Eleven years after the 2006 Gaza beach massacre that killed seven members of her family, Huda Ghalia has graduated after completing her undergraduate studies in Sharia and Law at the Islamic University of Gaza.
On the afternoon of 9 June 2006, the Ghalia family were picnicking on the Sudaniya beach near Beit Lahia in northern Gaza when Israeli artillery and naval shelling struck the beach, killing seven members of her family, including her father, stepmother and five siblings.
Huda’s heart wrenching cries for her father as she ran towards his dead body not long after the blast were broadcast around the world. The images of her collapsing besides his body, weeping have turned her into an icon of the Palestinian struggle.
Before handing Huda an honorary award, the head of the Islamic University of Gaza Adel Awadallah said:
Huda is not an average person; she is a piece of every Palestinian. She got into our souls and into our hearts, and it is our duty to take care of her and stand by her.
“I am particularly grateful for my mother who stayed up with me, did so much to take care of me, raised me and encouraged me to finish my education,” Huda said during her graduation ceremony.
Read: 3 years on from Gaza war
Israel initially took responsibility for the bombing, saying it regretted the civilian deaths. Later, however, it retracted and said the Israeli army was not responsible, concluding that the bombing was caused by a bomb planted by Hamas on the beach.
Following the incident, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas declared three days of mourning, describing the incident a “bloody massacre”.