Kamleh was a beautiful 21-year-old woman from Asira As-shamaliya. Having married soon after finishing high school, Kamleh already had two little children, a two-year-old and a seven-month baby, with a third on its way. Yet despite high Palestinian expectations of wifely duties, she had successfully combined taking care of her children with studying towards a law degree in the Nablus An-Najah University. With travel between Asira and Nablus long, arduous and frequently impossible, Kamleh had taken a break to nurse her recent baby. Returning to her studies she was in the process of catching up on missed work when she took a break to visit her husband working near Ramallah.
Kamleh and the two-year-old left her home in Asira at 2am last Saturday morning after feeding the baby. Yet she returned twice more to feed the child, asking her mother to promise to take care of her children. Palestinians from Asira are often forced to leave their homes at such early hours, in the hope of bypassing checkpoints without problems. With the Saba'tash route extremely difficult and risky, Kamleh opted to join a taxi taking roads to the west of Nablus. Apart from Shave Shomrom checkpoint, which is generally closed to cars but easily bypassed through fields and olive groves, access to the Yitzar highway south-west of Nablus is open. The onward journey to Kalandiya would involve speeding down forbidden settler roads, taking detours around established 'check/stoppoints' and hoping for good luck with ad hoc 'jeep' blocks, but should have been possible.
Yet as the taxi sped through the fields west of and away from Shave Shomron settlement, an Israeli soldier in a military watch-tower decided to 'stop' the taxi. Rather than issue warning shots, he tried to shoot the driver. Yet the soldier's bad aim or the speed of the taxi meant the two bullets broke the window just behind the driver, entering Kamleh's chest and killing her instantly. With the sound of hitting bullets, the driver stopped. The passengers climbed out and realised that Kamleh had been murdered, as she slumped across the seats relaxing her grip on her child.
The funeral took place in Asira the same day, with Kamleh's body carried through the village. Carried by relatives, the two-year-old wailed for his mother. He hasn't stopped calling for her and asking where she is.
Rather than apologising, the Israeli Army is swapping between claiming that the driver rammed through a checkpoint despite warnings, and claiming that they had information that Kamleh was on her way to do a suicide mission inside the borders of Israel/1948. This is clearly a sick lie to justify the murder. It was dark and there was no way of knowing where Kamleh was sitting. If the Israeli military actually had such evidence, they would have stopped the vehicle when it reached the road, rather than shooting randomly at it from a distance. Furthermore, the Kamleh's co-passengers were very lucky. If the driver had been hit, the resulting car crash might well have killed all ten passengers.
I met Kamleh several times, arguing with soldiers in Saba'tash to allow her to pass. Today I visited the male mourning hall to pay my respects to her family. Men tend to hold back their emotions during such occasions; only the husband's eyes clearly betrayed recent crying. Her 15-year-old brother preferred to speak to me about school. Mahmud, a good friend of mine from the village, and her cousin, also preferred to speak about other matters. Kelly in her visit to the women's mourning hall faced an outpouring of grief and demands that she do something. Bush and Sharon were her responsibility.
I'd like to pass those demands on to people reading this in the US and Britain. How are you dealing with your responsibility in Kamleh's children losing their mother?