The humanitarian crisis in Gaza, Tutu visits the Athamneh home, and Omer writes an excellent article

Amnesty International has criticized Israel’s seige on Gaza as the gravest humanitarian crisis yet.  Aside from the direct military killing of over 370 people in 2007 it’s findings included:

Aside from the killing of civilians and the destruction of over 100 Palestinian homes, the report states that “in June, the Israeli government imposed an unprecedented blockade on the Gaza Strip, virtually imprisoning its entire 1.5 million people population, subjecting them to collective punishment and causing the gravest humanitarian crisis to date.”

The report further stated that “more than 550 Israeli military checkpoints and blockades restricted or prevented the movement of Palestinians between towns and villages in the West Bank,” and that “40 Palestinians died after being refused passage out of Gaza for urgent medical treatment not available in local hospitals.”

Illegal construction in the settlements was also cited, as well as the construction of the separation fence, which detached many Palestinians from their lands and families.

It went on to say that “thousands of Palestinians were arrested, most of whom were released without charge. Those charged with security-related offences often received unfair trials before military courts.” Those convicted were often held in Israeli prisons contrary to humanitarian laws, and were often subjected to abuse and torture.,7340,L-3548730,00.html

At the same time, Archbishop Desmond Tutu is in Gaza on a UN fact-finding mission on the massacre 2 years ago of the Athamneh family by Israel.  He spoke to Ismail Haniyeh and condemned the seige:

“What I have seen and heard is bigger than the ability of human beings to conceive. The blockade, which is imposed on the Gaza Strip, is illegal and should immediately stop,” Tutu told the reporters.

He also met with the patriarch of the massacred family.  He was spared death as he was out to prayers when the missile hit:

Then he stepped forward to the warm embrace of a tearful Saad Athamneh, 55, who lost three of his sons, all of them fathers, 18 months ago. “The siege is continuing,” he told the venerable South African in a short speech of welcome outside the family home. “The US is controlling the Middle East. The Israelis killed my children while I was praying. Please come in and see what happened.”

Leaving the house the Archbishop would only say: “We are quite devastated. It is not something you would wish on your worst enemy.”

Earlier the Archbishop, who has condemned Qassam rocket fire, stood in respectful silence as Usama Athamneh told him simply: “My wife, my mother, my sister, were all killed.” One of his sons, Mustafa, 12, must live with the memory of escaping after his mother fell dead beside him. Another standing beside him, said Mr Athamneh, had shrapnel in the brain. Thanks to treatment in an Israeli hospital “he’s recovered, he’s OK”.

The Israeli military’s investigation into the shelling found that “the injury of the Palestinian civilians was not intentional and was directly due to a rare and severe failure in the artillery fire control system”. But in their June 2007 report recounting their failure to visit the scene, the UN mission – which must also assess the victims’ current needs – said that “whether the casualties at Beit Hanoun were caused by a mistake, recklessness, criminal negligence or were wilful, those responsible must be held accountable”.

I’m not quite sure why this particular massacre is being investigated above all of the other deaths Israel has caused, including the February attacks which killed around 130 Palestinians.  The talented young writer, Mohammed Omer has a new article out which humanizes the tragedy suffered in that attack:

“My son, my son Ahmed!” Karima Salamah cried, still in disbelief, upon arriving at the ICU room where her son lay critically injured, bandaged, unmoving. “I shook his bed, and when he awoke and opened his eyes I told him, ‘This is your mother, I’m here with you.’”

Tears flowed down Ahmed’s cheeks as he lay immobile, his condition still dangerously tenuous. The missile that had struck him left Ahmed with severe brain damage and missing pieces of flesh.

Just after Ahmed had walked out his front door on Saturday, March 1, his mother said, he was hit by an Israeli F-16 missile. It was a day in which more than 55 Palestinians were killed, many of them civilians and children. Ahmed’s parents ran from one hospital to the next, unable to find any news of their son. Finally, after three days of worrying and wondering, they were called by a local hospital and told that the body of a boy believed to be Ahmed was in the hospital morgue. It was not easy to identify him, Karima recalled, as the boy’s body had been torn into unrecognizable pieces of flesh. The only option was to assume that it was her son’s corpse.

The mutilated and unidentifiable corpse which the Abu Salamah family had mistakenly buried was actually that of Mohammed Hejazi, a 17-year-old who lived in the same neighborhood. Meanwhile, Mohammed’s mother, Aminah Hejazi, and family came and sat outside Ahmed’s ICU room everyday for two weeks, believing that the injured boy inside was their Mohammed.

With his face covered in bandages and his body being of similar size, it was easy for the Hejazi family to hope this was Mohammed. “At first I doubted whether this was really my son,” Aminah revealed, “but I felt the need to be close to him anyway.” After her initial doubts, Aminah Hejazi became convinced that Mohammed truly was the boy inside the ICU room. Her hopes remained alive until the injured boy’s actual mother came to the hospital and identified him as her son Ahmed.

Read the rest of his story here:

How fruitless is the act of killing ones so-called, “enemy.”  Whenever we put our faith in a military solution, we are murdering our brothers and sisters with whom we’ve lived with forever.  How can we countenance this war?  How can followers of Jesus Christ, in particular, members of the Mormon Church, who believe in the premortal existence, engage in or support such atrocities?  Please God, help us to see the humanity, the divine in our fellow earth-dwellers, our brothers and sisters, and help us to be wise.


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