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Madleen refuses to sleep by
herself; she will only sleep in her parent’s room” says Nujoud, “she’s afraid
to be by herself at all. The other day we were in the garden and I asked her to
go to the bedroom to bring something. She refused to go without me.”

 

Sabri
with his mother Nujoud Al Ashqar

On 17 January 2009, at approximately 05:30, the area surrounding
the UNRWA school in Beit Lahiya came under attack from Israeli forces. The area
was bombarded using both high explosive, and white phosphorous artillery; white
phosphorous is an incendiary chemical which ignites on contact with oxygen, its
use in civilian populated areas violates the principle of distinction, and the
prohibition of indiscriminate attacks. Nujoud Al Ashqar, along with approximately
1,600 others, was taking shelter in the school at the time of the attack.
Nujoud sustained severe head injuries as a result of the bombing, and also
losing her right hand. Two of her sons Bilal, 6, and Muhammed, 4, were killed
in the attack.

 

When PCHR first spoke to Nujoud in the aftermath of the attack three
years ago, her life had become extremely difficult, particularly her
relationship with her husband, Mohammed. “At first my husband blamed me for the
death of the boys. He used to threaten me every day that he would re-marry”
says Nujoud, “but things have got better between us since the birth of our
daughter Haneen. He loves her deeply and she loves him.”  


Nujoud’s daughter Haneen, 1, was both a blessing and a severe
challenge for Nujoud, who, despite being thankful she was able to give birth to
another child after the loss of Muhammed and Bilal, is faced with extreme
difficulties caring for herself, the household and her children given the loss
of her arm and other medical difficulties following the attack. “I get most
frustrated when trying to care for Haneen” says Nujoud, “I need help form my
daughter Madleen all the time to care for her. I always feel sad for her
because she sacrifices so much of her education to care for the house and her
sister. But I need her to do it” says Nujoud. “Her grades in school have
suffered as a result. It’s made worse by the fact I find myself with no
patience to help her with her school work anymore since the attack.”    


Madleen was herself in the UNRWA school at the time of the attack
and faces difficulties with both the memory of that day and the loss of Bilal
and Muhammed. “Madleen refuses to sleep by herself; she will only sleep in her
parent’s room,” says Nujoud, “she’s afraid to be by herself at all. The other
day we were in the garden and I asked her to go to the bedroom to bring
something. She refused to go without me.” 


Nujoud shares Madleen’s fear of the past and apprehension of the
future. “Sometimes when there are rumours of a new war or Israeli incursions
Madleen will start asking me about it and speaking of the incident. But I can’t
bear to talk with her about what happened and I just ask her not to talk about
it.”. The memory of the attack remains so moving for Nujoud that she does not
speak with it to anybody. “Sometimes visitors will come over and ask to hear
about that night. I don’t talk to them about it though. If I do I will spend
the rest of the day and the whole night going over it in my head.”


Apart from the loss of one hand Nujoud has been left with severe
pain in her head. When PCHR spoke to her three years ago she would wear her
head scarf everywhere, including inside the house, as she had lost all her hair
due to severe burns. “Now most of my hair has grown back” says Nujoud, “except
for small patches due to injuries, but still when Madleen combs my hair I’m in
agony.” 


The loss of Bilal and Muhammed is especially painful for Nujoud. “I
could never forget my children. If I stayed alive for 200,000 years I would not
forget them.” Bilal and Muhammed were always a huge pillar of stability and
support in Nujoud’s life. “When I used to get angry with my husband I would
want to leave the house and go to my family. Bilal and Muhammed would calm me
down and get me to stay. Now, when my husband and I argue, I just go to my room
and think of them.” For Nujoud’s husband, Muhammed, who is deaf and dumb, the
loss of Bilal, who used to help him communicate with others outside the house,
was also devastating.


With another child on the way, Nujoud is hopeful for her health and
for another baby boy in the future, who she also plans to call Bilal. “Me and my
husband had been waiting for Bilal, he was so dear to our hearts, I hope to
have a son so I can name him after his brother.”


PCHR submitted a criminal complaint to
the Israeli authorities on behalf of the Al Ashqar family on 18 May 2009. PCHR have
received an interlocutory response noting receipt of the original complaint. To
date, however, and despite repeated requests, no further information has been
communicated to PCHR, regarding the status of any investigation, and so on
.  

 

 

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The Narratives:

 


16 January
2009 – The Shurrab Family

15 January 2009: The al-Nadeem family

14 January 2009 – Muhammed Mousa

13 January 2009: Hibba al-Najjar

12 January 2009 – The Ayad Family

11 January 2009: The Hamouda Family

– 10 January 2009: Wafa al-Radea

9 January 2009 – The Abu
Oda Family

 8 January 2009: The
Al-Rahel family

 7 January 2009 – The Mattar Family

– 6 January 2009: Al-Dayah family

-5 January 2009: Amal al-Samouni

– 4 January 2009: The Abdel Dayem Family

3 January 2009: Motee’ and Isma’il as-Selawy

– 2 January 2009: Eyad al-Astal

– 1 January 2009: The Nasla Family

 31 December 2008: The Abu Areeda family

– 30 December 2008: The Hamdan Family

29 December 2008: Balousha Family

 28 December 2008: The Abu Taima family

– 27 December 2008: The Al Ashi Family.