Jenin, occupied West Bank — Suleiman Abu al-Waf will never forget the “thud” that changed his life forever.
On November 29, the 47-year-old, a general practitioner at the Jenin Health Directorate, was sitting at home with his youngest son and two daughters. The Israeli army had attacked the town’s refugee camp that day, devastating the streets, ordering people from their homes at gunpoint and bombing a house.
But once news of the army’s withdrawal spread, Suleiman’s eldest son, Basil, 15, told his father he wanted to go out and play with his friends. “He insisted, so I allowed him to go out and warned him not to go far,” Suleiman recalled. Basil was playing in the al-Basateen neighborhood, far from the refugee camp. “It’s a neighborhood known for being very quiet,” says Suleiman.
So when he heard the sound, he knew something was wrong. “I picked up my phone and called Basil more than once. He didn’t respond,” says the father.
He ran out of his house and saw another boy, eight-year-old Adam Samer al-Ghoul, in the street with a head injury. Another boy came running: “Uncle, Basil is injured. » When Suleiman arrived to his son, he saw paramedics trying to resuscitate him. They refused to believe that he was a doctor and therefore kept him away from his son.
But Suleiman understood it instantly. “From the first sight of Basil, I knew he was a martyr. Praise God. »
Basil and Adam, young boys playing in Jenin, were shot dead by Israeli soldiers during the Jenin raid, in which two adults were also killed. A video showing the boys being shot has since gone viral. The Israeli army arrested 15 other people from the refugee camp, which is at the heart of fighting between them and Palestinian resistance fighters.
The boys were among more than 260 Palestinians in the occupied West Bank who have been killed by Israeli forces or settlers since the Hamas attack on southern Israel on October 7. Israeli shelling and artillery also killed more than 17,000 people in Gaza during this period. , including at least 7,000 children.
Basil was studying at Jenin Secondary School in 10th grade. “His mother, a pharmacist, and I dreamed that he would become a doctor and study medicine, but we never pushed him to choose a field,” explains Suleiman.
Today, those dreams have been replaced by indescribable sadness for Basil’s family, among at least 63 children killed in Israeli attacks in the West Bank since October 7. “The pain is very difficult,” said the father. “What happened is heavier than the mountains, a feeling only parents feel. »
Basil’s uncle, Hazem Abu al-Wafa, who works in a medical laboratory, describes his nephew as just a child.
“Basil is a child who knows nothing about life apart from his school, his books and playing with his friends, like any other child’s interests,” says Hazem.
Hazem, his brother Suleiman and the rest of their family usually meet every weekend in the village of Silat al-Harithiya, where they have a house. It was there that Hazem met his nephew for the last time, the weekend before his death.
The family, Hazem says, values education, a consequence of the way she was raised.
“We grew up in an environment that made us celebrate if one of our kids got a good grade,” he says.
“Our father worked a lot for us and he was a teacher. » Suleiman and Hazem are among nine siblings: five brothers and four sisters. “We all graduated from college. »
Basil was also a good friend, says 14-year-old Hassan al-Masry. The two met for the first time earlier in the year and, after playing and joking, quickly became close friends. The day before Basil was murdered, they were sitting with other friends. They made a fire while talking.
“We were happy and laughing, and nothing could be better than that,” Hassan remembers.
The next day, he was sitting with Basil at their usual meeting place, when Hassan’s mother called him home for lunch.
It was while he was eating that he heard the sound of bullets and people screaming. “I ran outside,” he said.
His friend and Adam were dead.