It is important to put a human face on the terror wreaked by the violent powers of our time. The brutal military occupation of Palestine with the Israeli Zionist intentions of pushing Arabs out of the region is one of the terrors faced a poor but proud people. The following excerpt is from an article in the Telegraph yesterday.
Mahmoud abu Khobayze, 16, heard the sounds of pre-dawn clashes when he woke up in the tatty breezeblock home he shares with his navvy father, Ibrahim, 40, mother, five brothers and two sisters in the village of Mughraqe.
The village is home to some of Gaza’s oldest population, the once nomadic desert Bedouin. It is dirt poor, with domestic animals fenced in not by wire but by hurdles of desert scrub.
Mahmoud had to get up early as he faced a long walk to the Ain el Hilwa secondary school on the outskirts of Gaza City. Days of border skirmishes had led Israel to shut off fuel supplies and there was no school bus.
“It was just a routine day. I could hear some firing, but it was a long, long way off, so I just went to school,” he said. “I cannot even remember what we studied – English and Arabic, I think.”
In a much smarter part of Gaza City, the Sabra suburb near the centre, 19-year-old Khalil Dogmoush was preparing for work.
The oldest of eight children, he had followed his father, Ismail, into the stonemasonry trade and ran a granite-cutting workshop to the south of the city. “He was a clever boy and could have done anything,” said Ismail. “But he showed great skill as a businessman.
No one could believe he was only 19, he was so like a more experienced man. And he employed seven people at his own factory, at a time when work is very rare here in Gaza.”
The Dogmoush family is one of Gaza’s largest. Some of its more extreme elements were responsible for last year’s kidnapping of Alan Johnston, the BBC journalist, but Khalil clearly belonged to the mainstream part of the family.
He was so successful that not only did he own a small car pimped out with tinted windows and go-faster stripes, he also had enough money to afford fuel (cooking gas for an engine that had converted because of petrol shortages) at inflated prices. Listening to music as he tooled down Salahadin Street, Gaza’s main north-south axis, he might not even have heard the sound of fighting.
Mahmoud and Khalil came from starkly different backgrounds, but the Israeli war machine is no respecter of class. It was the sight of a press Jeep near Mughraqe that first caught Mahmoud’s attention.
He had walked home from school and eaten a late salad lunch before strolling over to the eastern edge of the village where it is bordered by Salahadin Street. He was with a friend, Mohammed abu Shalouf, 18, who had an old mountain bike that he used to ride to school. Mohammed was hanging back a bit, perhaps sensing something was wrong, happy for Mahmoud to wheel the bike.
The Jeep, owned by Reuters, had two of the news agency’s award-winning Gaza team inside. Clearly marked as a press car, they were seeking a vantage point from which to film Israeli forces.
“I saw the Jeep stop where there is a view over the fields and the guys got out and set up their tripod and their camera,” said Mahmoud. “A couple of boys from the village walked right up to the cameraman, but I was still about 50 metres away.”
Parents across Gaza tire of telling their children not to go outside during fighting, but they also tire of their children ignoring them. What else could be as interesting as watching fighting from a safe distance, say the kids. The problem is that with the tactics used by Israel in the cramped conditions of Gaza, there is rarely a truly safe distance.
On his film you can clearly see the muzzle flash from the tank about 1,500 yards away. And two seconds later, just before the film dies, you can see something dark exploding above Fadel. He died instantly, almost decapitated by shrapnel. The two boys who Mahmoud saw next to the tripod were also killed in the blast.
“I heard the first explosion, dropped the bicycle and fell to the ground,” said Mahmoud. “I had cuts on my neck and chest, but I could move, so I started crawling away.”
The detonation of the first tank round was heard by Khalil as he drove home from a day’s work. It was so close he heard it above the stereo. He had two friends in the car, but pulled over on Salahadin and ran up the spur road towards the damaged Jeep, to see if he could do anything to help.
It was just as he passed Mahmoud crawling back along the asphalt that the second tank shell exploded. This one contained hundreds of inch-long steel darts, known as flechettes (French for little arrows). They make disarmingly small entry wounds but do terrible damage once inside the human body. Khalil was hit by several, but the one that killed him punctured his heart.
Blood can be seen on the front of his white shirt in the photograph that was taken in the seconds after the second tank shell detonated. Mahmoud was also hit by a flechette, puncturing the top of his left thigh. It meant he could no longer crawl and by the time the photograph was taken it was all he could do to drag himself up on his arms and scream.
Doctors managed to remove two pieces of shrapnel from Mahmoud’s neck and chest that night before he was moved to Shifa Hospital, the biggest in Gaza, while experts work out what to do with the flechette then lodged deep within his pelvis. An orthopaedic specialist, Dr Ahmed Akram, said the flechette had already caused extensive nerve damage and if Mahmoud walks again he would do so with a limp.
They buried Khalil on Thursday after midday prayers. Hundreds of Dogmoush family members gathered outside the five-storey apartment building where his family have lived for decades.
His 90-year-old grandfather, for whom the boy was named, has lived through three foreign occupations of Gaza, two wars and decades of violent insurgency and he used to boast that he had never cried in public. At the sight of his grandson’s corpse, he fell to the ground and wailed.