Saturday, January 28, 2006

Amidst the mayhem, the crimes continue

This is a brief post whose purpose is to serve as a memorial for a little girl who has received scarce if any mention in the preoccupied media in recent days. Her name was Aya al-Astal. Aya was 13 years old. Aya was carrying a basket, and got lost on her back back home to the Qarara area of south-central Gaza on Thursday, not far from the border fence with Israel. Israeli occupation forces shot her four times with live ammuniation, two rounds at least hitting her in the neck on Thursday, after suspecting she was a dangerous terrorist (their defense: "she got close to the fence"). But the media was too busy covering the "political earthquake that shook the region." Four bullets. To the neck. This from arguably the most sophisticated army in the world. Apparently, the soldiers mistook her basket for a bomb. Binoculars anyone? Medics found her body, riddled with bullets, hours after she had been murdered. May you rest in peace littl Aya. May you rest in peace.

Chris Mcgreal, the Guardian's ever-reliable correspondent here, covered Aya's story here in horrific detail on January 30, 2006:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/international/story/0,,1697745,00.html

33 Comments:

Blogger Robert said...

I pray that God has a special place for innocent children like Aya. We humans have certainly screwed up the gift of life that God has given us. We're all born completely without hate, envy and prejudice; yet somehow many of us grow to learn those things. I'm sure children on both sides of the fence have suffered similar consequence; be it bullets or fragments from home made bombs while riding the bus to grandmother's house. The madness has to stop if peace will ever have a chance.

3:47 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i googled the name and did not find much it is sad that thing like this is not reported anymore

7:21 PM  
Blogger Preston L. Bannister said...

You need just a shade more balance here. Soldiers shooting a child is ugly, but the ugliness comes from both sides in this conflict. If children were never used as combatants, would this have happened?

From the other side of the world, it is hard to sort out who bears a greater burden for this crime.

7:55 PM  
Blogger Laila said...

Dear preston
with all due respect to you, there is not dual ugliness in this case. There is no resistance going on from gaza anymore, not now at least. No bombings, nothing. Children HAVEN'T been used as combatants in Gaza. Even if they were, this does not justify a very sophisticated army shooting point blank a child without warning-without even firing warning shots, or worse, without using another form of ammunition. An Army who can spot a target from thousands of feet above air in a "pinpoint assasinatin" in winding allyeways of crowded refugee camps can most certainly distinguish between an unarmed 9 year old girl in vast open fields and a bomb-laden fighter.

8:26 PM  
Anonymous jd said...

First let me say this:


We will never know the truth about this incident.

The story is written, and disseminated through various media channels, as well as word of mouth. The girl is quickly buried. Will forensic experts ever get to see her body and examine the wounds? No. Will detectives get to question witnesses and investigate the incident? Nope.

We'll just have to take the palistinian's word for it - the jews murdered a poor 9 year old girl who lost her way. End of story. Mission accomplished.

10:32 PM  
Blogger jarvenpa said...

I am so sorry. May she rest in peace, indeed.

11:27 PM  
Blogger solitarioh2005 said...

I agree with Laila in this respect.
It is unaceptable that an army does shoot a 9 year old girl, in such a situation.

1:53 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Whether this story is true or not it's of no importance. As Robert said "....we're all born completely without hate, envy and prejudice...." We are born naked.......we have to learn to share, not to destroy; we have to learn to build, not to destroy; we have to learn to live with our neighbours, not to destroy. We have to learn that every human life, on each side of the fence, is more precious than conflict and possessions. Let there be quiet and peace between both sides of the fence. Let people live their lifes because it could be a good life.

3:27 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There is no excuse for this. If it was an Israeli girl it would on the front page of the daily news! If it was a trapped whale or a dog it would get more sympathy from those calling for balance.

8:55 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This morning in Haaretz I read that the late Aya was 9 years old and she was shot when it was dark.

http://www.haaretz.co.il/hasite/pages/ShArtPE.jhtml?itemNo=675930&contrassID=2&subContrassID=21&sbSubContrassID=0

The truth? The only thig we can absolutely know is that she died from the bullets of Israeli soldiers. That's all.

And this is sad.

Let her rest in Peace.

9:40 AM  
Blogger Erika said...

Thank you for writing about Aya.

I've been following this story trying to sort through the discrepancies and figure out what really happened--even simple matters like the child's age, variously reported as 9, 10, and 13. Or whether warning shots were fired. Or what she was carrying, basket or bag?

