‘I Waited for My Fate,’ Says Gaza Father

January 26th, 2009 - by admin

Yasser Ahmad and Ashraf Khalil / The Los Angeles Times – 2009-01-26 22:37:08


GAZA (January 18, 2009) — Reporting from El Arish, Egypt, and Khan Yunis, Gaza Strip — The farmer and his sons waited until the daily lull in the Israeli offensive before attempting their dash for safety.

About 1 p.m. Friday, Mohammed Shurrab and his two sons piled into a red Land Rover and fled the family’s farm in the village of Fukhari, southeast of Khan Yunis, in the southern Gaza Strip. Kassab, a 28-year-old engineer, sat in the front passenger seat and Ibrahim, an 18-year-old college student, sat in the back.

They didn’t get far.

As they drove, a hail of bullets struck the car, shattering the windshield. A group of Israeli soldiers had opened fire from a house about 30 yards away, Shurrab said.

Shurrab, 60, ducked and shouted for his sons to do the same, but Kassab had already taken at least one bullet in the chest.

Panicking, Kassab leaped from the car, staggered perhaps 10 yards and then fell in the street as the bullets continued to fly, his father said.

Ibrahim pushed open the back door and tried to get out, but was immediately shot in the leg. He pulled out a cellphone and tried to call for assistance, but a soldier ordered him in broken Arabic to throw down the phone, his father said.

Shurrab coaxed his injured son back into the car. Only then did he notice that his own hand was bleeding.

“It was so terrifying,” Shurrab said the next day from his hospital bed in Khan Yunis. “I shouted at the soldiers to help us, but no answer.”

With the body of Kassab lying in the street, Shurrab said, he and Ibrahim sat bleeding in their car for 20 hours.

Shurrab called the local ambulance service and was told that they were waiting for coordination with the Israeli army so they could come safely to the scene. He phoned his relatives, who called the Red Cross and gave his number to local journalists.

As night approached and his bleeding son grew weaker, he spoke with Al Jazeera, BBC Arabic and several local radio stations, pleading to be rescued.

Ibrahim complained to his father that he felt cold.

“I could not do anything for my son,” Shurrab said.

Around midnight, the cellphone battery died. Soon afterward, Ibrahim stopped responding.

“I waited for my fate,” Shurrab said, crying.

Israeli troops allowed an ambulance through at 11 a.m. Saturday. Ambulance driver Mahmoud Heikal said he saw Israeli troops watching from a nearby house as he approached the red Land Rover. Kassab Shurrab lay dead in the street. Ibrahim had bled to death in the car.

The Israeli army didn’t comment on the incident involving the Shurrab family.

But a statement issued Saturday said that “given the difficult combat circumstances, complex battles and fighting in urban settings, uninvolved civilians are unfortunately exposed to danger.”

Ahmad is a special correspondent. ashraf.khalil@latimes.com

Copyright 2009 Los Angeles Times

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