'Abd a-Ra'uf al-'Adini, 16
I live with my father, grandmother, and aunt in a two-room shack with a tin roof. I am in the tenth grade at the government school in Deir el-Balah. My father is ill and is unemployed. My aunt, who works at a vegetable store, supports us. She works ten days a month and makes less than 600 shekels. The welfare ministry gives us 100 shekels every two months, and once a month we get 50 kilograms of flour, four kilograms of rice, and one liter of cooking oil. We have to make do with this. We don't have money and I don't receive an allowance when I go to school. I try to eat breakfast at home before going to school, because I can't buy food like other students do. Once a week, I get a shekel or two for myself. I have to walk to school, a distance of around 1.5 kilometers, because I don't have money to pay for transportation. It would be easier if I had a bicycle.
The financial situation of my best friends at school - Mahran Zakaria Abu Nseir and 'Imad Abu Sheikhah- is better than mine, but not by much. We spend time together in school and out, and we meet during recesses.
Two days ago [23 January], the last day of school semester, I went to school and took an exam in mathematics. Then, around nine o'clock, I met my two friends. We sat together for about fifteen minutes. Mahran suggested that we quit school and look for work in Israel , anything other than this life of hardship in the Gaza Strip. Mahran's father is a government clerk, and he lives off advances that he gets on his salary, which is not currently being paid. 'Imad's father is a merchant, and is in relatively good financial shape. 'Imad and I agreed to the idea of working in Israel ; in any case the situation there is better than it is here.
We agreed to meet at ten at night in the center of town. Mahran arrived at my house by bicycle before ten. We both got on his bike and drove to the meeting place. We left the bicycle with a friend of Mahran's. We started on our way, walking east, to the Israeli border. We got there at 11:30 at night. When we got to about fifty meters from the border, we hid behind some trees. We watched the border for about an hour. We saw an Israeli army jeep and waited for it to go away. We didn't see it anymore and thought it had left. Later it turned out that it had simply turned off its lights.
We moved closer to the border fence. We didn't have any tools to cut the barbed wire. We thought we would have to climb over it. We crawled on our stomachs until we got to the barbed wire and then quickly stood up. Unfortunately, there was an opening, and this encouraged us to enter. Mahran died because of this.
We moved closer to the opening and then gunfire erupted. My friend, whom I loved, Mahran Abu Nesayer, was hit in the stomach. I heard him cry out and recite the martyr's prayer. Then they fired flares into the air. I looked at Mahran and saw he was bleeding from the stomach. His shirt was torn in the area of the wound. The three of us laid there and the shooting continued. Mahran died five minutes after he was hit. Five minutes later, I was hit on the right side of my buttocks, because I was laying on my stomach. When I was hit, I called quietly to 'Imad and asked him if he had been hit. He said that he had been hit in the shoulder. He was about half a meter from me. I had hugged Mahran's body after he died, so he was right next to me. I cried when I hugged him, and asked him to wake up, but he was already dead.
After four or five minutes, the shooting stopped, and one of the soldiers said something in Hebrew, but we didn't understand a word. We said, in a loud voice, "Help us, we are bleeding and we are not armed, we only want to work in Israel . We don't want to carry out attacks." Immediately, the soldiers again started shooting. We were totally exposed. We had no place to hide, and lots of flares had been shot into the air. We laid there bleeding. The shooting continued for about twenty minutes.
Then one of the soldiers spoke to us in Arabic: "Come through the [hole in the] barbed wire, with your hands up." 'Imad and I stood up and didn't see anyone. We crossed the barbed wire and then saw about twenty soldiers around twenty meters away. They were on the other side of the electric fence, and their weapons were aimed at us. They ordered us to undress. We undressed to our underwear. They ordered us to remove that as well. We stood there completely naked. We were shaking from fear and from the cold of 12:30 in the morning in the middle of winter. We stood there for about five minutes, and then they ordered us to get dressed. It was hard to undress and dress because of the wounds we had sustained and because of the bleeding.
They told us to come toward them and climb the electronic fence. 'Imad tried but couldn't do it because his shoulder hurt so much. I helped him climb the barbed wire, which was about three meters high. I, too, could barely climb over the barbed wire. They ordered us to sit down on the ground and put our head between our legs. We stayed like that for less than five minutes. They ordered us to start walking, and they followed with their rifles aimed at us. We walked east about fifty meters. Then they treated our wounds for about ten minutes. One of the soldiers gave me first-aid. He was wearing a green uniform and had a flashlight on his head. Another soldier treated 'Imad. They took the two of us to an army jeep and blindfolded us. The jeep drove off and about half an hour later, we got to an Israeli army outpost, where they removed the blindfold. Some of the soldiers filmed us, as if we were some wonder. They took 'Imad away. I later learned that they took him to a hospital in Israel . They didn't take me to hospital and didn't treat me completely, although my wound hurt a lot. They put me in a room.
At 6:00 in the morning, an Israeli in civilian clothes came into the room He was apparently from Israeli Intelligence. He spoke with me in Arabic and asked me how old I was and what my name was. I told him. He asked: "Why do you want to come to Israel ?" I told him I wanted to work in Israel . He offered me money but I refused because I was sure he wanted me to work with Israeli Intelligence. He offered me money again, and again I refused. Later, they moved me to a room with a bed and thin blanket. I was alone in the room. At 9:00 A.M., 'Imad arrived. At around 2:00 P.M., a group of soldiers came. They ordered us to get ready to go back to Gaza . They blindfolded us and put us in an army jeep. The jeep took us to a gate at the border in the area of al-Maghazi. We crossed through the gate, and the residents of al-Maghazi called an ambulance for us. The ambulance came and took us to Shohada al-Aqsa Hospital , in Deir el-Balah. The doctors examined and X-rayed us. Palestinian Police officers came and asked us to tell them what happened. When we were discharged, we went to the police station in Deir el-Balah and told them our story.
Now I am at home, and the days pass. But I feel as if I am still living what happened.
'Abd a-Ra'uf Feisal Hussein al-'Adini, 16, is a highschool student and a resident of Deir el-Balah, in the Gaza Strip. His testimony was given to Muhammad Sabah at the witness's home on 25 January 2007.