I'd add a personal anecdote here--in the summer of 2005, I had the pleasure of welcoming a 12-year-old Palestinian girl from Gaza to the US. When my Palestinian-American companion and I first saw her, my first thought was "No WAY is this little kid 12--she must be 8 or 9." But also figured that was possibly my overfed-American perception. Still, my companion, who'd grown up in Gaza, said to me, "She can't be 12! Maybe 10."
But some rapid-fire Arabic and a look at the little girl's passport showed she was really, truly 12.
Given Gaza's extreme poverty, judging a child's age by sight alone is tricky--so many have been undernourished for years.

But Aya was obviously small. And was killed by an Israeli soldier's bullets--soldiers who have access to the finest military technology extant. It didn't have to be that way. And her death should indeed be reported and remembered.

Thank you for doing it.

6:30 PM  
Blogger janinsanfran said...

Death comes to us all, but we could stop bringing it before its time. This is a horror.

7:58 PM  
Blogger Foulla said...

inna lillahi oua inna ilayhi raji3oun!!

9:45 PM  
Blogger Daniel said...

I didn't see it in the English Haaretz sight.

4:36 AM  
Blogger Zak said...

Inna lillahi wa inna illahi rajoun...sad how stories like this seem to be missed out. My prayers are with her family....

4:54 AM  
Anonymous Candide's Notebooks said...

Your moving post is featured at Candide's Notebooks today (www.pierretristam.com), toward the top of the front page.

5:15 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

to Preston I. Bannister,
Let's per say this girl could have been a "Ticking Bomb" IS it not a crime that the occupation has driven these people to this extent??? Most Israelis wouldn't have the faintest Idea of the daily suffering of the Palestinians!!

11:36 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It´s very easy to see things the way it looks more simpathic and more confortable to you.
How many israeli children have died? Just blowed up in a school bus or in the streets,or supermarkets? Even without names,because they were so much that in media they were called only "israeli children". Like YOU saw Hamas victory was celebrating with fireworks,honking horns,and what WE saw in the newspapers all over the world,and in the media was a celebration,with guns and firearms shooting to the sky.
Actually that´s the way that we saw in MEDIA that they use to celebrate in Gaza,and how many children we saw already using guns and firearms? (Should I send you pictures?)
Am I liyng? So that´s very easy to sse only the point of view that´s most confortable to you. SORRY!!!
Both sides are wrong.
And sorry';YES children were already caught in the frontier in Israel,wearing a belt of explosives. Or maybe you won´t remember that,like you saw people celebrating HAMA´S victory,with sweeties and fireworks,when the entire world published another photos.
Everything it´s terror from both sides,and if there´s no balance there´s no justice,and no peace.
It´s very difficult but pepole have to open their eyes.
I few very sorry when children have to pay for the stupidity from grown ups,and it´s for everybody,Palestinians,Arabs,Jews,Blacks or Christians.
No human being is more valuable than another,just think about it.

1:19 PM  
Anonymous Osama Saeed said...

This is terrible heartbreaking news, but thank you for bringing to our attentions.

I've linked to this from my site.

6:20 PM  
Anonymous cayman said...

Anonymous,

Well, I can answer one of your questions.. How many Israeli children have been killed?
Since 29th September 2000, the UN reports the 123 Israeli children have been killed by Palestinians. You don't ask the corresponding question, so I'll ask it for you...How many Palestinian children have been killed in the same period? the answer... 705.

Now, I don't like the numbers game, because like you I think that every human life is valuable, and since each person only has one life, each loss is absolute.

Still, it's interesting that you appeared to think that the story of little Aya was an isolated incident dwarfed by the many nameless Israeli children killed. Think about it. You knew about the Israelis even if not their names. Seems the Palestinians past completely unnoticed. In the same week as Aya was killed, the Israeli army shot and killed a young boy who was walking on a "jewish only road" (what an abomination - we thought these kind of things were over with the end of Apartheid). He was shot in the back. The army said that they believed he was going to throw rocks at settlers cars... so no bombs, not even suspected of having them. Other children have died in their own homes, in their classrooms.

8:07 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

8:09 PM  
Blogger caymannegra said...

I'd like to post a couple of quotes from members of Parents Circle Families Forum, an organisation of Israeli and Palestinian families who have lost a family member in the conflict. I hope it gives some idea of a hope to come out of this circle of counting victims and assigning blame to one group or the other.

