Lying in a hospital bed with a plastic tube in his nose and another connected to his right hand, surrounded by more than five of his close relatives and friends, with no ability to speak, Tariq was able to rise a little and open his eyes in order to have one last look at his son’s face.
Tariq al-Rifi, 41, was wounded in an Israeli airstrike near his house in Al-Nafaq street in the north of the Gaza City on August 21, five days before the ceasefire between Palestinian fighters and Israel was agreed.
When his son was brought to his room in the hospital, Tariq uttered, “I feel my soul is leaving my body as my son is taken away from this room,” as tears descended from his pale eyes.
His brother Ali, who helps him cope with his illness in the hospital, helped him lay down in the bed. Tariq took a deep breath and said, “I wish I would have been killed before my sons.”
Relatives and friends took Ziad, Tariq’s eldest son, out of the room holding him on their shoulders. “If we could not live peacefully on earth, I hope one day we live peacefully in another place,” he murmured. “Goodbye … Goodbye,” he said.
This was a very difficult moment for Tariq. This was the second time he said farewell to one of his sons whilst confined to his bed. Ziad was his fourth martyred son. On August 26, the last day of the 51-day Israeli war on Gaza, his third son succumbed to his wounds.
The two others were immediately killed in the Israeli airstrike that targeted the family near their house. One of Tariq’s brothers also was killed in the same airstrike. Tariq was in the intensive care unit and only found about the death of his first two sons and brother after his condition stabilised.
Following Ziad’s death, Tariq has just one three year old son still alive. When asked what his hopes for his remaining son’s future were, Tariq was caught between two answers; either a doctor in order to take care of patients as well as himself given that he thinks he will be living with a life-long disability or a fighter in order to avenge his three brothers and uncle.
Tariq’s wife, Samia, was shocked and collapsed when she saw her son placed on the shoulders of other people. She was put in a stretcher and rushed to hospital. Her son was taken to the cemetery without her having the chance to of one last look at his face.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.