Abu Wael, my white-haired host in Beit Hanoun, so gentle and soft-spoken, sat and graciously urged his guests to eat more of food that he grew with his own hands on his northern Gaza farm, while he spoke of his grief.
The farm used to be planted with olive trees. During the olive harvest in October 2004, Abu Wael went with some workers and relatives to begin the harvest. However, Beit Hanoun came under attack by the Israeli army. That day, as they reached the farm, they received news that a cousin, Luay, was hit by a helicopter rocket and seriously wounded. So they left the farm out of concern for Luay and the family.
The third day after the attack, with Luay dying in the hospital and nothing else to be done, Abu Wael returned with the workers and relatives to harvest the trees. When they reached the farm, however, they were met by Israeli bulldozers that began to chase them. As they fled the fields, the Israeli army razed the land, crushing beneath their machines and metal blades the trees and their just-ripened olives.
That same day, 7 October, Luay passed away. Abu Wael fell ill, because of the land and because of Luay. But that would not be the last of his grief that year.
Three days later, Abu Wael and his son Ahmad stood on their balcony at 5am. An attack had just taken place and they were trying to figure out what had happened. Another cousin (also named Ahmad) decided to go the hospital to see what was going on. Ahmad was in the street, only 15 meters away from Abu Wael’s house, when he was hit during a missile strike fired from an Apache helicopter.
Abu Wael’s own son Ahmad went down running and found his cousin badly injured and also wounded in the leg, so he carried him and took him to the hospital. But there was no chance. He died that same day.