‘Ali (13) and Maysaa (10) Abu Haneyeh, residents of a-Nuseirat Refugee Camp, central Gaza Strip, barred since 2007 from visiting their father

‘Ali Abu Haneyeh, 13

Ali Abu Haneyeh, 13. Photo: Khaled al-'Azayzeh, B'Tselem, 20 March 2013

I’m in the seventh grade at a-Nuseirat Boys’ School. I live with my mother and my sister Maysaa, who is ten years old, in the a-Sawarha area, south of a-Nuseirat Refugee Camp.

My father was arrested on 5 April 2004 at the Abu Huli checkpoint, in northern Khan Yunis, and sentenced to fourteen and a half years in prison.

I last visited my father in 2006. I went with my grandmother and with my sister, Maysaa. He was in Nafha prison. When we met, we were separated from him by a sheet of glass, and I had to talk to him on a phone. Even though I couldn’t hug him, I was happy. I was glad and also scared, because of the way the armed prison guards were looking at us.

From 2006 to 2012, Israel kept us from visiting my father. It was hard. My mother sent him letters through the Red Cross, but it took months till we heard back from him.

That whole time, we were very worried, because we didn’t know how he really was – if he felt well or was ill, and if he needed anything. Almost every day, I asked my mother if we’d be allowed to visit him, and when. My mother always said that she didn’t know, and that made me very sad.

In September 2012, someone from the Red Cross called and told my mother that she and my grandmother or grandfather could go visit my father. My grandfather passed way in 2010. My mother asked if the children could come, too, and they said we couldn’t. That made me very angry. My mother and grandmother went to visit him. On the night before the visit, I couldn’t sleep. I was so excited and happy that we’d been allowed to visit him again. Even though I couldn’t go, I was happy for my mother that she’d see him after so many years. Before the first visit, my mother told me I might be allowed to come along on future visits and she calmed me down a bit. But I wasn’t allowed to join the next visit, either, and I was very disappointed.

I haven’t seen my father in seven years. I haven’t even seen a recent photo of him. Every time I miss him, I open up the photo album and look at old photos. I keep asking my mother if he’s changed and what he looks like now.

I miss him very much, especially on holidays and when we have family celebrations. I hope Israel will let me visit him at least when there are holidays. My sister, Maysaa, also wants to visit him very much, just like me.

‘Ali Mustafa ‘Ali Abu Haneyeh, 13, 7th-grade pupil at a-Nuseirat Boys’ School. Resident of a-Nuseirat Refugee Camp, central Gaza Strip. He gave his testimony at home to Khaled al-‘Azayzeh on 20 March 2013.