Another child has just been murdered.
On Tuesday, July 29, Ahmed Ussam Yusef Mousa, aged 10, was shot dead with a single shot to the head by Israeli occupation forces. Ahmed was murdered, just before 6pm, when he and a group of youth from Ni’lin village attempted to dismantle a section of barbwire fencing erected on the village’s land by the Israeli occupation forces.
Ahmed is now the twelfth person and seventh child to be killed by the Israeli occupation forces in demonstrations against the apartheid fence . He is one of more than 840 Palestinian children killed by the Israeli Zionist state since the beginning of the Al Aqsa Intifada in September 2000 .
My IWPS team mate and myself received the news of Ahmed’s death last night as we arrived in Ramallah. Within fifteen minutes we were at the hospital. As we arrived Ahmed’s little body was being brought into the hospital. My teammate and myself were “lucky” in that we did not see Ahmed but two of our friends and activists from the ISM, who were at the hospital, did. Both experienced activists, they spoke quietly and with disbelief of how tiny Ahmed was.
The initial shock, grief and tears we all felt were held at bay over the next few hours as we worked in the ISM’s media office, ringing media persons, outlets, pulling together media releases. As we emailed out the press releases to the media and our various networks around the world, the emails poured in expressing shock, outrage and heartache.
As the night wore on we sat with each other, listened and supported each other, especially with those of use who had close ties with the villagers of Ni’lin and who had witnessed the arrival of Ahmed’s body at the hospital. None of us could sleep, although we were all exhausted and we sat in the garden as the early hours of the mourning came upon us. Finally at around 3am, we forced ourselves to go to bed, but we all spent a sleepless night thinking about the grief the family must be experiencing – their shock, horror and disbelief – that their little boy was no longer with them.
In the morning, other members of the ISM and IWPS began to arrive in Ramallah, so we could all go to the hospital at 10am to be part of Ahmed’s funeral procession and to accompany his family home with his body. At 10.30am, Ahmed’s family arrived, accompanied by many of the villagers from Ni’lin who came to pay their respects. Soon Ahmed’s body was brought out and placed in the ambulance. As the ambulance drove out of the hospital car park, we took our place in the funeral procession made up of dozens of cars filled with villagers and others had come to pay their respects. Over the next 45 minutes, as we made our way through the streets of centre of Ramallah, we were joined by more cars, trucks and taxis. Many of the cars displayed Ahmed’s shihad or martyr poster (in Palestine the word martyr refers to anyone killed as a result of the Israeli occupation, not just militants who participate in suicide bombings or who are part of the armed resistance in the camps. Martyrs can be children and/or adults, who have died at the hands of the Israeli military). Ahmed’s poster displayed a handsome little boy, who was small and slight of build. Each time I looked at the poster, I wondered how anyone one could think that this tiny child could be such a threat to the security of their state? What could posses any person to think that the appropriate response to a small child was to fire live ammunition, deliberately shooting to kill?
As I looked at his photograph trying to image why Ahmed had to die, his funeral procession began to make its way out of Ramallah. As we left the city and began to traverse the hills and pass through the surrounding Palestinian villages, we sat in silence, very little to say to each other. As the procession drove on the chants from the Palestinian mourners continued, remembering Ahmed, God and opposing the occupation and the apartheid wall.
As we weaved our way through one village after another, more cars joined us and villagers came to stand on the streets to offer their silent condolences and respect for Ahmed and his family. Along with adults, young children also lined the streets of the villages we passed through. My heart broke as I watch their little faces, many of them too young to comprehend what the procession was about. But as I watched these small children through the windows of our car, I kept wondering if one day they too would share the same fate as Ahmed. And the sadness and anger in me grew once again.
As we approached Bil’in village, a young father stood on the side of the road, along with a group of young children, many no doubt his own. They stood silent, bravely, in dignity with Palestinian flags held high in remembrance of Ahmed. Suddenly, all the composure and restraint I had imposed on myself since we first heard the news of Ahmed’s death left me and tears began to stream down my face.
When we reached Bil’in, many of the village residents who had been active in the struggle to save the lands of their village were waiting for the funeral procession. As the procession wound through the village, many of them joined us, as we began to make the last leg of the journey to Ni’lin.
