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Chronicle Of An Ordinary Death In Gaza

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Chronicle Of An Ordinary Death In Gaza

AFP: 9/8/2004

JABALIYA, Gaza Strip Sept 8 (AFP)- When student Kassem al-Mutawaq was killed by Israeli soldiers a month ago, the news failed to generate headlines, making him just another footnote of the four-year Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Members of the radical Hamas movement have bestowed "martyr" status on the young man but his relatives say Kassem had managed to avoid taking part in the seemingly endless cycle of violence before he became a victim himself.

Images of a Kalashnikov rifle and of Jerusalem's Al-Aqsa mosque have been painted by Hamas supporters on to the walls outside the Mutawaq family home in this northern Gaza Strip town, a frequent target of Israeli army incursions.

The painting illustrates a clear intention by Hamas to claim him as one of their own, but relatives of Kassem, who was just 18 at the time of his death, are adamant that the teenager would never have possessed a weapon.

And they say that while Kassem sympathised with the aims of the radical Islamist movement, which has been behind the majority of anti-Israeli attacks, they are convinced he had never taken part in any violent act, devoting himself instead to his studies.

Grief over Kassem's death is still felt keenly by his mother Hiyam, 47.

"They killed him in front of our house as he came back from praying at the mosque with his uncle," she said, struggling to choke back tears.

She proudly shows off a photo of her son, recalling how he had dreamed of becoming an English teacher before his untimely death.

The otherwise bare concrete walls of the family home are dotted with pictures of Al-Aqsa, the third holiest site in Islam, in the heart of Jerusalem's Old City.

The Palestinian uprising, or intifada, broke out in September 2000 when Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, who was then leader of the opposition, paid a visit to the compound that also houses the Western Wall, the most sacred site in Judaism.

Abdullah, a 25-year-old policeman, pointed towards the spot where his cousin Kassem's life was snuffed out by a single bullet as he spoke with an AFP correspondent on Wednesday.

He then turned his glance towards a batch of Israeli tanks perched several hundred yards (metres) away on the summit of a hill overlooking the town, as part of yet another incursion the army says is designed to stop militants firing missiles into southern Israel.

"I was near him, on that day back on August 4. We were looking as we are now at the tanks when shots rang out all of a sudden," said Abdullah.

"We took Kassem in a car to the hospital, but he was already dead and I think that he was killed on the spot," he said while displaying the 9mm bullets later extracted from his cousin's body.

Kassem was the 3,221st Palestinian to be killed during the course of the intifada.

Copyright 2004 Agence France Presse. All rights reserved. The information contained in the AFP News report may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without the prior written authority of Agence France Presse.


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