A cheering face with a broad smile is how Said Fahmi Salah, 40-year-old local farmer and a father of 20 children, receives journalists who happen upon his home in the newly-erected Israeli buffer zone in northeastern Beit Hanoun, in the northern Gaza Strip.
A battered house, 1000 meters away from an Israeli military watch tower at the eastern Israel-Gaza border, is the home of about 40 of Salah’s family members, who are used to going to sleep every night, to the sound of ‘a symphony’ of Israeli shells, which may or may not explode in their vicinity.
Said smiles and says “my twenty children never sleep well if they don’t happen to hear rounds of Israeli shells falling in the vicinity of the house — they are so used to the shelling that they manage to sleep peacefully in the midst of it.”
“Since the declaration by Israeli occupation forces of our area as a ‘buffer zone’ a few months ago, dozens of heavy shells fired by either Israeli tanks or warplanes have fallen on the area, wounding my 21-years old son Eid in his right arm, inflicting severe damage to my modest house and putting panic in my children’s’ hearts”, Said explains.
In the living room, where Said welcomes his guests, an odd type of vase is seen in every corner of the room; artillery shells painted a nice silver color and topped by a bunch of flowers.
Said recalls, “since last October, dozens of Israeli shells, among which these 55-kilogram and almost 70-centimeter empty shells, have fallen around my house”.
“I don’t care, its my house, my ancestor’s land and my life. Only over my ‘dead body’, can they [the Israelis] drive us out of our land; the Israelis are, for me, the stones thrown on a palm tree, while those shells are the dates falling on their heads. We have been born here and we will die on this soil, even if we are killed by their shells”.
Said used to own 40 dunums (10 acres) of fertile land and a cattle ranch, just close to the Israeli-Gaza border line, where his family and he used to earn their living from farming. But with the recent Israeli frequent shelling, his land had to be abandoned, his eleven cattle were all shot dead by Israeli bullets, rendering the whole family poor.
Said says that his losses out of such Israeli continuous attacks are estimated by the Palestinian agriculture ministry at $480,000, but the only compensation he has so far received was a small stable for his cattle ranch, donated by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP). But the barn is empty, with no cattle inside.
"Almost on a daily basis, we hear and see Israeli shells, whether in day or night time and without any justification; Israeli heavy shooting is spontaneous and unjustified", Said maintains.
A number of his small kids, surprisingly, smile, while watching their father from behind the living room window voicing his feelings and thoughts to this reporter. And in saying goodbye, again came Said Fahmi Salah’s broad smile, along with the similar smiles of his children, with the parting words, "Only with our dead bodies can they drive us from our home."
Judging from the disregard for Palestinian lives shown by Israeli forces in this open conflict over the last five years, in which over 5,000 Palestinians have been killed, 1,000 of them children, the Salah family may well see that day come.