Ramallah, occupied West Bank – Nadim Nuwwara had a killer smile, one that would defuse his mother’s anger whenever she would scold him. A smile she would now give her all to have back.
On May 15, 17-year-old Nadim joined his friends in a march to mark the 66th Nakba commemoration and express solidarity with hunger striking Palestinian prisoners.
Clashes between Palestian youths and Israeli security forces erupted at the Israeli military prison of Ofer.
During a lull in the confrontations, security camera footage mounted on a nearby store shows Nadim receiving a shot and falling to the ground.
“His mother called me to check on him after school. Nadim said he was in Ramallah and that he won’t be long,” Siam, Nadim’s father said.
Less than half an hour afterwards, he received the news: Nadim had sustained a fatal gunshot wound to the chest.
Back at the hospital, the family retrieved Nadim’s backpack. Inside, they found a steel bullet and his notebooks. Both were stained with blood.
In its initial investigation, the Israeli army maintained it did not use lethal force and that soldiers had only tried to manage the crowd with rubber bullets, stun grenades and tear gas.
“This was a situation where there was a threat to life, so the policeman operated accordingly,” Moshe Ya’alon, Israel’s defense minister said.
But many human rights groups with access to the footage say the circumstances around the incident did not justify the use of live fire.
“These findings raise grave suspicion that the killing was wilful,” said B’Tselem, the Israeli Information Centre for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories, in a report published on Tuesday.
Nadim, who was standing around 300 metres away, could not have posed any direct threat, Ivan Karakashian from the Defence for Children International (DCI), an NGO, told Al Jazeera.
The odds of a rubber coated steel bullet killing someone at such a distance are slim, Karakashian noted. “That’s why we demand an investigation,” he said.
On that day, Nadim was not the only Palestinian to lose his life.
Mohammad AbuDaher, 16, received a bullet in the back – then too, witnesses and the security footage shows there were no protests at the time. A third child, 15-year-old Mohammad AlAzza is still recovering from gunfire wound that penetrated his chest.
The Israeli military’s own regulations dictate that live ammunition must be used “only under circumstances of real mortal danger,” but the regulations are not enforced and frequently ignored by Israeli soldiers, DCI research shows.
Nadim’s death is not isolated. “This is part of a policy,” Hanan Ashrawi, an executive committee member of the Palestinian Liberation Organisation’s (PLO), told Al Jazeera.
“Since the beginning of the creation of the state of Israel … It has been employing deliberate violence with impunity without any curbs on intervention,” she said.
Source of joy
Nadim was the source of joy to many, at home and school. His father Siam called him “Van Damme” – he was an athlete, he loved bodybuilding and basketball.
“I always told him to make friends, because they’ll be there for him,” Siam said.
His friends certainly did not fail him – with a huge attendance at his funeral.
Life will never be the same at the Nuwwara’s. Nadim won’t be picking on his older sister or younger brother in the morning, he won’t be coming back from school and his chair around the dinner table will be vacant.
“I check his bed in the morning, I find myself looking at the door around the time he’s expected back from school,” Nadim’s mother said choking on tears. “I’ll miss everything, everything.”
The family is finding it hard to cope with the tragedy. Siam says Nadim’s younger brother refuses to even enter his room alone anymore, and his sister remains in disbelief.
“You can’t begin to imagine how it feels when you hold your son for the last time and put him in a grave,” Siam said.
On his mobile phone, he flips through the photos taken by and for Nadim. “I didn’t have enough of him,” Siam said.
No one put it better than Mahmoud Darwish, the late poet and writer, who said: “Death does not hurt the dead, death hurts the living.”
“We don’t raise our children to die,” Siam said. “We raise them to live.”