“... The more you get to know someone you think of as your enemy, the more you realise that he's a human being like you. It was from this consideration that I started to think there was another choice possible that at the beginning I hadn't even seen or considered. The possiblity of peach, of reconcilation.”
Aziz Abu Sarah, Palestinian

“I think that reconciliation is the most appropriate term. It's not forgiveness of forgetting, because you don't forgive or forget the killing of an innocent, in particular a child. It doesnt matter whether it's an Israeli, Arab, Italian, or whatever. But in the spectrum between hatred and forgiveness there's a middle place that's called reconciliation.”

Rami Elhanan, Israeli.

8:44 PM  
Blogger ratttu said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

12:17 AM  
Anonymous Zahal said...

A couple of posts up, Laila claims that there is no "resistance" (in other words terrorism) in Gaza. But this is simply false, the IDF must deal with sniper fire from Gaza, plus Quassams and suicide bombers at checkpoints. Laila also claims that "An Army who can spot a target from thousands of feet above air in a "pinpoint assasinatin" in winding allyeways of crowded refugee camps can most certainly distinguish between an unarmed 9 year old girl in vast open fields and a bomb-laden fighter.". If I may say so, firing a guided missile at an IR strobe illuminated, pre determined target from a helicopter with radar and IR night vision is very different from firing a .223 rifle with iron sights at a couple hundred yards, possibly at night. While the death of a child is tragic, one thing that hasn't been mentioned here is that this happens in ALL wars. If this had happened in Chechnya it wouldn't even make it into the newspaper, and given the russians proclivity towards undue force it most certainly has happened. And it is certainly strange that the Syrians could kill 30,000 people in Hamra but if the israeli's kill one person by mistake its a war crime. A while back an Israeli undercover commando was killed in a friendly fire incident, was that a crime or a mistake? and finally I'd like to say something to "anonymous" two posts above: come to Israel, call me juden to my face and see what happens to you. That post should have been removed, using nazi language is not acceptable under any circumstances and simply brings down the credibility of this site.

1:01 AM  
Anonymous Catherine said...

"This morning in Haaretz I read that the late Aya was 9 years old and she was shot when it was dark."

Oh puh-leeze. The Israelis have night vision goggles.

7:08 AM  
Anonymous caymennegra said...

Oh dear Zahal, once more moving to centre stage as the victims..."why's everyone picking on us? the syrians did it, so do the russians - they have a tendency to undue force ... why aren't you talking about that".

Maybe you hadn't noticed but this is a blog about Gaza, and maybe your parents never taught you that the excuse that "he did it too and worse than me" would probably earn you extra punishment. Two wrongs don't make a right.

But then of course, it wasn't a wrong, it was a "mistake" - just something that happens in a war. Well, your army seem to be making a lot of these "mistakes" and a lot of them appear to target children.... last year the UN report that 25% of palestians killed by Israelis were children. Your "war" also seems pretty unbalanced - tanks, hi-tec firepower, the best that US money can buy - while the Palestinians appear ot have a few home made missiles and suicide belts. The statistics tell their own tale of the balance of violence in this conflict:
Since September 2000:
Israeli deaths - 1,084
Palestinian deaths 3, 786
Israeli injured 7,633
Palestinian injured 29,393

You might also consider that Palestinians are living under a military occupation - and so have a right under international law to resist it. You are the occupiers and must take the consequences of your government's decision to continue and expand the occupation and confiscation of Palestinian lands. Since 2001 more than 60 new Jewish only settlements have been on confiscated Palestinian land. There have been NO cases of Palestinians confiscating Israeli land. I have witnessed the behaviour of some of these settlers myself, and I can say that they would not be out of place in the nasty little groups of fascists who hang around here in Rome waiting for a chance to beat up on some helpless immigrant.

As for your complaint about the racist post (now removed).. I agree and considered posting myself to complain. Mind you, I have some experience of this kind of post and have sometimes had some dialogue with the poster. In as many cases as not the "racist" turns outs be a zionist provocateur (I outed a couple claiming to be German neo-nazis who signally failed to understand my response posted in German) using the justifiable outrage as a diversionary tactic (a bit like you and the crimes of syrians and russians).

11:26 AM  
Anonymous mj said...

