I am very, very sorry to learn of the death of a stoic young Palestinian man, Abed Abu Oida, a result of years of suffering after being shot in the spine by a zionist mercenary sniper in eastern Jabaliya, March 2008.
I met Abed in a Cairo hospital in mid 2008, where he was wasting away (severely emaciated and had festering bedsores on his backside and heels—which would later be the cause of infection). Steve Sosebee, from the Palestinian Children’s Relief Foundation, was fundamental in getting Abed back to Gaza where–in spite of the severity of life under lockdown-siege, Abed was able to get excellent care at the recently-destroyed al-Wafa Rehabilitation hospital (this hospital came under genocidal zionist attacks in 2009, including w White Phosphorous (see links below), and again during the latest zionist genociding of Gaza this year.
Abed’s story was this:
“Bedridden but painfully conscious, nearly paralyzed with no feeling from the waist down, 16-year-old Abdul Rahman (Abed) is one of the hundreds who were injured by intense Israeli shelling and firing on Gaza between 27 February – 3 March 2008, during an operation dubbed “Hot Winter” by Israel. According to a World Health Organization report, during this period the Israeli army killed at least 116 Palestinians, nearly half of them civilians and more than a quarter children, including a six-month-old and a 20-day-old baby, and injured 350. Later counts put the number killed as high as 150, with more than 55 killed in one day alone. Over half of the week’s fatalities and injuries occurred in and around Jabaliya, the northern Gaza region where Abed was born.
At 11:00am on 2 March, Abed stood on the roof of his family’s home, observing as Israeli tanks overran the area. No curfew had been announced, and he was unaware of the presence of soldiers on a neighboring rooftop. The youth was struck from behind by an Israeli sniper’s bullet that dug into his spine, destroying three of his vertebrae and leaving him paralyzed and bleeding on the roof where he lay for 15 minutes before his younger brother found him. The 13-year-old dragged Abed to the stairs and down into the family’s home, dodging further sniper fire as he went. The invasion outside continued, preventing ambulances from coming for Abed. Three hours after his injury, the teen finally reached a hospital in Gaza City where doctors, after seeing his injury, were surprised to see the youth was still alive. Unable to provide adequate emergency care in Gaza, they immediately loaded him into an emergency transfer ambulance bound for the Rafah border crossing to Egypt.”
“With the high number of serious injuries, Rafah crossing — closed virtually continuously since June 2007 when Israel imposed a total closure on Gaza — was opened temporarily to allow some of the wounded passage for treatment in Egyptian hospitals. Due to the siege and its detrimental impact on the availability of essential medicines and functioning equipment, Gaza’s own hospitals are not able to meet patients’ needs. Among the more critically injured, Abed was transported to a hospital in al-Arish, roughly 50 kilometers from the Rafah border, and eventually to Cairo’s Nasser Hospital, where he arrived 15.5 hours after being shot.
Four months later, Abed lies gaunt and sickly pale, wondering how this happened to him, and waiting for a series of operations which may help him recover. The operations to strengthen the broken vertebra and plug the bullet-hole wound in Abed’s spinal cord have only a minimal probability of success, allowing him the luxury of sitting a wheelchair for the remainder of his life. Dr. Saleh Abu Sobheh, a surgeon who treated Abed in Cairo’s Palestine Hospital for a period, is more grimly pragmatic: “spinal surgery is a highly risky procedure. Abed will be paralyzed for life, and will be lucky if he does not suffer brain damage from the operation.”
Upon seeing him in the hospital, one might imagine he had always been a slight, sickly boy, not a youth who used to enjoy football and lifted weights every day. Activity and sport were some of the things he didn’t allow Israel to deny him under the siege. Now he can scarcely lift a bottle of water.”
“Abed’s time in Egypt was hellish, separated from his family who were not granted exit permits by the Egyptian authorities. Orphaned in Cairo, Abed was moved from hospital to hospital but his situation continually deteriorated, to the point that he was near starvation and incoherent. He developed large, painful bedsores on his backside and feet from lack of proper hospital care and lack of an overseeing parent to ensure he was being treated properly. These bedsores remained with him when he eventually was returned, in worse condition than when he’d left, to Gaza. They were eventually operated on and treated, but he continued to develop other ailments related to his spinal injury.”
“I followed Abed’s case while in Egypt and helped arrange to have him returned to his family and cared for in the Al Wafa Rehabilitation hospital, thanks to the Palestinian Children’s Relief Fund. Abed improved somewhat.
The Israeli war on Gaza occurred, but Abed was thankfully not in Wafa when the Israelis shelled and shot at it numerous times, including with white phosphorous (there were roughly 60 residents in the hospital at the time, most of whom were invalid or comatose and incapable of moving on their own, as well as residents in the complex’s home for the elderly. The hospital sign was ironically targeted, rendering baseless any doubts that the Israeli army did not realize it was a hospital. This and the fact that hospital staff were on the phone throughout the evening of attacks, trying to coordinate via the ICRC with the Israelis to stop attacking the hospital. This is the 4th time the Israeli army has attacked the hospital, its Director said. Seven years ago, 2 nurses were shot dead. )”
Over the years in Gaza, I was able to visit Abed or otherwise get updates. Sometimes it seemed he had progressed, that there was hope he would not only live but maybe even walk, or at least be able to sit in a wheelchair instead of being bedridden. That never transpired.
In June, 2012, Tuesday’s Child updated me:
“–Abed is not keeping so well, he is in hospital most days now, his mother is also ill, with a blood disorder. Life is so hard on families in Gaza. We will send him your good wishes. He set up an email last year and you could maybe try that also. His email broke my heart, it translated as broken bird.
–Eva, you were a very good friend to Abed and he will be glad to hear from you. He has great spirit and the most beautiful smile. Unfortunately, in Egypt and with his mum not allowed to visit even, he developed pressure sores to the bone, his infection was treated with IV gentamicin but at an adult dose too much for his weight, this knocked his kidneys and hearing out and why he now has only one kidney and is permanently deaf. We had an audiologist out to help with the deafness. Otherwise he is very weak.”
Today, Tuesday’s Child explained:
“…He was treated with a too high dose of IV antibiotic that damaged his hearing and his kidneys. He had one kidney removed and he had irreversible deafness. He struggled with repeated infections and regular hospitalisations, often 3 times a week….He suffered terribly yet he always managed to smile. He was incredibly brave. His greatest joy were his family – his parents, brothers and sisters. In his email address he called himself “broken sparrow”.
He died yesterday. To the sniper who shot Abed, who gave you the right to maim a child? Who gave you the right to cause so much pain and suffering to an innocent boy?”
Back in July, before I’d ever been to Gaza I wrote of Abed and another Palestinian man from Gaza in a Cairo hospital:
“Abed and Ziyad are just two of the faceless victims, testimony to the agony of Palestinians in Gaza confronting continued military attacks and a cruel siege which has largely been ignored and minimized by the international community. Abed hopes one day to sit in a wheelchair with his father by his side, and like Ziyad, wants to see an end to Israel’s siege and the attacks which brought them here.”
How naive I was.
Rest peacefully, Broken Bird.
This was first published at In Gaza