The actual weight they carried on their shoulders was light, but it weighed heavy on the masses that walked with them to the grave. The Palestinians carried the remains of three children – Khaled, Mohammed and Abdul Hamid – with heavy hearts, aching from the new tragedy inflicted upon them.
The three children went out on 28 October to hunt birds in the eastern part of the besieged Gaza Strip. That evening, they did not return to their homes in the Wadi Al-Salqa area, north of Khan Younis. Instead, their souls soared over the Gaza Strip and their dismembered bodies were taken to the hospital morgues. They had been hit by a carefully-targeted attack by an Israeli system that scans the entire area, chooses its targets and then launches missiles. This is how the Israeli army killed three more children besieged in an open-air prison with two million inmates, mostly refugee children and mothers.
Yet with all its pain, the story of Khaled, Mohammed and Abdel Hamid is common in the Gaza Strip. It is a reminder of the hundreds of painful stories about the suffering of children and infants who were crushed in the blink of an eye by the Israeli attacks on their homes, roads or playgrounds. Each tragedy is justified with endless blame placed on the victims themselves. The world gave attention to only a few of these faces, mostly because the cameras were not there to capture most of the tragedies.
When several children were killed during the heinous bombing of Gaza in the summer of 2014, only four stuck in the minds of the world – the cameras were present at the time of their death and captured the attack launched on them while they played on Gaza's beach. The images of the four Al-Baker boys forced European governments to end their silence in the face of the mass killings of Palestinian civilians at the hands of the Israeli army, after seven weeks of continuous bombing.
However, timid press statements do not stop the Israeli army from continuing its hobby. The world witnessed this hobby at the peak of its horror on 14 May 2018, when the Israeli army confronted peaceful demonstrators from all generations who had gathered on the edge of the Gaza Strip to demand their right to return to their land and homes seized by the Israeli occupation in 1948. Army snipers holed up on the hills on that spring day preyed on unarmed Palestinians with trigger-happy fingers, killing nearly 80 victims and wounding hundreds on that single day in front of the world's cameras.
The faces of these child martyrs will not be erased from their communities' memories. Their pictures, names and stories will remain alive in the people's homes and their stories will be passed down. This will be the case with Khaled, Mohammed and Abdul Hamid, for whom marches of pain and anger started across the Gaza Strip. When Palestinian students went to school yesterday, three desks in the seventh, ninth and tenth grades remained empty, with only the names and pictures of their former occupants surrounded by honour. No one dared to sit in these seats, which remained reserved for the departed. The students sitting around these desks recalled memories of their classmates, memories that did not depart with the departed. They exchanged their seething emotions, which only increase the anger of the successive Palestinian generations with the occupation and its army.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.