Tareq S. Hajjaj
Mondeoweiss / August 12, 2022
Ahmad Ayyad was on his way to work in Israel to help out his family in Gaza when he was attacked by Israeli soldiers and beaten to death.
4-year-old Ameer Ayyad and his 5-year-old sister Banan sit in the middle of the funeral crowd. Neither of them seem to understand that they will not see their father Ahmad ever again. Neither were they aware that the rushed hugs they’d given him on June 28 alongside their mother would be their last.
Ahmad, 32, had gone to the West Bank to treat a colonic disease. He was one of the few people from Gaza who was able to obtain permission to work in Israel, and while he was there he sought treatment during the extra days on his permit.
On July 4, the family received a call from the Nablus Specialized Hospital, to inform them that Ahmad had passed away from a heart attack. But earlier that day, they had already received news of his death, but under entirely different circumstances.
“He was beaten to death by Israeli soldiers,” Mahmoud Ayyad, Ahmad’s brother and a GP at the Shifa Hospital in Gaza, told Mondoweiss. “And it shows on his body.”
That day, a group of Palestinian workers tried to get to their workplaces in Israel by going through a breach in the separation wall north of the West Bank city of Tulkarem. Ahmad was among them when the Israeli soldiers shot at them, injuring one. Ahmad fell down, and the soldiers descended upon him and brutally assaulted him. He was then moved to the hospital, where he died of a heart attack.
Palestinian workers have routinely entered through breaches in the separation wall in order to seek employment in Israel. Ahmad was one of them, but he was also receiving treatment at the same time. “He always [went to work in Israel] after finishing up his treatment. He would work there for weeks, and then go back to help his family,” Mahmoud said.
Open season on killing Palestinians
Sitting next to me at the funeral wake, Mahmoud is now wearing black, his eyes swollen as he struggles to recount the moment he saw Ahmad’s body. “His body was turgid and blue. I examined it myself, and there were no injuries other than those he received during the beating,” he said.
On the same day of his death, the family received Ahmad’s body via the Erez crossing. Hours later, they buried him in Gaza’s eastern martyrs’ cemetery, at night.
The Israeli army issued no statements about the incident. The eyewitnesses contacted the family and recounted the series of events to them. The Israeli soldiers had fired upon the Palestinian workers, injuring one of them; they then stormed the rest of the group, by which time Ahmad had fallen to the ground. “When the Israeli soldiers saw him down, they beat him up,” an eyewitness told the family.
“We could see the bruise marks left by the beating, they were all over his head, chest, back, and neck. His body was already weak from illness, and he couldn’t endure the blows the soldiers dealt,” his brother said.
Following Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s statement on April 8 granting the Israeli army and the Shin Bet (the Israeli intelligence agency) free rein to quell “terrorism,” which the Palestinian Authority (PA) Foreign Ministry considered to be a greenlight for killing Palestinians, the Israeli army proceeded to deploy the systematic use of excessive force against Palestinians.
53 Palestinian civilians were killed in the West Bank and East Jerusalem between January and July 10, according to Euro-Med Human Rights Monitor.
Manipulating the cause of death
The family of Ahmad Ayyad confirmed the beating he received at the hands of the Israeli military, yet the hospital reports make no mention of the blows on his body.
Ahmad’s father, Harb Ayyad, 58, accuses the Nablus Hospital of hiding the evidence in its report. “They should expose the occupation by telling the truth about my son’s death. He died while being lynched by Israeli soldiers.”
“He never had any heart issues, and the cause of death is clearly written all over his body. He suffered blows to critical parts of the body, such as the neck and chest. Maybe he got a heart attack while he was being beaten up, but the main reason is the barbaric attack he faced,” said his brother Mahmoud.
Mondoweiss reached out to three doctors at the Nablus Specialized Hospital for comments regarding the father’s accusation, but none of them said a word about the beating.
The head of the cardiology department at the hospital, Dr. Bahaa Fattouh, said that the hospital received the patient from another hospital in Tulkarem: “The hospital called us and told us we are going to get a patient suffering from a heart attack, and we received him accordingly.”
“The patient arrived at the hospital in critical condition, suffering from a fatal clogged artery. His arteries were damaged, and we tried to open them up, but the patient’s condition only worsened, his heartbeat was irregular, and he could not last for more than 20 minutes,” said Dr. Fattouh.
No solace for a grieving family
The father wanted to make his family happy regardless of his pain and his condition, his wife, Nour Ayyad, 28, told Mondoweiss. “He was always calling to check in on the kids, and telling them that he’d coming home before Eid to bring them gifts,” she said, while sitting in the humble home that used to be used for storage, and which her husband later built up into a home for their family.
“How can those two innocent kids enjoy their childhood now? How will they grow up…without their father? What was my husband’s sin? Please, can anyone answer me?”
As she speaks, her kids are watching and listening, staring at her, partly in sadness, partly in confusion. It is apparent that they are not entirely aware of the loss of their father yet. . They did not see their father’s body when it was moved from the hospital to the cemetery.
“They think that this [funeral] home is to receive their father when he comes with the gifts and clothes that he promised them before he hugged them goodbye” their mother says.
They ask their grandfather when their father is coming, but they barely receive a response from the elder. Instead, he takes his grandchildren in his arms and strokes their heads soothingly. “Soon, soon.”
“This is what Israel is doing to us. It’s turning our kids into orphans and planting pain in every house,” Nour said.
Tareq S. Hajjaj is the Mondoweiss Gaza Correspondent, and a member of Palestinian Writers Union