March 11, 2008 at 10:12 am
Sami Abu Salem writing from Jabaliya, occupied Gaza Strip
“I put my hand on her chest to stop the streaming blood. She told me that she could not breathe, her body trembled and she closed her eyes,” said Ra’d Abu Saif of his 12-year-old daughter Safa’s last moments after she was shot by an Israeli sniper last Saturday.
Safa was shot in the left side of her chest while she was inside her home in Jabaliya, northern Gaza. An ambulance tried to reach her but Israeli soldiers opened fire at it, wounding a paramedic and causing the tires to lose air, and so she bled to death three hours after she was wounded.
Her 39-year-old father Ra’d, 37-year-old mother Samar, and the rest of Safa’s family surrounded her, praying for her safety. Her father pressed on the wound while her brother Ali held her hands as her body was severely trembling. She asked her father to help her to breathe.
“Dad, I cannot breathe, all of you leave me please, let me breathe, enough, enough,” were Safa’s last words, according to her father.
Ra’d tried CPR, but he failed. No more pulse and no more breath.
Safa had gone to fetch some clothes from the second floor when, according to Ra’d, “the Israeli sniper on a nearby building shot her in her chest.”
The gunshot penetrated both her chest and the door of the room, and blood poured from her chest and back.
“I heard a gunshot and soon her scream filled the house. I went upstairs, [and saw] her knees gave in and slowly she fell down while calling for her mother,” said her 17-year-old brother Ali.
Her father carried his wounded daughter and tried to evacuate her to the hospital but when he reached the door of the house, his brothers prevented him from leaving as Israeli snipers were shooting anything moving.
Several phone calls later, the ambulance center told the family to evacuate the girl. Her mother Samar carried Safa but as soon as she left the house, the Israeli soldiers opened fire at her and the wounded girl fell to the ground. Samar dragged her into the house.
While Safa laid dying, the family waited as explosions, gunshots, drones and helicopters sounded all around them. Israeli forces cut the electricity and shot the water tanks on the roof. The radio and mobile phone batteries lost their power.
“We used water only for drinking; the smell of the toilet filled our home and we used [text messaging for communication] to conserve batteries,” said her brother Ali.
“My uncle Nabil, 28, crawled from our house to his house and brought a kerosene lamp, but it went out the same night,” Ali added.
The following day the Red Cross intervened and coordinated with the Israeli troops. The ambulance arrived and took Safa’s lifeless body; the Israeli soldiers allowed only her farther to join her.
“Near the door of our house there were dead bodies; the Israeli soldiers prevented paramedics from carrying them away,” Ali said.
Ali began to cry as he recalled his “clever sister,” who shared many of his interests. “She likes sport like me; she is also a good volleyball player and used to participate in school championships.”
The family could not afford paints for Safa to practice her favorite hobby. “She used to [draw] landscapes with a pencil, [there was] no money for colors,” Ali said.
The school run by the UN agency for Palestine refugees, UNRWA, where Safa studied is two kilometers from her home. She walked the four kilometers round trip each day after her unemployed father was no longer able to afford the minibus that carried her and her sisters to school.
The following Sunday morning, thousands of Palestinians in Jabaliya refugee camp participated in Safa’s funeral procession.