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Op-Ed

Father describes young daughter’s killing by Israel in Gaza

His voice breaking, Hussein Jaber recalls how his four-year-old daughter was killed by Israeli forces before his eyes.

The photographer, who works with the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA), was trying to flee Gaza City on December 5 to get his family to safety when his daughter’s life was ended.

  • “This area was empty,” Jaber said as he stood amid massive destruction with his left arm in a cast and held together with external screws. He was hit in the same attack that killed his daughter.

“There was no one on this road here except the building’s residents who were walking out, about to leave towards the west as ordered by the army, including my family.

  • “I was waiting over there,” he gestured to his right, “waiting for them. They were women, children and elderly folks, and you could see them clear as day.”

His family had been sheltering in a building for four days with friends. Jaber had been staying elsewhere for work until he drove over to evacuate them.

  • “Salma was first. She got to the crossroads with her sister Sarah running behind her towards me, and suddenly, intense gunfire broke out,” he said, describing later on social media how an Israeli tank sprayed the area with bullets.
  • “I saw Salma get hit in the neck before my eyes. … She was writhing with pain but kept running somehow. I ran to her to embrace her and carry her to the car while my wife and children Omar and Sarah kept running,” he said.

Jaber is not sure when he was hit in the arm.

He still cannot comprehend what happened, he said, pointing overhead in the direction of a buzzing sound and saying there had been surveillance aircraft overhead the whole time.

  • “It was apparent to those aircraft that these were civilians fleeing the building and heading westward as per the instructions of the Israeli army. We posed no threat,” he said.
  • “Salma was killed while Sarah, her nine-year-old sister, miraculously survived death when a bullet penetrated her jacket. It went in one side and out the other. Millimetres separated her from death.
  • “My three-year-old son, Omar, still asks me where Salma is. He doesn’t understand how she could have been with him walking down the road and now she’s just gone.”

Jaber walks to stand in front of the Buraq School, where his family had told him Israeli tanks had moved in after the refugees staying there had fled.

  • “The school was east of the building where my family was. That’s why I asked them to exit to the west, to stay away from the direction where the tanks were,” he continued, walking over to stand where he could point out the building, which had been hit with artillery shells every day they were there.

Inside the building, Jaber stands in a dark, burned-out stairwell, telling Al Jazeera that this is where his family stayed, crowding into the centre of the building to escape the continuous bombing that targeted the building from all sides.

Last week, the United States estimated that more than 25,000 women and children had been killed in Israel’s war on Gaza.

International criticism of Israel targeting residential areas has been growing as the war grinds on. In December, South Africa accused Israel of genocide in Gaza in a case filed at the International Court of Justice.

More and more children have been starving to death as famine gradually takes hold. Two-month-old Mahmoud Fattouh starved to death last week next door to one of the richest countries in the world. He is one of the now 16 children who have died of hunger in Gaza.

According to the United Nations, one child in every six below the age of two is already acutely malnourished.

Today, all Jaber’s family has of Salma are the digital images of her on his mobile phone.

The videos are a testament to joy.

Salma can be seen dancing for her father’s camera, proudly reading a poem or smiling on a beach.

  • “Salma’s image will remain present in my heart and mind. Salma, my middle daughter, intelligent, mischievous, affectionate, forever beloved,” her father wrote.

Salma’s fifth birthday would have been on February 4.

Source: Al Jazeera