As we neared the settler highway that we must traverse to get to Ni’lin, we began to anxiously scan the hills and fields for the Israeli occupation forces who would be waiting for the funeral procession. As rounded the last bend before the highway, we caught our first glimpse of them and wondered would they try and stop the funeral procession? Would the use violence us? Would they attack the funeral procession, as the Israeli military had done on so many occasions before?
As we reached the highway, we could see the Israeli occupation forces had blocked the road and stopped Israeli plated cars from continuing towards the village’s entrance. This sight was a relief. Perhaps, we thought, they will let the funeral procession proceed unhindered. However, as we got closer to the entrance of the village and we and the rest of the Palestinians mourners and other internationals poured out of the vehicles on to the highway, we could see the Israeli occupation forces had set up another barricade near the village entrance. While the barricade did not prevent entry to the village, it was a clear sign that the military want to make their presence known. By placing the barrier directly opposite the entrance, rather then setting it up 50 or 100 or 200 metres or more away as they could have easily have done, the Israeli military seemed intent on provoking a confrontation with the mourners.
As Ahmed’s tiny body, wrapped in his funeral shroud, was carried above the crowd, the mourners chanted his martyrdom, against the occupation and the wall and for the greatness of God. Soon, smaller groups broke off from the procession to confront the soldiers, yelling at them angrily, as the emotions, anger and grief surrounding Ahmed’s death spilled over. In response the Israeli occupation forces began to throw sound grenades and flash bombs. As myself and one of my IWPS teammates moved closer to the front line to try and offer some sort of international presence, teargas began to be fired by the Israeli military. For the next few minutes, we were caught between the military firing on us and the young Palestinian men throwing stones in response to the occupation forces attack on the funeral procession.
As people began to run, we were swept up in the chaos and at one point people tried to crush past a park car, resulting in several young boys being dragged down and trampled. Suddenly, I saw a man dragging the limp body of a young teenage boy and at first my heart went to my mouth, as I thought another child had been shot. As the young boy was dragged to safety, he began to gain consciousness and my relief was palpable.
Tears streaming down my eyes from the teargas, I tried to locate my teammate and the internationals amongst the mourners who began to regroup. Soon, the funeral procession began to make its way once again, with Ahmed’s tiny body, towards the mosque. As Ahmed was carried up the stairs into the mosque, prayers were called and we waited in quite vigil for Ahmed and his family.
When the prayers finished, Ahmed was brought from the mosque and taken once again by funeral procession to the village burial ground. We walked quietly, as again the chants from the villagers and others Palestinians spoke of Ahmed’s martyrdom, God and the occupation.
As we approached the burial grounds, women stood atop the house near where little Ahmed would be buried. As the funeral procession passed by they ululated, performing the zachrohtah, the traditional sound made to wish someone well. In performing this tradition, the women sought to ensure Ahmed’s journey to paradise would be happy and joyful.
As the men accompanied Ahmed’s body for burial, we decided to remain outside. As we waited quietly, two young girls, both under the age of ten, shyly came to say hello. As we conversed, they asked me my name, where I lived and other innocent questions. As I responded, in my badly pronounced Arabic, they also began to ask if I liked Noor, the widely popular Turkish soap opera (which is dubbed in Arabic) that is showing at the moment on Palestinian television. I asked them if they liked Mohanad, the male lead, who all the Palestinian girls and young women have fallen in love with and they told me yes. As I practiced my Arabic with them and spoke of the things little girls find interesting and joyful, I thought again of Ahmed who will never have the chance to play games with his friends or his family and of how he would never be able to speak of the television shows he loved. And again the sadness swept over me for Ahmed and for his family, who would miss him so much.
*17 year old, Yousef Ahmad Younis Amera was shot in the head, twice, with rubber coated steel bullets at close range by the Israeli military, in Ni’lin village several hours after Ahmed was buried. Yousef was declared brain dead several hours after he was shot by the Israeli occupation forces.
– Kim Bullimore is currently living the Occupied West Bank, where she is a human rights volunteer with the International Women’s Peace Service (www.iwps.info). She has a blog http://www.livefromoccupiedpalestine.blogspot.com and is a regular writer on Palestine-Israel issues. She contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com.