x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Child’s death sends shockwaves through Palestinian community

Sahir Abu Namous was a happy and well-liked child, approaching his fifth birthday when he was killed by an Israeli airstrike that destroyed his family’s home in Gaza.

The father of Sahir Abu Namous, 4, carried his body during his funeral after he was killed in an Israeli air strike explosion near his house in the northern Gaza strip. Image by Momen Faiz/Demotix/Corbis
The father of Sahir Abu Namous, 4, carried his body during his funeral after he was killed in an Israeli air strike explosion near his house in the northern Gaza strip. Image by Momen Faiz/Demotix/Corbis

DUBAI // Sahir Abu Namous, a happy and popular four-year-old, was playing outside his family’s Gaza home on Friday when the Israeli airstrike began.

His worried mother brought him in, along with others from the neighbourhood, to keep him safe.

Later, she and Sahir’s father found his small, maimed body in the rubble of their Tal Al Zaatar home.

His death, which seemed to be cruelly random, sent shockwaves through the Palestinian community locally and internationally.

Omar Abu Namous, who lives in Al Ain and is a cousin of Sahir’s father Salman, said the death was hard to understand. “He was just a child. He had never done anything to hurt anyone,” said Mr Abu Namous.

Sahir is one of 160 Palestinians killed in the latest hostilities between Hamas and Israel.

Gaza resident Diaa Mahmoud, another cousin of Salman, said 22 children in the community had died in the airstrikes.

“It’s a catastrophic situation here,” Mr Mahmoud said. “His family are full of grieving because he is just 4 years old. There are rockets falling everywhere near their home.”

No Israeli fatalities have been reported so far, although hundreds of rockets have been fired from Gaza, targeting Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.

On Sunday, Israel called on residents of the northern Gaza Strip to leave their homes in anticipation of a possible ground assault.

Mr Abu Namous said Sahir was killed along with a neighbour’s child, aged 6. Sahir’s parents were unhurt.

Israel has said it warns residents in advance of attacks by phone call, text message or by dud missiles launched on to their roofs. It is not clear whether any of those warnings were sent to the Abu Namous family.

A YouTube video has been posted of Sahir’s father crying over his son’s body. A funeral procession through the streets of Beit Lahiya drew scores of people.

Mr Abu Namous was born in the UAE and has never visited family in Gaza, but he knew Salman well and they would regularly talk over the phone, especially during religious holidays.

He said Salman had spoken at length to his parents of his loss. “He is devastated by the death of the child but he is powerless to do anything about it.”

The family has no connection to Hamas and Sahir’s father worked as a taxi driver, said Mr Abu Namous.

“This keeps happening every two or three years,” he said. “I’m worried for my friends and cousins there. I’m worried for the Palestinian people.

“It’s such a small patch of land and there are so many people living there. It’s like they don’t have a target, they’re just bombing anywhere. They treat the houses of ordinary people like a military target.”

On Saturday night, a centre for the handicapped was hit by Israeli rockets in northern Gaza. Two disabled women were killed and four were wounded.

The UAE leadership has directed Dh192 million of urgent humanitarian aid from Emirates Red Crescent to Gaza.

The aid and the generosity of the gesture has already received the thanks of many in the beleaguered territory.

Dr Yousuf Salama, the preacher at Al Aqsa Mosque in East Jerusalem, said the UAE’s assistance would make a difference to the lives of people affected by the violence.

“This noble, brave initiative will ease repercussions and the brunt of the brutal Israeli aggression on our besieged people,” the state news agency Wam quoted Dr Salama as saying.

mcroucher@thenational.ae