“Before my mother’s death we used to be very happy on 1 January, have
celebrations and visit people. Now we are all silent in the last hour of each
year and on 1 January we don’t celebrate the new year. We visit our mohter’s
grave. We remember.”

 

Around 23:30
on 31 December 2008, an Israeli warplane fired a missile at Najma Parc, a small
green strip in the main street of the residential al-Shaboura neighbourhood in
Rafah, killing two civilians and injuring dozens of others. Iman Abu Areeda (34)
was one of the two casualties, killed by a piece of shrapnel that penetrated
her brain. Seven members of the extended Abu Areeda family who were also in the
house at the time of the attack were mildly injured by shrapnel. The Abu Areeda
family was displaced for several weeks after the attack as the external walls
in the front side of the house were destroyed. The internal walls and furniture
were also damaged.

 

It was about
half an hour before midnight on 31 December when electricity in the area was
cut. Iman went to cover her youngest son, Mohammed, who was sleeping in his
room. As she was leaning over him, the missile hit a few dozen meters away from
their family home. The shrapnel that came through the outer wall killed her.
Iman left behind her husband Mahmoud Abu Areeda (now 39) and their 7 children:
Majd (20), Randa (19), Basel (18), Hibba (14), Islam (12), Watan (9), and
Mohammed (6).

 

“My mother
died when I was 15 years old. It was the age that I needed her the most. I was
in shock and I couldn’t believe that she died. I still do not believe it. I
felt like not going to school any longer but I pushed myself and kept going
because I know she would have wanted me to do so,” says Iman’s second oldest
son, Basel.

 

His siblings,
Majd, Randa, Islam and Hibba have been badly affected psychologically by the
death of their mother. Since the attack they prefer to be by themselves,
isolated from the rest of their family. Randa, Islam and Hibba received
psychological support from a local NGO to deal with their loss and the
traumatic experience of the attack. After a while their family noticed they
started to recover and were able to interact again with the people around
them. 

 

Iman’s
oldest son, Majd, says the past three years have been very difficult for his
family. “We were all scattered after the death of my mother. I was alive but I
didn’t feel alive. It took me a long time to believe that she had died. I had a
very close relationship with my mother as I was her eldest child.”

 

Majd was in
his final high school year when his mother was killed. “I didn’t prepare for my
exams as I was suffering a lot psychologically. I thought ‘even if I pass my
tawjihi [final exams] my mother is
not here to be happy for me’. I failed my tawjihi. I hope I can redo it again
and succeed. My mom wanted me to be an educated person, to get married and to
take care of my siblings. I hope that I can live up to her wish.”

 

His brother
Basel also faced difficulties in finishing his high school exams successfully.
“Before the death of my mother I used to get high scores but after her death my
scores dropped. My tawjihi was a disaster but thanks to the help of my uncle,
the brother of my mother, I made it and I am now in university. I’m studying
journalism,” says Basel, holding one of his notebooks.

 

The
character of New Year has been changed forever for the Abu Areeda family.
“Before my mother’s death we used to be very happy on 1 January, have
celebrations and visit people. Now we are all silent in the last hour of each
year and on 1 January we don’t celebrate the New Year. We visit our mohter’s
grave. We remember,” says Basel. Majd adds that “our sadness is not limited on
1 January and we miss her on all special occasions, like on Eid holidays. On
those days I prefer to stay in bed and sleep all day.”

 

Since he
lost his mother, thinking of the future makes Majd anxious. “I am afraid of
losing someone else who is close to me. Now my father is the closest one and I
am afraid something will happen to him. After the death of my mother I feel
like I have a dead heart. When I laugh I feel as if I do something wrong, I
cannot laugh when my mother is dead.”

 

Basel tries
to look at the future with hope. The memory of his mother motivates him. “I
think of the future quite a bit. I know my mother wanted the best for us so for
the future I hope that I will be able to finish my study, find work, get
married and to have a family and to be respected in the community. Nothing can
compensate for my loss and sadness, having lost the most precious thing I hold
in my heart, but I know what my mother wanted for us and that is what I will
try to achieve.”

 

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

 

————–

 

The series
of narratives:

 


29 December 2008: Balousha
Family

 28 December 2008: The Abu Taima family

– 27 December 2008: The Al
Ashi Family.