December 28: Life in the ruins

Fatma’s family had been living in their home for six months when it was destroyed by a bomb.

A Palestinian girl sits on the remains of what used to be her family home in Gaza [GALLO/GETTY]

For each day of Israel’s war on Gaza, the Al Mezan Center for Human Rights, reports on how one family is coping with the war’s aftermath.

In its second report from the Gaza Strip, Al Mezan talks to the Kishku family whose home was destroyed a year ago by an Israeli bomb.

On the evening of December 28, 2008, an Israeli F16 dropped a bomb on the Kishku family home in the Az-Zeitoun neighbourhood of Gaza City.

Abdullah Kishku, his wife Sabah, and four of their children, 11-year-old Mohammed, 15-year-old Latifa, 18-year-old Fatma, and 24-year-old Talal, were sitting outside on the patio along with Talal’s one-year-old daughter, Islam.

Talal’s 21-year-old wife, Maisa, and Abdullah and Sabah’s youngest daughter, eight-year-old Ibtihal, were inside the house when the bomb struck.

Al Mezan spoke to Fatma, who is now 19, about how her family is coping a year after the attack.

‘Strange chemical smell’

in depth

“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 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?'”

‘To live or die’

When Talal and Fatma realised they had 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,” Fatma says.

“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 the 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.”


Smoke rises following Israeli airstrike, Gaza City, Gaza Strip, video still AP

Palestinian rescue teams went to the house but in the dark they could not 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 Fatma.

“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, completely destroyed that her youngest child had been killed,” Fatma says.

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 Israeli siege, now in its 30th month, prohibits the entry of basic building materials such as bricks and cement into the Gaza Strip. 

Source : Al Jazeera

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