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“I miss them all the time, sometimes I even go
to look for one of them in the house in the split second before I remember they
were killed”

 Anwar
Balousha and son Muhammed

At
around 00:00 of 29 December 2008 an Israeli aircraft attacked the Imad Akel
Mosque situated in Jabaliya refugee camp. The attack destroyed the home of
Anwar and Samira Balousha, which was situated just three metres from the
mosque. Five of the family’s eight daughters were killed as a result of the bombing,
which caused the family home to collapse on top of them as they slept. Five
others were injured in the incident and other homes in close proximity to the
mosque were completely destroyed.    

In
the main room of the reconstructed Balousha family household stands a portrait
of the family’s five deceased daughters Tahreer, Ikram, Samar, Dina and Jawaher
who were 18, 15, 13, 8 and 4 respectively at the time an Israeli F-16 dropped a
bomb on the Imad Akel Mosque, 3 metres from the family home. The family have
since welcomed one new comer to the family, Tahrir (named after her deceased
sister); but for father Anwar “the home still feels empty, it is like there is
gaping hole where my daughters once were, and despite feeling their presence
with us all the time there is a huge sense there is something missing”.

While
his face and composure gives little away in terms of the suffering his family
has gone through, Anwar’s words are clear regarding the effect the incident had
on himself and his family. “My wife has been badly affected, just yesterday
there was an UNRWA crew demolishing the wreckage of one the neighbours’ homes
destroyed in the war to make room for its reconstruction, it reminded Samira of
the war and she started to cry”. Anwar himself says he spends a lot of time at
the daughter’s graves talking to them about daily life’s small comings and
goings, “I miss them all the time, sometimes I even go to look for one of them
in the house in the split second before I remember they were killed”.     

The
families remaining children have been traumatised. Anwar describes how Iman, 20
, who had a very close relationship with her older sister, Tahrir, and who
watched her sister Dina die in her arms following the attack, seems often to be
lost in her own thoughts; “sometimes I call her but she cannot even hear me”
says Anwar. Despite being very intelligent Iman’s grades have suffered as a
result. He also fears that his son, Muhammad, who was recently treated for a
shrapnel wound in his foot, suffered during the attack, will grow up wracked by
feelings of revenge for the death of his sisters. “He speaks of them
constantly”, says Anwar, “he will not forget”. When asked by his father about
his sisters, Muhammad says that “my sisters were murdered by the Israeli’s, they
are in Paradise”. 

The
three years since the attack has been a period of constant flux and
displacement for the family. They have had to move home seven times in the past
three years, each time creating a greater sense of instability for the family’s
remaining children. “The children find themselves friendless each time they
move area”, says Anwar, “my son Muhammad wanders off back to the neighbourhood
of his old homes or to the local UNRWA school in search of friends, we can’t
find him for hours and when he eventually comes home he says he went to find
friends to play with”.  They have only
recently returned to their rebuilt home that was destroyed during the attack.

Regarding
hopes and fears for the future Anwar has mixed feelings. He is hopeful for the family’s
legal case in Israel but he says “if they bring me all the money in the world
they could not compensate me, I want my daughters, not money”. He is ravaged by
fear for his children every time there is bombing and fears that he will lose
them in the future. “Though this is my home I am seeking a future outside Gaza,
right now I want to leave to make a new life for me and my family”.

PCHR submitted a criminal complaint to the
Israeli authorities on behalf of the Balousha family on 2 August 2009. To-date,
no response has been received.

 

——————–

The series
of narratives:

 


28 December 2008: The Abu
Taima family

– 27 December 2008:
The Al Ashi Family.