Today, on my birthday, we (ISM) went with Beit Hanoun ‘Local Initiative' volunteers to retrieve the long-decomposed body of a man who didn't live to see his 19th birthday.
Ahmed Abu Hashih disappeared on April 21st. His family believed that he had been killed somewhere in the north-eastern border region, the Israeli-imposed ‘buffer zone' where Israeli soldiers routinely shoot at Palestinian farmers and residents. Since then, his parents and others have searched, unsuccessfully, for his body, fearing the worst.
Sixteen of us (family, international accompaniment from the ISM, and local rights activists and volunteers from Beit Hanoun) set out this morning to comb the land for the missing youth. The terrain is dry weeds and tall, prickly scrub, making walking difficult.
We accompanied the father -Abu Ayesh- and a local who knew the area well, filming and attempting to convey to the soldiers shooting at us from jeeps that we had come to retrieve a corpse.
The shooting, along with 2 loud explosions, likely sound grenades, became more intense and closer when the body was actually spotted and the team started to load it onto a white sheet. As we quickly loaded Abu Hashish onto his cloth stretcher, the shooting continued.
Abu Ayesh had been further off, and thankfully missed the scene of his son's body, 54 days decomposed, falling apart, head falling off.
Muslims place great importance in burying the dead immediately. Nearly 2 months after his death, the anguish of the Ahmed Abu Hashish family is great, his body desecrated by the elements, they denied access to it due to the threat of being shot by Israeli soldiers at the border -who indeed did shoot when we retrieved the body.
I wanted to know, what was he doing in the area close to the border. Was he resistance?
No, I was told, he was a Bedouin youth, poor family, probably wanted to try to cross into Israel to look for work. "Hua zift min el dinnia," -he was worn down by this life.
The exact circumstances of his death are yet unknown, but it can be assumed that Ahmed Abu Hashih died from gunshot wounds, shot by Israeli soldiers at the border hundreds of metres off.
As we returned with his dead son, Abu Ayesh cried out, uttering phrases of grief and mourning. Soon after reaching the road, a donkey cart arrived to take away the corpse. At the same time, Ayesh, Ahmed's brother, arrived, dropping his motorbike, and began to wail his sorrow in a high-pitched woman's shriek.
*listen for the father's anguished lamentations, the brother's shrill wail (at the end of the clip)
ISM-Gaza Strip footage