A long history | Stories of war and loss

Stories of war and loss

Intifada, the conflict between Palestinians and Israel, has claimed hundreds of lives since it reignited a year ago. It's hard to grasp the degree of tragedy that represents, unless you hear from the families of the lost.

The Associated Press


Whenever Ruth Gillis drives past the spot where her husband, Shmuel, was shot to death on a West Bank road in February, she murmurs a short Hebrew blessing: "Praised be the true judge." It's a prayer for acceptance of that which cannot be understood — in this case the death of her husband of 14 years, an eminent hematologist at Jerusalem's Hadassah hospital who counted both Arabs and Jews among his patients. Shmuel Gillis, 42, and British-born, was described by colleagues as modest and unassuming, brilliant in his field. On the day he was shot, he phoned home from a highway interchange 10 minutes away. When he did not arrive his wife, Ruth Gillis, 38, sensed what had happened. Neighbors of the Jewish settlement of Carmei Tsur soon arrived with the sorrowful news. Ruth Gillis seated her children in a row on the sofa, the bigger ones holding the smaller ones. "It is as we feared — it is Papa," she told them. The roads of the West Bank are a battleground. Many Palestinians consider Jewish settlers legitimate targets in their struggle against Israeli occupation. Gunmen have killed more than three dozen in roadside ambushes and drive-by shootings in the past year. Ruth Gillis will not leave her home and believes Jews have a biblical right to live in the West Bank. But she knows the Palestinians are suffering, too. "Their problems are our problems. We have to find a way to live together." she said


Amro Khaled, 10, had a science test in the morning. After that, still carrying his science book with its Snoopy name tag, the 10-year-old Palestinian boy went with his brother and a friend to the edge of the West Bank town of Ramallah, where young stone-throwers were then confronting Israeli soldiers almost every day. It was January, three months into an increasingly violent conflict, and Amro's parents had repeatedly told him to stay away from the area. He was an obedient child, so his 33-year-old mother, Fattoum, was incredulous when told he had been shot in the head and was in the hospital. Amro spent eight days in a coma, and his mother kept vigil by his bedside until his death. "I knew he would lose his eyesight or be handicapped if he lived, but I prayed that he would stay by my side," she recalled, sobbing. "He was my youngest and dearest. I could not let him go." More than 200 Palestinian children under age 18 have been killed in the past year. Israel accused Palestinians of deliberately placing children on the front lines; Palestinian parents furiously denied that, saying it was Israeli troops who had brought the conflict to the very steps of homes and schoolyards. Fattoum said some people tried to tell her that her son had died for his country, that he was a martyr. "That's nonsense. He was 10 years old. I can't think of him as dying for his country. I don't want any more children to die like this."

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