When I first got to Hebron I wouldn't open fire on little children. And I was sure that if I ever killed or hurt anyone, I'd go so crazy that I'd leave the army. But finally I did shoot someone, and nothing happened to me. In Hebron I shot the legs off of two kids, and I was sure I wouldn't be able to sleep anymore at night, but nothing happened. Two weeks ago I hurt a Palestinian policeman, and that didn't affect me either. You become so apathetic you don't care at all. Shooting is the IDF soldier's way of meditating. It's like shooting is your way of letting go of all your anger when you're in the army. In Hebron there's this order they call "punitive shooting": just open fire on whatever you like. I opened fire not on any sources of fire but on windows where there was just wash hanging to dry. I knew that there were people who would be hit. But at that moment it was just shoot, shoot, shoot.
-- Extract from an interview with Israeli soldiers (who are identified by pseudonyms) conducted by Israeli journalist Uri Blau and printed in Kol Ha'Ir, a Jerusalem weekly, in September 2001. Translated from Hebrew by Tal Haran, and published in English translation in the April 2002 edition of Harpers Magazine.
Photo (Click to enlarge): Mourners carry the body of Rahma Abu Shamas during her funeral procession through the streets of the central Gaza Strip town of Deir Al Balah, Wednesday Jan. 26, 2005. (Mahmud Hams)
Rahma was having breakfast in her home in the central Gaza Strip refugee camp of Dayr al-Balah, when her house was struck by a burst of machine gun fire from an IDF watchtower in the nearby settlement of Kfar Darom. She was hit in the head by a single heavy-calibre bullet, and died shortly after.
She was the youngest of ten children in a desperately poor Palestinian refugee family, and was particularly attached to her 12-year-old sister, Basma. Her favourite game was drawing with a stick in the dirt, pretending that she could write like her older siblings.
Rahma Abu Shamas was three years old, and was shot dead in her own home by an Israeli soldier who opened fire on her house one year ago today, on 26 Jan 2005.
Associated links: British journalist Chris McGreal has written a number of articles on the non-accidental killing of Palestinian children by IDF soldiers in the Gaza Strip, including the following:
1. "I Can't Imagine Anyone who Considers Himself a Human Being Can Do This"; 28 July 2003. On the shooting deaths of:
Khalil al-Mughrabi (aged 11); Haneen Abu Sitta (12); Ali Ghureiz (7); Haneen Suliaman (8) and Nada Madhi (12).
2. The death and disorientation of the children of Gaza; 19 Sept 2004. On the shooting deaths of:
Raghda Alassar (9); Munir al-Daqas (10); Sara Zorob (10) and Mazen al-Ara (15);
3. Snipers with children in their sights; 28 Jun 2005. On the deaths of:
Asma and Ahmad Mughayar (16 & 13);
Iman al-Hams (12);
Ashraf Mousa, and Khaled Ghanem, all aged 15.