“What more can I say except that she was a breath of fresh air in these hard times? Her name was Nur (light) and that’s exactly what she was.” Nuran’s mother.
It was a cold winter’s day in Rafah Refugee Camp in Gaza on January 31, 2005, as Palestinian school children lined up for Monday morning assembly in the schoolyard.
Nuran Dib, a ten-year old Palestinian girl was standing with classmates to enter their school when shots from Israeli occupation forces at a military position, called Termit post, some 600m away hit her. The Israeli gunfire hit Nuran in the head and she was later pronounced dead by doctors at Rafah Hospital.
Another student, Aysha Isam al-Khatib was wounded in the hand by a bullet. A third bullet hit a girl’s book bag and was lodged there, stopping the bullet just inches from her body. Other bullets hit the school wall and windows.
Minutes before receiving news of her daughter’s death, Nuran’s mother said she sensed something was wrong. “I asked her father about a beautiful picture of Nuran, we had taken a few years back. I wanted to see it.”
The day after the attack the Israeli military authorities stated that their initial investigation indicated it was not Israeli gunfire that killed Nuran, shooting from Palestinian police celebrating the return of Hajj pilgrims. There were however no jubilant Palestinian police or pilgrims firing that day. The school principal, Siham Al- Ghoff said that the only shots came from the Israeli post, “There is just an outpost a few hundred metres away-one from which sniper fire has frequently hit our school.”
Both the UN and Palestinian security forces confirmed the accounts of teachers, students and other witnesses to the attack, saying the direction of the bullets also points to Israeli gunfire as the cause of Nuran’s death. “I thought there’s a truce now, something like this would never happen. Now we’re trying to pick up the pieces.” Mr. al-Ghoff added.
While school counselors attempted to comfort the children after their trauma, the principal al- Ghoff said, “The children are too afraid to go out for recess and many instead go to the bathrooms and weep all day.”
Nuran’s mother remembers hearing Nuran saying her morning prays, reciting a verse from the Koran, about God having created death and life as a test for humanity. “She left for school. She was a completely selfless child. She was thinking of her sisters till the last second. She came back after she had left the house and said, ” Mommy, its cold-please put some sweaters on my sisters before they leave,” her Mother said.
It is unlikely that Nuran’s family will ever get any definite responses explaining their daughter’s death and why the incident that shattered their lives happened. Nuran’s mother asked, “What did she ever do to deserve such a fate? Or her sister, who saw Nuran die in front of her? Every night she wails out in her sleep: “Bring me my sister.” In the family’s home, Nuran’s mother sat gazing in shock at her daughter’s report card, while her father stood quietly weeping. “When Nuran died, a part of me died also,” her mother said.
Nuran was the fifth Palestinian child to be shot or maimed by Israeli occupation forces while on the premises of UN schools in Gaza in the past two years. Last year two girls were shot dead in separate incidents in Rafah and Khan Yunis while sitting at their school desks. The UN relief organisation UNRWA has repeatedly protested against the Israeli military’s frequent indiscriminate firing into civilian areas in the occupied Palestinian territories. Nuran’s school has been hit by Israeli fire on numerous occasions since the start of the present Palestinian uprising. Nuran was also one of 172 children killed in Gaza over the past year and one of 644 killed in Gaza since the beginning of the Al-Aqsa Uprising in September 2000.
“We want to ask the world: Was Nuran holding an explosive belt around her waist? Was she toting a Kalashnikov? She knew no politics; only love said her aunt, Iktimal Husayn.
Nuran’s death took place at a time when Palestinian resistance organisations were observing a truce with Israel, during a period of calm without armed clashes which was intended to assist in improving negotiations and trust between the two sides. The ceasefire pledge by Palestinian forces was however one-sided and Israeli military operations continued until the truce was in ruins.
“We extended an olive branch to them and instead of reciprocating they cut our hand off.” Nuran’s mother.
That day Nuran went off to school thrilled, it was a special day for her as she was to receive her bi-annual report card. Nuran passed with flying colours. In anticipation her parents had used some of their meager savings to buy her a gift. The teacher’s comment on the report card read: We predict a very bright future for Nuran.
The brutal killing of ten-year-old Nuran Dib destroyed a young girls very bright future and such cruel acts also continue to obliterate even slight progress towards resolving the Palestine conflict. Where there is only this ongoing awful violence, no goodwill can ever exist to promote hope for any meaningful understanding in the near future. While Nuran’s family grieves, a nearby Israeli tank shell rattles the windows of the house, yet another reminder of how dim are the chances for peace.
“She was a bright light that was extinguished. For me, there can be no more peace.”
Nuran’s mother said.