Huda Tafesh sitting in her home in
Zeitoun neighbourhood, Gaza.

 

 Huda and Khaled Tafesh (21 and 25) got married
in 2010. One year later their daughter, Haneen, was born. The young family, which
lives in a modest tin-roofed dwelling in the Zeitoun district of Gaza, came
under attack in the 8-day Israeli military offensive on the Gaza Strip last
November.

 

As
International Women’s Rights Day and Mother’s Day approach, Huda speaks of what
happened to her as a young mother during those days of fear and bombardments.

 

“We were all
at home that day. It was one day after the Israeli attacks had started and
there were many drones in the sky above us. Our neighbourhood was calm though,
and there was no sign of military activity. We started our day as usual. Haneen
had woken up early in the morning, eaten some food, and gone back to sleep.
Khaled had gone out earlier to buy eggs for her. She always asked her father to
take her with him, whenever he went out of the house. She always wanted to join
him.” That morning Khaled told Haneen she couldn’t join him. He thought she
would be safer in the house than outside.

 

Huda
continues: “Shortly after Khaled returned from the shop, there was a sudden big
explosion. An F16 had fired a missile at an empty plot of land next to our
house. The explosion was huge.”

 

Hardly
noticing her own injury, Huda only thought of one thing: “I quickly ran into
the house to see whether Haneen was okay. But when I got to the bedroom, the
door had been jammed shut by the force of the explosion. I wasn’t able to open
the door. Then my husband came and he finally got the door to open. Haneen was
under the rubble. Only her feet were showing. A lot of the rubble had landed on
her head and caused her many head injuries.”

 

Both Khaled
and Huda realized that Haneen’s injuries were serious. “Because ambulances
weren’t arriving immediately, Khaled took Haneen to the hospital”, explains Huda.
“Once an ambulance came to take me to hospital, a drone dropped a second
missile. This one landed directly opposite our front door. It didn’t explode.
When the police came to remove the missile, they said it was defective. It
might have been dropped just to terrify us.”

 

Huda recalls
the hectic moments in the hospital: “They discovered a fracture in my right
shoulder blade. The doctor gave me a sling and some anaesthetic spray and, in
the afternoon, he told me I could go home. I think both the doctor and my
husband wanted to protect me from the shock of finding out how Haneen was
doing, but in my heart I already knew that she had passed away. I could feel
it.”

 

After
receiving a phone call from the doctor that evening, Khaled told Huda he was
going to the hospital to donate blood for Haneen. “I told him not to go,” says Huda.
“I told him I didn’t think she needed blood anymore. Then he admitted that
Haneen had passed away.”

 

Huda was
admitted to hospital again that same evening, after the pain in her back and
shoulder became unbearable. She stayed there for a week. “On the second day, I
went home briefly to say my goodbyes to Haneen before her funeral.”

 

While her
physical injuries are slowly healing, memories of that day and the loss of her
daughter are with her constantly. Huda cherishes vivid memories of her
daughter: “She was a very clever girl. A child who was very close to everyone’s
heart. What I remember most of her is the sound of her laughter. She would even
start smiling and laughing as soon as she woke up. Haneen was a calm girl who
never cried.” Thinking of upcoming Mother’s Day, Huda sighs: “I had only just
become a mother when I lost my child.”

 

When talking
about her outlook on the future, Huda smiles: “I have been pregnant for 2.5
months now. I hope that the pregnancy will pass quickly, and that I will have a
child again soon.”

 

 

 

Huda (middle) with her mother-in-law, sister-in-law, and her
niece, who was born 3 days before the November offensive

 

In addition
to the loss of their child, the Tafesh family has been forced to deal with
damage done to their home as a result of the attack. The walls and floor of the
house have holes in them. According to Khaled’s mother, they are so big that
mice are entering through them. The tin roof was severely damaged and leaks
whenever it rains. “We received this home as a shelter from a charity
initiative less than one month before the attack. Before that it was just a
single room shack. Now we have multiple rooms with brick walls,” says Khaled’s
mother.

 

The family
faces poverty as it is without any form of permanent income. Haneen’s father,
Khaled, received a pushcart form the government. “I gave the cart the name ‘Haneen’,
and I put my daughter’s picture all over the side of it. I am trying to sell
pastries from the cart in order to have some income.”

 

The
targeting and severely injuring or killing of a civilian, a protected person,
is a war crime, as codified in Article 147 of the 1949 Fourth Geneva Convention
and Articles 8(2)(a)(i) and (iii), and Article 8 (2)(b)(i) of the Rome Statute
of the International Criminal Court.