How he died

Published: Electronic Intifada    By Eva Bartlett

A good, brave, and very funny man was killed yesterday as he loaded the body of a civilian twice-killed into an ambulance.Emergency medical workers, Arafa Hani Abd al Dayem, 35, and Alaa Ossama Sarhan, 21, had answered the call to retrieve Thaer Abed Hammad, 19, and his dead friend Ali, 19, who had been fleeing the shelling, when they were themselves hit by an Israeli tank’s shell. 

It was after 10 am on January 4th, they were in the Attattra region, Beit Lahia, northwestern Gaza, around the area of the American school bombed the day before, killing a 24 year old civilian night watchman inside, tearing him apart, burning what remained.

Squealing in pain, right foot amputated and shrapnel lacerations across his back and body, Thaer Hammad tells how his friend Ali was killed.“We were crossing the street, leaving our houses, when the tank fired.There were many people leaving, not just us.” Hammad stops his testimony, again squealing with pain. For the past two days, since the Israeli land invasion and heightened bombing campaign began, residents throughout Gaza have been fleeing their houses.Many haven’t had the chance to flee, have been caught inside, buried alive, crushed.The doctor continues the narrative.“After they were shelled, Thaer couldn’t walk.He called to Ali to carry him.” The rest goes: Ali had carried Thaer some distance when Ali was shot in the head, a bullet, shot from an unseen soldier in the direction from which they fled.Ali dead, Thaer injured, and people fleeing, the ambulance was called.

*Thaer, writhing in pain.

When Arafa and Alaa arrived, they managed to load Thaer into the ambulance, and were working on getting Ali’s body to the clearly-marked vehicle when the shell came.Ali lost his head, killed twice. Alaa is riddled with shrapnel over his body and to his groin. Arafa’s lung came out.

Arafa underwent heart surgery and doctors worked on his mutilated body. He went into shock and died an hour or so later.

His funeral was hurriedly held, a procession, a burial, and the traditional mourning tent.The tent was shelled, mourners inside. Another medic tells me of Arafa’s brother on the phone, calling the news radio station: “we’re being shelled, someone come to get us.”

A science teacher by profession, Arafa had volunteered as an emergency medic for nearly a decade. He was delightful, warm, had a nice singing voice, and was not at all shy about being silly. I remember him stomping ridiculously around the now-vacated Jabaliya PRCS office (Israeli soldiers have taken over the area) saying he was hungry, very hungry, and chomping down on the bread and cheese that we had for a meal.

I had the privilege of working one night with Arafa, of seeing his professionalism and his humanity.“He wanted to die like that, helping our people,” Osama, a fellow medic told me.Not a martyr complex, so engineered by living with death, occupation, invasions, humiliation, and injustice for so long, but a dedication to his work, to people.

His killing has since been followed by those of 3 more emergency medics.

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32 comments

  1. I lived and worked in the West Bank and Gaza for 8 years – 4 during the first intifada and 4 during the second intifada. We saw a great deal of brutality and injustice. Obviously we never saw anything like this.

    Thank you for the tremendous work you are doing to bring to light what is surely a fraction of the true story. The world is indebted to you.

    It is so senseless. Why? And where is the world reaction? Have we all lost our moral compass? I am so sick of hearing the drumbeat of Israeli lies on CNN, BBC, NPR, etc.

  2. Hi,
    I’m in charge of The Observers, a citizen web site operated by the tv station France 24. I really appreciate your stories and I’d like to share them with our readers. Can you contact me? If you could send me your phone number, that’d be great. Best,

  3. I’m a french guy and I’ve just discovered your wonderful blog thanks to an article published today in Le Monde.

  4. Your reports have touched me. I am sickened by what I have seen and read. Thank you for letting the world know what is happening – the coverage of the BBC and others in the UK is not giving the full picture of the atrocities being committed. Keep Safe.

  5. I wish I could do something!!!
    My heart aches for the people at Gaza.

    Can´t imagine being in your shoes…stay safe

  6. I’m from the Netherlands, our prime minister justifies the attacks.
    I am ashamed to be dutch, lots and lots of strenght to the Palestinian people

  7. Thank you so much for all the work you all are doing. I my self don’t know what to do from here in Sweden. I’m sick and tired of my government for not banning Israel for this and asking for total, international blockade of Israel.(and maybe even USA for as long as they are supporting Israel) Why are there not ANY bold politicians in this world anymore? Why are the world (of over 6 billion people) afraid of some 15 million jews?! Because of the Holocaust? Why should WE remember it – they are rubbing it in the whole worlds face for 60 yrs, and they do not remember it themselves – repeating it themselves right now, at this very moment in front of the eyes of the whole world, chamelessly. And the World just shake their heads and say something like “no, no, please isreal don’t do that”. And they all think that they have done a real good job for the Palestinians. Thank you once again for your bravery.

  8. Thankyou and keep safe , inshalla your testomony will put these war criminals away , all we want is justice for Palestine , night is coming and I really am praying that god keeps you and all the Gazans safe tonight , God bless you

  9. You are in my thoughts everyday. Your commitment is tremendous. From some of the above comments it seems that your word is getting out… Keep yourself safe.

  10. You’re in my thots & prayers ST Eva. I wish I could be there with you. Spoke with your mother on Sunday and will call her again tomorrow night. Thank you for your witness and your courage.
    Lotsa love and hugs!!!!

  11. Keep the posts coming as no journalists are getting inside Gaza.

    Can you get photos that proves the ambulances were shot at? Together with a fresh newspaper coverpage to prove the photos are recently taken photos?

    It’s israeli claims against palestinian claims.

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