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When war strikes the innocent

October 16, 2023 at 5:30 pm

An image of a man holding a dead child in the bombed Gaza strip

I want to share with you the story of my uncle’s death at the hands of the so-called Israel “Defence” Forces. He was killed along with his entire family, including his grandchildren. It was heart-breaking news to receive, revealing that in times of war our collective humanity is lost in the face of great tragedies.

The Israeli air force has crossed all red lines with its ongoing bombing of the Gaza Strip. That’s why I want I want to tell you about my uncle, the martyr Ayed Al-Ajrami, known as “Abu Ayad”, who left his home in northern Gaza and moved to an apartment in Deir Al-Balah with his family and grandchildren. The idea was to be somewhere relatively safer. As they settled into the apartment, the building was struck by a missile, killing everyone inside.

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The grief and crying have a major impact on us. Abu Ayad was the family Mukhtar; the head of the board, if you like, and active in charitable activities. He had been told by the Israelis in a phone call that he and his family and neighbours should move to the southern part of the Gaza Strip. He was assured that it would be safer there. He called his family and neighbours together and explained what he had been told. The phone call was recorded, with the Israeli army officer speaking in Arabic.

What you can hear is the person from the Israeli army saying in Arabic to my uncle, “You’ve got to go south for your safety. Tell your neighbours. Take your families. Go.” My uncle then asked about a specific town, Deir Al-Balah, and the man on the phone said, “Yeah, that’s safe. You can go there.” And my uncle did.

The killing of 14 members of the Al-Ajrami family in one Israeli air strike serves as a stark example of the occupation state’s brutality. The children and infants who were killed had no awareness of what was happening around them. Moreover, they were killed in a clear violation of international law and morality. It was a massacre no matter how you look at it; part of a genocide taking place in Gaza. What happened cannot be justified in any way.

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My uncle Ayad was a symbol of strength and unity in our family. He was a successful businessman and played a prominent role in local charities. His daughter Lubna, 31, was in her prime. Her younger sister Aya was just 23 years old; she hadn’t even had the chance to explore the world, given the blockade imposed on Gaza since she was a toddler. Both were killed next to their loving father. Lubna’s daughter Sham, was 7, and Nivin was Aya’s daughter. She was only 2 years old. They were both killed.

My uncle took his brother Amin’s grandsons to Deir Al-Balah: Malik was, 7, and Bahaa, 5, as well as their sister Amira, who was 4. The lives and dreams of the children were stolen by that Israeli missile. Amin’s wife Samira, 56, was killed as well.

The children of my uncle’s eldest son, Ayad, were also killed: Hala, was 12; her brother named after his grandfather, Ayed, was 9. Their mother Nadia, 29, was killed with her children. And there was Zeina, 5, the daughter of my uncle’s youngest son, Ziad. Another child, whose father was from the Abu Lehya family, while his mother was an Al-Ajrami, was also a victim; Ahmed was 4 years old.

They were all innocent, and they had no political or other role in this cruel war. Their lives were taken without justification. We lost these innocents tragically in this war, and we must always remember that they were not mere numbers; they were human souls deserving of life, hope and happiness.

What crime did they commit? What did they do to deserve such a horrifying death?

My uncle’s family were torn apart by forced displacement, and then were killed by the same occupation authorities who told them to move to a “safer place”. When war strikes the innocent, the innocent are killed. Look at how political decisions by complete strangers can have tragic consequences.

Another one of my uncles, Nabil Al-Ajrami, was wounded along with his two sons, Ahmed and Belal, and his grandson Ebrahim, when their house in Northern Gaza was targeted by an Israeli air strike.

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The Israeli occupation forces did not stop at heavy shelling of residential areas in Gaza; they also extended their attacks randomly on civilian homes and without prior warning. Many children and their families were killed by this shocking violence while asleep and with no knowledge of the impending danger. The names of large families were simply erased from the civil registry, making them vulnerable solely because they were in their safe homes. It was expected that the Israeli army would adhere to the ethics of war and the protection of civilians, women and children, but in this war, as usual, they did the exact opposite.

In Gaza, Israel has more or less condemned 2.2 million Palestinians, more than half of them children and women, to death. They are civilians trying to live their lives away from war and politics. Unfortunately, they had no role in determining their fate. That was left to the desire of Israeli politicians for power.

In less than eight days, Gaza has seen as many martyrs as the 2014 Israeli military offensive, which lasted for 51 days. These numbers paint a grim picture of the current situation and make this war one of the largest humanitarian disasters in the modern history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

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What is happening in Gaza is also a humanitarian catastrophe that poses a significant challenge to the international community. Violence must be halted, human rights must be protected, and the world must always remember that the innocent people who lost their lives are victims denied in their quest for justice. A lot of work is needed to avoid a repeat of this terrible tragedy in the future.

The crisis demands an immediate and decisive international response. The international community must take urgent measures to investigate war crimes and hold the perpetrators accountable. The world should support the Palestinian people’s right to live in peace and security. And return to their land. Their rights are enshrined in international laws and conventions.

We need international pressure to stop Israel’s crimes against humanity. The world should stand alongside the victims and work to achieve peace in the Middle East. As things are at the moment, we don’t get any choice about how we live or even how we die.

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The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.