My family is very large - fourteen persons. My father went abroad to look for work because he was unable to make a living here. He visits us once a year for a month, but he doesn't send us money and doesn't provide for us at all. My big brothers and I left school and began to work in agriculture, but we made very little money, and our family is in a very bad financial situation.
Because I made such little money farming, two months ago I went to Gaza to look for work. I found a job in a caf? on the seashore, in the area of the a-Shati' refugee camp. I worked there only for a month and five days because I was paid NIS 20 a day and it cost me NIS 10 to travel back and forth. I quit and looked for a better job. That was after the 'Eid el-Fitr holiday. I couldn't find anything. My cousin Bilal Wakid a-Sha'ar worked at the same caf? and we quit together. His family's financial situation was just like mine.
Because of our families' financial situation, Bilal and I decided to sneak into Israel and look for work. Last Saturday [12 November], I went to his house in the al-Batan a-Samin area, which is situated south of Khan Yunis, at around 1:00 P.M. For two and a half hours we planned how to sneak into Israel by crossing the border. At 4:00 P.M., we took a taxi to Kafr Khuza'a, a village east of Khan Yunis. We got out of the taxi in the center of the village and walked eastward, toward the Israeli border. At 4:30, we got very close to the border at the least dangerous point. We were about 700 meters west of the border. We hid in an olive grove, from where we watched the movements of the army jeeps and patrol vehicles along the border.
We observed the goings on until 9:00 P.M., when the movement of the patrol vehicles and jeeps stopped. We proceeded slowly, bent over, toward the border. We stopped near the barbed-wire fence running along the border. We went about fifty meters along the fence looking for an opening. When we didn't find an opening, Bilal took out barbed-wire cutters from his jacket. When he touched the cutters to the wire, gunfire from automatic rifles opened at us. It was clear that the firing came from the Israeli side of the border. When I heard the second volley of shots, Bilal cried out. We ran away from the fence, our heads down.
We managed to get ten meters from the border, when the shooting increased and bullets rained down on us, and Bilal fell to the ground. I stretched out flat on the ground and did not want to leave him. He said he was in pain. I opened his shirt, checked his chest, and found nothing. He said that his heart felt heavy and he was having trouble breathing . I stayed by him for about an hour, during which he was all bent over in pain. When I realized that his condition was worsening, I took a chance and crawled to find help. I dragged Bilal three meters, but he was too heavy for me to continue dragging him, and he couldn't crawl. I left him and continued crawling away from the border. I crawled about fifty meters when a bullet struck me in my left hand. I lay there without moving for ten minutes and then crawled another fifty meters. I stopped when I heard the sound of helicopters and tanks. I pretended I was dead, and didn't move at all. They had fired flares to light up the area. After about an hour passed, a Palestinian ambulance crew arrived and took me to hospital in Khan Yunis.
The doctors treated my hand. The bullet had entered and exited my hand, which made their work easier. At 11:30 P.M., I asked the doctors and National Security officials in the hospital about Bilal. They told me that he died at 11:00. He had bled to death. The officials questioned me, and I told them the truth, just like I am telling you now. They made me sign a commitment not to do it again.
Muhammad Salameh a-Sha'er, 18, is a resident of Khan Yunis, in the south of the Gaza Strip. His testimony was given to Zaki Kahil at the witness's home on 15 November 2005.