It’s never Israel’s fault: Two Gazan children are dead and their story goes untold

It’s not hard to imagine what would have happened had Hamas killed two Israeli children, brother and sister, with a Qassam.

She was 6, he was 10, blood siblings. Did they die in their sleep? Did they wake up right before the missile struck their home?

Did they hear the plane and take fright before they died, perhaps attempt to flee? Was there any place to go? What did they do before going to bed on their last night alive? Did they dream of anything on their last night? Did they have any dreams? Israa and Yassin, girl and boy, sister and brother, between Friday and Saturday in the Gaza Strip.

Between Friday and Saturday in the Gaza Strip, 2:30 A.M., long-suffering and bombardment-weary Beit Lahia woke up in terror to the ill-boding sounds of a plane. My friend M. told me his children jumped from their beds in fright.

Israel was avenging the firing of four Qassam rockets into Israel hours earlier. The rockets landed in open areas and caused no damage. Between Friday and Saturday in the Gaza Strip, Israel Air Force planes struck four targets, “Hamas terror installations.”

The plane flew over Beit Lahia, and the pilot released the bombs. The hits were good. The screen in the plane did not show Yassin, dead, nor Israa, dying.

One of the terror installations was the house of Israa and Yassin Abu Khoussa. “House” is an exaggeration. A ragged asbestos roof, ragged clothes on the window sill, thin mattresses on the floor covered by cheap blankets, some of them now soaked in blood. Here Israa and Yassin were born, here they lived and here they died. On the floor of the room that was hit slept the family’s seven children, from 2 years old to 15, and their mother. They are all in shock.

The Israel Defense Forces knows this hut in Beit Lahia well; it has wrecked it a few times already. But the family continued to live in it; where would they go? Now Suleiman Abu Khoussa, 45, a farmer, sits there, stunned by the death of two of his children in front of their mother, their sisters and their brothers. The mother hides herself away, it’s not possible to talk with her.

Their home is about 300 meters from a Hamas training camp, a distance made much smaller by the IAF’s skilled pilots. Yassin died at the scene. Israa was taken to Beit Lahia’s Indonesia Hospital in critical condition and then to Shifa Hospital in Gaza City, where she died. They were buried side by side in the al-Salatin cemetery, a brother and sister with no present and no future.

The incident was barely reported in Israel. It’s hard to think of a baser dehumanization than the disgraceful coverage by the majority of Israeli media outlets of the killing of these two Palestinian children. Israel Hayom mentioned the killing in a tiny subheading that took a contemptible, dismissive tone: “Hamas claims: as a result of the attack, two children were killed.” It’s not hard to imagine what would have happened had Hamas killed two children, brother and sister, with a Qassam rocket. One can imagine not only a ruthless military retaliation but also the emotional reporting: beasts, the headlines would surely have shouted, Hamas child-killers.

But our child-killers are pure, after all it wasn’t intentional. It never is. Israel was not asked to issue a condemnation, no one even thought to express regret, much less to offer compensation.

I would very much like to visit the Abu Khoussa home in order to tell Israelis what their air force did there. But Israel doesn’t let Israeli journalists into Gaza. Britain’s The Independent was there this week to report to its readers. Yedioth Ahronoth reported on the guitar that Aviv Geffen gave to a guy whose own guitar broke when he hit a terrorist in the head with it, together with our hearts.