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From the field

Testimony: Al-'Abd a-Shaf'i, detained for selling cigarettes on the street, was killed when the police station was bombed, Dec. '09

Fa'id a-Shaf'i, 48

On Saturday [27 December], around 11:45 A.M., I went by car from the Deir el-Balah refugee camp to my house, in Nuseirat refugee camp. On the way, my brother called and told me that our brother, al-‘Abd Muhammad Salem a-Shaf'i, 24, had been arrested for selling cigarettes on the street. Selling cigarettes on the street is prohibited because people don't pay taxes on them. He told me that the police had taken him to the Abu Madin police station.

I set out for the police station, but before I got there, combat aircraft began to bomb Gaza.

When I managed to get to the station, I saw it had been bombed and totally destroyed. Only ruins and stones remained. People were carrying out injured people and there were ambulances. I couldn't find my brother. I searched for him in the hospitals, but couldn't find him there either. The bombing made it impossible to continue the search. The next day, we searched among the ruins. We found him, burned and headless. I identified his body from the clothes he was wearing. We buried him the same day.

Other people in the station were killed, along with police officers. My brother was married and had children: Muhammad, two and a half, and Majd, nine months. He also lived in Nuseirat refugee camp.

Young men in Gaza don't have that many options for making a living. He sold cigarettes to put food on the table. He was not connected to political organizations. He only wanted to support his family.

Fa'id Muhammad Salem a-Shaf'i, 48, married with eight children, is an unemployed resident of the a-Nuseirat refugee camp in centeral Gaza Strip. His testimony was given to 'Abd al-Karim S'adi by telephone on 31 Dec '08.