"Mum, I am scared because of the drones in the sky. There are many of them. I can hear them. I can also see a helicopter. Please hurry up and come.” Mamoun Aldam (12) made 2 such phone calls to his mother, Amna Aldam (52) on Wednesday, 20 June 2012. At around 2:30pm, shortly after his parents arrived, Mamoun was killed by a missile fired at the family’s farmland in Al-Zeitoun area. His blind father, Mohamed Aldam (67) was also severely injured in the attack.
On the day of the attack, Mamoun had gone to show someone the location of the farm. Amna recounts that: “We wanted to build a storage room on the farm. The person we hired did not know where our farm was, so Mamoun offered to show him. The person left after seeing the farm and Mamoun stayed behind to wait for us.”
His parents rushed to the farm after he called. They all sat under a tree to get some rest and shade. They did not anticipate any attacks from the overhead drones: “We were not armed. We are civilians. The trees in the farm were recently planted, so they are still small. Anyone could see from above that we were just civilians so we did not expect to be attacked.”
Mamoun made his parents some coffee and then started playing with his football: “He was playing about 20 meters from where we were resting and I asked him to come back. Suddenly, I heard an explosion. I saw dust, smoke and fire where Mamoun had been standing. I heard him scream once, and then he went quiet. I kept calling out for him, but he did not answer back.”
Amna was desperately calling for her son as she rushed to where he had been playing: “There was dust everywhere and I could not see anything. When I finally saw Mamoun, he was lying on the ground and there was a lot of blood around him. His legs had been torn off. There was shrapnel all over his body. His clothes were burned and he was almost naked. He was dead.”
Amna clearly recalls hearing other women screaming from neighboring farms as she picked up her son’s body: “I held him and took him to his father so he could touch his face and say goodbye. I found my husband bleeding heavily from his head. His left hand and right leg were also bleeding. He was touching his forehead and asking me if it was sweat. He is diabetic and has high blood pressure, so I thought he was going to die from all the bleeding. I was screaming for people to come and help us.”
Two ambulances arrived on the farm shortly afterwards and rushed Mohamed to hospital. They also took what was left of Mamoun’s body. Amna stayed behind: “There were pieces of my child’s body everywhere. I stayed there and started collecting the pieces and putting them in a bag. Other women came to help me.”
In spite of his injuries, Mohamed refused to stay in hospital as he wanted to be at his son’s burial. Mamoun’s death has traumatized him: “It has been very hard for him to live without Mamoun. He is blind and Mamoun used to take him everywhere, even for his hospital appointments. He has been greatly affected and says he cannot take it anymore. Sometimes he even calls out for Mamoun, and then remembers he is gone. He feels that he will die soon without Mamoun.”
Amna has nothing, but unanswered questions and pain. Mamoun was her only child. She has kept the deflated red ball that Mamoun had been playing with when he was killed. She breaks down and cries as she talks about him: “Look at that picture on the wall. He was just a small boy. I want to understand why they killed my son. Why? My Mamoun was kind to all people and animals. He never harmed anyone. He used to feed a stray cat, and even now it comes outside the house to wait for him. I remember how he used to kiss my feet and tell me ‘you are my darling, I want to keep you locked inside my heart.’ I just want to know why they took him from us.”
The trauma has not been borne only by the Aldam family. The children in the neighborhood have also been affected by Mamoun’s death: “Every time the children hear planes passing overhead, they run to their houses shouting and crying. Why do they kill children? What wrong have they done? Why the huge number of drones in the sky attacking innocent people? I held my Mamoun in my arms when he died and everything felt destroyed for me. I hope that is the last child to be killed in Palestine.”
In the month of June 2012, 16 children were injured and 3 were killed, including Mamoun, during Israel’s various attacks on the Gaza Strip. The targeting and killing of a child, a protected civilian, is a war crime, as codified in Articles 8(2)(a)(i) and 8(2)(b)(i) of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.