You make it sound as though suicide belts and homemade missiles are piddling little toys that don't really do any harm, like water pistols.

In fact, those innocent-sounding belts can and do kill and maim dozens of innocent people with one blast, especially when packed full of nails dipped in poison. Those missiles are just as deadly.

And don't forget, the terrorists who use those weapons try to kill as many innocent people as possible. When the Israeli army makes a fatal mistake and kills an innocent Palestinian, it's just that- a mistake. Tragic and horrible, yes. Something that should be investigated and accounted for- of course. But the IDF does not deliberately try to kill innocent people, no matter what anyone might claim. Those soldiers are human beings who are not immune from mistakes, and I can assure you that the man who shot that little girl is right now wracked with guilt and sorrow. Because what happened to Aya is a terrible, terrible tragedy.

Thank you, Laila, for removing that offensive post. If the author is reading this I want to say that aside from his racist remarks, I think it's ironic that he mocked another commenter for remaining anonymous while he himself posted under anonymous.

5:48 PM  
Anonymous Zahal said...

Caymennegra:
I think, from your response, that you misunderstood my post. I was not saying that Russian or Syrian actions justify Israeli actions. I was simply saying that
other international events similar or worse than Israeli actions seem not to recieve a lot of coverage in the media, not to mention international protesters (perhaps because they would be killed or injured in other countries?). Thank you for telling me that this is a blog about Gaza, I had no idea! And yes, my parents taught me many things, but I don't see how your kindergarden logic applies here. Two wrongs don't make a right could be applied to any war, anywhere. But you seem to insinuate that the Israeli's are intentionally killing Palestinian children as policy,
and that is of course false. It would take too long to fully rebut that bizarre belief, but a few points. First off, what would Israel have to gain from killing Palestinian children? the opprobrium of the international community, for one. Second, if the Israelis where intentionally killing Palestinian children, wouldn't they be
killing more? you're telling me that with the best army in the world, they could not simply drive into the West Bank or Gaza and shoot everyone in sight? And finally, Israel has a conscription army. Wouldn't the killing of Palestinian children as policy be a rather hard secret to keep, considering every Israeli citizen is or was in the army? suffice to say, I know people in various special forces units (Oketz, Duvdevan, Golani), as well as a relative in Israeli millitary intelegence, and they all say that killing civilians is strictly against their rules of engagement. I am not saying that civilians have never been killed, but that this is not Israeli policy and sometimes does happen in war, despite what you might say. If you compare Israeli actions with American tactics in Vietnam (dare I make a comparison?), the Americans declared "free fire" zones in Vietnam, and soldiers in these zones could shoot anything that moved on sight. But a few lines later, you are telling me that "You might also consider that Palestinians are living under a military occupation - and so have a right under international law to resist it". Resist: did you perhaps mean "blow themselves up in shopping centers?" Didn't you just get done telling me that killing civilians is never justified, that "two rights don't make a wrong?". Strange that you then explain that Palestinians are justified in killing civilians, because they are under "occupation". And there is no "right under international law to resist it", terrorism is illegal under any circumstances under international law. Research what you say before saying it, lest you be proven a fool. So you have "witnessed the behaviour of some of these settlers myself", have you? So have I, one of those settlers happens to be my Grandfather. Was he behaving like a fascist when a Palestinian threw a rock at his wife, blinding her in one of her eyes? You don't know what you're talking about.
As for your condemnation of the racist post, I agree but find it strange that
you would blame such talk on "Zionist provocateurs". Isn't that a bit like blaming the actions of the KKK on Black People? And why would we need a "diversionary tactic"? I'm talking to you about the Israeli Palestinian conflict, ain't I? And to Laila, thanks
for removing the racist posting in such a timely manner, and on a completely different note, I found the discussion about Krembo's rather interesting. Random bit of information, there is a DJ in Tel Aviv called Psychedelic Krembo....

12:30 AM  
Blogger Laila said...

MJ said: " I can assure you that the man who shot that little girl is right now wracked with guilt and sorrow."

MJ-are you familar with the Iman al-Hims story? I can assure YOU, Israeli occupation soldiers, especially those staioned on the front lines, are NOT trained to feel remorse and guilt and sorrow. They are trained not to distinguish between a 9 year old girl with a basket, a palestinain man in search of work, or a fighter. Shoot at any moving object within the 150 metre perimeter zone. Its like a video game.

