Army kills runner in Bireh invasion

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Um Ashraf has stopped saving money for the painting of her new house. She no longer wants her house to be freshly painted, if Abu Ashraf is not the one to do it.

Abu Ashraf, or Nasser Hamdan Ayyed, was killed on July 5 when Israeli soldiers invaded the Al Bireh soccer field of Al Hashimieh Boys School. It appears that when Israeli soldiers neared Palestinian positions, Palestinians opened fire, prompting the exchange that killed Nasser.

His wife, who sits quietly wiping her tears, is still trying to figure out how she will continue without her life partner. Nasser leaves behind five children, the oldest 16-year-old Ashraf and the youngest, six-year-old daughter Shireen.

Nasser was athletic and would jog frequently, says his neighbor Fatimeh Awwad. “I used to see him every day, jogging in the neighborhood,” she says. He also frequented a sports club nearby.

On the fateful day, Nasser came home with a load of parcels in his hands, says his brother in law Omar Ayyed. He set the bags at the front door and went immediately to the club at the Hashimieh school. Nasser went there every Thursday to exercise and this day was no exception.

“Just a short while after Nasser left, we heard gunshots that went on for about five minutes,” says Omar. Although the shooting subsided then for a bit, it soon resumed. “But this time we received news that two people were injured inside the school.”

Nasser was one of those struck by the bullets. According to hospital reports, a high velocity bullet penetrated his chest, settling in his heart and killing him instantly.

“Nasser was unlucky that day,” says Bassem Naser, who was standing right next to Nasser when he was killed. “When we heard shooting, we ran for cover inside the gymnasium, but the doors were locked.” The gym’s owner still hadn’t arrived to open up.

“We waited nervously at the doors,” he continues, “trying to hide ourselves by pressing up to the wall next to the gym to escape the view of the soldiers, who were all over the area.”

But a patrol jeep had circled the gym and stopped about 15 meters from where the two were hiding. Bassem then says that Nasser took a step forward to see what was going on when he was hit by the bullet. He fell on the ground at the doors of the gym.

Bassem continues, saying that Nasser was not the only one shot. The soldiers then opened fire at a group of workers next to the gymnasium. Mouaid Farouniya, 17, and Tamer Salah, 18, were both wounded. Mouaid is still in Ramallah Hospital.

According to Fatimeh Awwad, the Israeli army invades the neighborhood, which borders on the Jewish settlement of Psagot, almost daily. She says the army often breaks into their houses to “search.” The settlers, under protection of the army, also harass the neighborhood.

Only a month ago, she remembers, a young boy, Tamer Tabanja was shot and killed in the same soccer field where Nasser took the fatal bullet. That time Jewish settlers from the nearby settlement targeted him while he was playing.

Not long before that, another neighbor, Mohammed Aqel, was shot by Israeli soldiers inside his home. He is still in critical condition and is being treated in the United States. His sister was also wounded by shrapnel from a shell shot at their home.

Even Nasser’s own home has not escaped the bullets of the Israeli army. Holes are still visible in the walls of the house, proof of the ongoing assault against the neighborhood.

After Nasser was killed, Fatimeh says the soldiers invaded the neighborhood and went straight to his house. They intercepted the ambulance that had come for his wife, who was in shock after hearing of her husband’s death. The soldiers broke the equipment in the ambulance and tried to tear down the electricity pole in front of the house, resulting in a loss of electrical power.

Um Ashraf cannot rest. She wants to know who will avenge her husband’s “murderers,” as she puts it, who she is sure are still running free.

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