It was a lazy, sunny Friday afternoon four years ago when Ahmed Al-Nawk took this selfie with his family. He remembers that day very well. He remembers the day in particular more and more now.
They gathered with their siblings and their children to eat, play and talk under the shade of an olive tree beside the house. After everyone running around and shouting, Ahmed sat down to eat with everyone, including the children.
These are just memories for Ahmed. Because many of those who were surrounded by so much joy, so many occasions, are no longer alive. On October 22, Ahmed’s father, three sisters, two brothers and 21 members of the family, including 14 children, were killed by Israel’s indiscriminate attack on Gaza.
Israel’s argument behind the attack, which lasted more than a month, is that they want to uproot the armed group Hamas from the region.
Ahmed’s photo shows only seven of the children killed in the Israeli attack. Some of the other children killed were not there that day, and some were never born. Like many Palestinians, Ahmed’s brothers lived in the same house with their families.
Ahmed’s sister Aya took refuge in her father’s house after losing her home in Israeli bombing. His other two sisters Wala and Alao were in that house with their children. Their home was in the central Gaza city of Deir al-Balah. This area has never been attacked before. So they thought the area safe.
“I thought it was a scary time for them,” Ahmed said. Even if they are afraid, they will at least be protected.’ Ahmed is now shocked by his stupidity.
Ahmed moved to London four years ago to work for an NGO. He last saw the children together in a video call. He then told them to feed them according to the family custom.
The children told Ahmed that they wanted to go to the beach, rent a beautiful cottage. Then they want to spend an enjoyable time together eating, drinking, telling stories.
According to the children Ahmed rented a cottage, arranged dinner for everyone.
The children called Ahmed from the beach that day, fighting among themselves to talk to him. Many of them are no longer in the world.
Ahmed’s 13-year-old nephew Eslam was the eldest. Ahmed knows Eslam the most. Because when Eslam was born, Ahmed was a teenager and lived at home. His mother looked after Eslam while his sister went to work. Ahmed often helped feed and clothe the child.
Aslam wanted to grow up to be like Ahmed. He was the most brilliant student in his class.
Eslam’s younger sisters Dima (10), Tala (9), Noor (5) and Nasma (2), Mamat’s brother Ragad (13), Bakar (11), Sara (9), Mohammad (8), Khalat siblings were killed in the Israeli bombing. Other members of the family including Bassema (8), Abdullah (6) and Tamim (6) were killed.
After the attack, Ahmed posted pictures of each child online to tell the world what had happened to them. Ahmed’s nephew Omar (3), was sleeping with his father Muhammad and mother Seema when the house was attacked.
A sister of Ahmed called and said that Omar and Seema are alive. Ahmed’s brother Muhammad was killed.
Ahmed said, despite many sorrows, this news was one of the happiest moments of his life.
In the Israeli attack, the child Malak (11) was rescued from the rubble and admitted to the hospital in a critical condition. More than half of the child’s body was burned. A few days later he too died.
Malak’s father was not at home when the attack took place. Fortunately he survived. But his other two children were killed.
When Ahmed asked him how he was, Malak’s father replied: ‘A body, no soul.’
Communications with Gaza were almost completely cut off a week after the attack. Because of this, Ahmed could not communicate with anyone. Two days later, when Ahmed was contacted, he learned that Malak had also died.
Malak’s father told Ahmed that medical services at the hospital had collapsed due to energy and power shortages. Malak was shifted from the hospital’s intensive care unit (ICU) to another ward as more critical patients arrived. He was suffering a lot.
After watching his children die in front of his eyes, it is like a dead angel’s father is alive. He said, ‘I die a hundred times a day.’
Notably, according to the Hamas-run Health Ministry in Gaza, more than 11,000 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli bombardment.