10:59 AM  
Blogger tafka PP said...

Laila, that's a bit of a sweeping generalisation about the Israeli Army...and not necessarily true. These people are sons, brothers, husbands: Can I draw your attention to the Parents' Circle comments posted by CaymanNegra above. Remorse and sorrow are human emotions and even soldiers are human.

12:53 PM  
Anonymous Zahal said...

Laila- are you familiar with Kibbutz Metzer? or more specifically Revital Ohayon, and her children Matan (five years old) and Noam (four years old), killed in their bedroom by an Al Aqsa martyrs brigade gunman as their mother tried to shield them? The gunman killed two more people before fleeing. Or what about the Ramallah lynching of two reserve soldiers who took a wrong turn and got lost? The picture of a Palestinian man holding his blood covered hands out a window comes to mind (Look it up, you'll see what i'm talking about). This nonsense about Israeli soldiers being trained to feel no remorse is hard to take seriously. If you are a soldier and experience combat, you will remember it, rather vividly, for the rest of your life. The Americans call it post traumatic stress disorder. And all this about "They are trained not to distinguish between a 9 year old girl with a basket, a palestinain man in search of work, or a fighter" is bull, I know instructors in
Zahal, as well as the Israeli rules of engagement, as well as the fact that any soldier is obligated to refuse an order that he/she believes to be illegal. There are bad apples in any army, that does not make the entire Israeli army into a band of remorseless green killing machines.

1:28 PM  
Anonymous caymannegra said...

Zahal,

I do not justify attacks on Israeli civilians by Palestinians - even though I accept that they have a legal right to resist an illegal occupation of there homeland. The legal status of combatants for the right to self-determination was defined by the UN in 1973 according to the following principles:

Such struggles are legitimate and in full accord with the principles of international law.

Attempts to supress struggles against colonial and racist regimes are incompatible with the UN Charter, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples. Such attempts themselves constitute a threat the peace and security.

Of course, these provisions do not justify the killing of civilians any more than your own right to security justifies the killing of so many civilians - and I provided the figures above. 25% of Palestinians killed last year were children - that's a lot of mistakes.

You claim that all their killings are deliberate attacks on civilians while your civilian victims are just unfortunate victims of a legitimate military objective. Sorry, I don't agree. If your tactics cause such a disproportionate number of civilian deaths their continued use constitutes deliberate killing of these civilians. You know they will be killed, but you do so anyway.

After all, why could the Palestinian suicide bomber and his controllers not claim that the attack is aimed at off-duty military personnel - most Israeli men are reservists, so this is just as fair a claim as an attack on a built up area of Gaza to take out people suspected of being militants in the armed resistence. The civilian victims would then be more unfortunate collateral damage.

Make no mistake about it, I do not say this myself. I am a pacifist and even though I accept the right of people living under intolerable conditions - and I have witnessed these conditions myself - to struggle to be free, I seek non-violent means. So, yes I do condemn the killings on both sides - while you only condemn the killings on one side. Terror is terror whether it comes from a suicide bomber or a high tech bomber - the state is much more capable of spreading terror than any individual group, and when it does all those who are citizens of that state are complicit unless they explicitly express their opposition. Something that I do not see you doing. If you do not oppose your government's continued policy of expansion and confiscation of people's liveliehoods, then sadly you must live with the violent consequences of your choice.

I condemn terrorism absolutely - whether rogue or state sponsored. What about you?

6:20 PM  
Anonymous mj said...

Laila, that blanket statement you made about Israeli soldiers really angered me. Certainly there are some bad apples in any army. I think the girl you mentioned, if I'm not mistaken, was killed by a rogue soldier whom the other soldiers vilified for his actions. These same soldiers said their hearts broke for that girl. That "bad apple" soldier is an exception to the rule that the IDF is the most humane, decent army around. I'm sure you wouldn't want any Chechnyan soldiers, for instance, at the border.

Your statement prompted me to call a few friends and relatives who served or are currently serving in the army to find out the truth. They were all shocked at the idea that anyone would think they don't give a damn when they have to kill someone. All of them who've been put in that situation said they've seen soldiers cry or have cried themselves and felt absolutely horrible about what they had to do. One said he had a friend who needed many months of therapy with a shrink after having to kill teenagers in Lebanon who were attacking their tank with RPGs (shoulder missiles). The guilt and horror of it was too much for him.

12:09 AM  

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