paid a private psychologist to see her because she keeps having episodes where she can't catch her breath, but the treatment didn't help.
Mohammed believes that the world cannot see that Palestinians are people just like any other. "How can we convince people of this? That we are just like anyone else? I read books, I cook, I care for my family. Do I need to explain that I read Hemmingway and Shakespeare? My boys had hopes and dreams like any other young men. Kassab was a civil engineer. He was always planning for his future. Ibrahim wanted to go to university. They took all of that away in a second. We still can't believe the boys are really gone. Whenever I look down the road, I expect the boys to walk up towards me. It's not enough to cry and be sad. People need to do something to make this stop."