The vast majority of Palestinians killed by Israel in the past four years played no role in the resistance. Khaled Amayreh meets a survivor
On 5 April 2002, 10-year-old Mohamed Abdul- Hamid Sughayer was playing outside his home in the Al-Haras neighbourhood of downtown Hebron when he unexpectedly had a close encounter with Israeli terror.
"I was cleaning and decorating our new car outside. An Apache helicopter was hovering above the neighbourhood. A few minutes later, the Apache fired a missile or two right into the car and I was engulfed with fire... It was hell, and I was in it," Mohamed, who is now 12 and very badly deformed, told Al-Ahram Weekly.
After the incident took place, the Israeli army made a terse statement saying that the rocketing had been carried out "by mistake" due to "faulty intelligence".
An army spokesperson said that it was thought that the car belonged to an Islamic Jihad activist, Diab Shweiki, who was later murdered by an Israeli death squad west of Hebron.
However, Mohamed's father, Amin Sughayer, and his grandfather, insist that the Israeli state has a policy of viewing the lives of non-Jews in general and Palestinians in particular as "expendable" and "at least of lesser value than Jewish lives".
"Do you think that the pilot and whoever gave him the order to push the button would have done it if our neighbourhood had been a Jewish neighbourhood?... If Jewish kids had been walking and playing around here?" asked Amin
According to figures published this week by the Israeli human rights centre, B'tselem, the bulk of Palestinians killed and injured by Israel since the Intifada began on 28 September, 2000, were innocent civilians or people who played no part in the resistance against the Israeli occupation.
The report suggested that the Israeli army has knowingly killed hundreds of Palestinian civilians, including some 500 children and minors, all on the pretext of fighting "terror".
In other words, the Israeli army has been pursuing a terror policy against the Palestinian civilian population that is greater in scope and deadlier in its effect than any campaign of suicide bombing carried out by Palestinian fighters inside Israel.
As Mohamed was being incinerated in the midst of the huge fire ball caused by the hell-fire missile, his distraught father threw himself onto his son's body in a desperate effort to save him from what looked then like certain death.
His desperate feat succeeded, and Mohamed found himself, alive if only barely so, at the Ahli hospital in Hebron half an hour later. The initial prognosis showed that he was suffering from severe warfare burns over 90 per cent of his body. In the words of his grandfather, he was suspended between life and death.
Upon reaching hospital, Mohamed went into a coma from which he only awoke five months later.
Fighting for his life, the child had to be transferred to a better-equipped hospital for a series of plastic surgery operations that would restore his normal body functions.
After protracted hesitation on the part of the Israeli authorities, he was transferred to the Hadasa Hospital in West Jerusalem, where he underwent several surgical operations, including a colostomy and the amputation of all his fingers and toes and one ear.
According to a report issued by the Hadasa Department of Plastic Surgery, Mohamed sustained "85 per cent IBSA third degree burns".
Last year, Mohamed was brought to the Al- Qasr Al-Aini hospital in Cairo for further treatment of his multiple deformities of the head and neck, trunk and limbs.
He underwent nine reconstructive operations, which enabled him to stand up and even walk a little, giving him some hope and renewed self- confidence. He still has to undergo six further reconstructive procedures, and these were supposed to take place in August. However, because the Israeli occupation authorities would not give his father an exit permit, Mohamed is still waiting for the authorities which nearly killed him to allow him to go abroad for treatment.
"At least I am alive and can walk somehow," says Mohamed. "I saw many children in hospital whose hands and legs had been severed. There are many who lost their lives." His father intimated that Mohamed does not sleep well and experiences nightmares from time to time.
He also panics very badly and urinates involuntarily whenever he sees a helicopter flying around.
Asked what he would tell the Israeli pilot who fired the rocket at him, Mohamed was silent for a few seconds. Then he said, "I would ask him why did he do that to me? Why? Why?"
Would he forgive him? "Only if I was sure the pilot wouldn't do it again to other children and other Palestinians. You can forgive a person whose conscience is alive, but how can you forgive a person who insists that what he did was right and who says he will do it again and again?"
"In fact, I am not sure that I am his only victim... And perhaps some of his other victims were not as lucky as I am. Maybe I can't get justice from him in this world... but I will meet him face to face on the Day of Judgement... and God will get me my dues from him."
Mohamed said that when he grows up, he wants to become a doctor specialising in treating burns. He has a serious handicap to this ambition, chiefly due to the loss of his fingers. But he has hope that the "doctors" may yet be able to "fix his fingers", or install artificial ones.
The Israeli army has never apologised for destroying Mohamed's life and nearly killing him. An Israeli military official, asked to comment, said that Israel was in a state of war with the entire Palestinian population and that what happened to Mohamed ought to be viewed in this context.