“Life is a catastrophe now”
The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR)uruknet.info
Najwa, pictured in her home in the Gaza Strip
May 8, 2013
Najwa Alyan Awad Abu Daqqa (50) is a Palestinian woman who lives in the rural outskirts of Khan Yunis in the Gaza Strip. Najwa was seriously injured in an Israeli drone strike during the Israeli offensive on the Gaza Strip in November 2012. 102 Palestinian civilians were killed during the 8-day military offensive, codenamed 'Operation Pillar of Defence’, which lasted from 14 to 21 November
Najwa, a mother of four boys and three girls, describes the incident that occurred on 18 November 2012: "Just like every other day, I woke up very early in the morning. After my morning prayers, I began my routine of preparing bread for my children’s breakfast. I went into the open backyard to wash the big baking plate. It must have been around 6:30 in the morning. I could hear the sound of a drone in the sky, but that was normal during the war. We live just one kilometre away from the border. While I was washing the plate, there was a sudden explosion a few metres from where I was standing. I was terrified by the sound. The whole yard was covered in smoke, and I couldn’t see anything for a few seconds. I went numb and couldn’t feel anything. But then I looked down and saw that my hands and other parts of my body were completely covered in blood. I was so shocked by the sight that I fainted. I don’t remember what happened after that. When I woke up, I was in hospital. I couldn’t believe it when the doctors told me that I was in
The backyard of Najwa’s house, where she was injured in the attack.
Najwa’s family experienced great stress following the attack. Not only were they afraid that she would never awaken from her coma, they also faced difficulties because Najwa could not receive the treatment she required in the Gaza Strip. Her husband Samir explains: "We tried to transfer my wife to al-Makassed hospital in East Jerusalem immediately after she was injured, but the Israeli authorities rejected our application for permission to travel through
Najwar’s husband Samir next to the place where she was standing before the attack
As Najwa was in a coma for four months, her family members had to rotate their visits to
Remnants of the missile which caused Najwar’s injuries
Najwa awoke from her coma in early March of this year. Despite her poor medical condition, she faced problems at "Erez" crossing when she returned to the Gaza Strip: "I was in constant pain and, although they could see that had I arrived in an ambulance, they did not give me any sort of special treatment. A female Israeli officer frisked me with her metal detector and it went off because the doctors had implanted metal plates in my arms to help my injuries to heal. Even though I explained the situation to her, she made me strip to prove it. She could see that I had just gotten out of an ambulance and I was in a wheelchair, but still she treated me very badly."
Things were no easier for Najwa after she was allowed to pass through the crossing: "There is a small revolving security door that you must pass through to cross the gate. Even someone who is in good health cannot cross it easily as it is very narrow. I had to spend a long time convincing them that I could not pass through it, and to let me use the security door in their office to enter into
Since returning home, Najwa has experienced great difficulties: "Life is a catastrophe now. I need two or three people to help me with simple things, such as eating, and moving around." As a result of the attack, she sustained shrapnel wounds throughout her body, especially in her arms, legs, and abdomen. "They had to cut some skin from my thigh and attach it to my stomach. I’m in constant pain and cannot sit down properly. I can never get comfortable and I have difficulty sleeping. I have to live with a colostomy bag now. Life can never return to normal for me. I cannot move easily, and I am receiving physical therapy. If I skip even one session of physical therapy, my pain increases and some parts of my body swell up."
The road to recovery will be a long and arduous process for Najwa. She must travel back to the hospital in
When asked what the future holds for them, Najwa says, "I can only pray for my health to return, and that my daughter will be allowed to come with me next week, when I must return to the hospital in
Samir believes that his wife was directly targeted by the Israeli drone: "The missile was meant for Najwa, though there was no reason for anyone to fire at her."
International humanitarian law prohibits the deliberate targeting of civilians, as stipulated in Articles 48-51 of the 1977 First Protocol Additional to the 1949 Geneva Conventions. This prohibition has been recognised as a norm of customary international humanitarian law by the International Committee of the Red Cross (Rules 1 to 6 of the 2005 ICRC Study). Moreover, the International Criminal Court defines the deliberate targeting of civilians as a war crime under Articles 8(2)(a)(i), 8(2)(a)(iii), and 8(2)(b)(i) of the 2002 Rome Statute. Article 27 of the 1949 Fourth Geneva Convention obliges the parties to the conflict and the occupying power to respect civilians’ honour and treat them humanely. Moreover, Article 12 of the 1966 International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, guarantees the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health, and obliges the State parties to create conditions which would assure to all medical services and medical attention in the event of sickness.
 According to the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights’ investigations, more than 1,250 Palestinians were injured during the Operation Pillar of Defence, and out of them 649 Palestinian civilians sustained moderate to severe injuries.