Four days after they went missing, the bodies of Mohammed Ahmad Laban, 17, Mohammed Al Madhoun, 16, and Ahmad Banat, 15, finally arrived. But the sight of their lifeless bodies brought only question marks for Palestinians, who have deep suspicions as to the boys’ final fate.
According to doctor Muawiyeh Hassanein, director general of Gaza City’s Shifa Hospital emergency ward, examination of the bodies showed that Mohammed Luban had been brutally tortured on all parts of his body, in particular the head, which suffered from wounds and breaks. No brain was inside the cavity, said Hasanein, nor were there eyes in the sockets. Only the outer skin of the face was left. There were also long deep gashes on Luban’s extremities, most likely the doing of a sharp instrument such as a knife or axe.
Hasanein says that the boy died from the knife wounds, despite having been shot first. The doctor also said Luban was beaten before he was killed. The other boys’ showed similar signs of torture, with broken bones and long deep gashes apparent on their bodies.
Before being delivered to Palestinians on January 2, the three bodies underwent an autopsy at Israel’s Abu Kbir forensics center on December 31, according to the report accompanying them. In addition, some of the major organs were missing from their bodies.
The three boys disappeared on December 30, when residents of Gaza had risen to the news that six citizens were killed in Beit Lahiya and Beit Hanoun in northern Gaza. But the identities of three of those killed remained a mystery until four days later.
Darawna accused Israel of a cover-up in their delay of the handover. The Israeli army was busy saying that the boys had attempted to attack a military outpost with automatic machineguns and explosives. Darawna charged that if this were true, Israel would have handed the bodies over to the Palestinians immediately.
The mystery was short-lived. On Thursday morning, Israeli authorities delivered the bodies of the three teenagers. Their families were shocked. The Shifa hospital autopsy showed that not only were signs not consistent with the Israeli story of the armed clash, but that organs had been stolen from the bodies without permission of the families.
Hassanein questions why the boys were autopsied in Abu Kbir in this way. He said that this kind of medical dissection is usually done to train students on the methods of autopsy, with organs being kept for further tests and study. He said that there was no reason for this kind of autopsy in this case because the cause of death was very clear. The three were shot and wounded, stabbed and beaten to death.
Head of the Palestinian Center for Human Rights in Gaza Raji Sourani calls this “a new kind of Israeli crime for the record.” He says that by all standards of legal and human rights, this was an unlawful killing of children. “What we found out after seeing the bodies was that one of them was severely disfigured; most likely a tank rolled over it. The other bodies were also badly disfigured.”
Sourani says that the families of the three boys have commissioned his center to speak directly to the Israeli legal advisor and demand that he open an investigation into the deaths. In addition, his center has approached the Special Rapporteur for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories John Dugard, who deals with such cases.
The families’ suffering has not yet ended. First, they were beside themselves with no knowledge of their sons’ whereabouts for the four days before their deaths were announced. Then they experienced the shock and outrage at what they saw. Mohammed Banat’s mother since suffered a nervous breakdown and lies in a hospital bed over the death of her child. While the three boys once played in the alleys of Sheikh Radwan neighborhood, they now rest quietly next to each other in death.