On the threshold of her family farmland in eastern Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip, Naziha ‘Alyan Qudeih, a 38-year-old Palestinian woman, is standing on one leg supported with a walker and looking at the place where she used to work for years but now is deprived of this after being shot by the Israeli forces.
“Here, I used to work and spend many hours in planting and weeding the land.” said Nazihah to PCHR’s staff with her eyes glowing nostalgically for those days. Working in her land was not for luxury or just to spend time, but it was a source of income to support her family and decrease life burdens.
A bullet that was fired by an Israeli sniper and led to amputation of her leg during her participation in the demonstrations of Return and Breaking the Siege, east of where she lives, changed Naziha’s life and changed her life’s routine; a thing she is trying to resist and cope with it.
She recalled what happened that day with her eyes drowning in a pool of tears, “I cannot forget the moments I got injured” … She then closed her eye and flashed back to the tough memory, “it was Monday morning, 14 May 2018, when I arrived at the Return encampment established in eastern ‘Abasan village. I went there alone on feet carrying 4 bottles of water to distribute them to the demonstrators as I used to do every Friday in the Return encampment, east of Khuza’a.”
She added, “I stepped toward the demonstrators and started to distribute the bottles of water. I came back to the encampment tore fill the bottles from the camp, and go back to distribute them. When I was on my way, I saw many people wounded and killed. The situation was very difficult.”
The place, where Nazihah was, was witnessing demonstrations for the first time since the beginning of the Great March of Return on 30 March 2018. During these demonstrations, the Israeli forces killed 14 Palestinians out of 16 killed that day in eastern Khan Younis in addition to wounding dozens as documented by PCHR. The demonstrations on that day were part of so-called “for a Million Person March of Return,” commemorating the Palestinian Nakba which marks the day when hundreds of thousands of Palestinians were displaced of their villages in mid-May 1948.
At approximately 17:00 on that day, Nazihah Qudeih headed to the so-called “Jakar” Street adjacent to the border fence with Israel towards the Return encampment in Khuza’ah, which is the central location for the demosntrations… Most of the demonstrators had left ‘Abasan due to the huge number of persons killed and wounded in the area.
She said, “After around 15 minutes of my arrival at the Return encampment in Khuza’ah, I saw few numbers of demonstrators stepping 20 meters towards the Jakar Street and approaching the border fence, north of the encampment. I saw a woman with 2 children near the fence and an Israeli soldier along the borders pointing his weapon at where I was standing. I turned around to leave… a moment and I felt a strong hit in my right leg and fell on the ground.”
Touching the tip of her right amputated leg with her eyes closed, Nazihah recalls those moments, “I saw my leg flexed and severely lacerated under the other leg, feeling so much pain. A group of civilians and paramedics came towards me to take me via an ambulance to the medical point in the encampment where they attempted to stop the bleeding. However, I was then taken to the European Hospital.”
While on way to hospital, Nazihah lost consciousness, and when she woke up the next day, she found herself in the surgery department at the hospital but with no leg. Her right leg was amputated below the knee after being wounded with an explosive bullet that shattered the bones and largely lacerated the leg, necessitating the amputation.
After 6 months of her injury and the amputation, Nazihah attempts to bear the pain and cope with her new reality as it is not easy for her who was very active and work hard in the house to be suddenly unable to give and powerless.
You can find pains and dreams in the features of her face when she remembers how she used to work in their agricultural land and the other farmers’ lands in the harvest seasons to support her family.
Nazihah lives alone with her elderly parents as her 3 sisters are married. Her work was a very important source of income for the family, who depends on the salary allocated for their son who was killed by the Israeli forces during an incursion into their village, ‘Abasan, in 2004.
The only brother left for Nazihah is Suhaib (32) whose right leg was amputated as well but from above the knee after being shot by the Israeli forces on the First Friday of the Return and Breaking the Siege March. He lives in the second floor of his family house with his wife and 5 children.
She looks at her partner in pain and amputation, Suhaib, and says, “Alhamdulillah “Thank God” in all situations. My brother and I used to work and support our family. My brother is married with 5 children… today as you see we have become unable to work, hopefully we could find someone who will help us.”
When Suhaib was wounded, he was trying to rescue a girl wounded by Israeli occupation in eastern Khan Younis. He told PCHR’s staff: “As soon as I approached her, I felt that a blow hit me in the right leg and fell next to the girl to find my leg bleeding.”
It was found that Suhaib was hit with an explosive bullet in his right leg and the bullet shrapnel scattered to hit his left leg. On Saturday afternoon, 07 April 2018, and as a result of the effects of the explosive bullet, including inflammation, arterial injuries and bleeding, the doctors decided a surgery to amputate his right leg from above the knee.
On the journey to adapt to her new reality, Nazihah tries to do some of the tasks and responsibilities she used to do, such as cleaning the house and preparing food for her family, but she cannot stand so long as the pain of injury forces her to sit down and stop.
Despite the high spirit you can feel from time to time in her words, she does not conceal her pain and inability to adapt to what happened. “Sometimes I cannot sleep and have become forgetful that for example the key is in my hand and I’m looking for it. Further, I have to clean the house while crawling on the floor,” says Nazihah
She does not seem to regret her participation in the demonstrations as she and her brother participated several times after being wounded, “I was not carrying a weapon. All I was doing was distributing water for the protesters. There is no justification for targeting me or any other peaceful demonstrator,” she said.
Through an association, a few days ago, Nazihah began to prepare herself for transplanting a prosthetic leg; she tried it but it hurt her and wounded the amputated limb. “It needs more training to get used to it,” says Nazihah. Meanwhile, her brother is also waiting for another opportunity to transplant a prosthetic limb because the nature of his injury has aggravated the amputation, impeding the limb transplantation in light of the poor capabilities in Gaza.
Fatima al-Najjar, the mother of Nazihah and Suhaib, once again is trying to bear the grief and pain. In the past, she lost her eldest son at the age of 20, and today she sees the suffering of her two children who live with her at home and are the only breadwinners of the family. All the while she was thinking why and how long we will suffer. Is not our right to live like the rest of the world?