Abir Aramin, a 10-year old Palestinian girl, was critically wounded last Tuesday after apparently being hit in the head by a rubber bullet fired by Israeli Border Guard police officers patrolling the West Bank town of Anata, near Jerusalem.
Abir, who had been lying clinically dead at the Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem for three days, as doctors fought for her life, was finally taken off life support Friday.
According to conflicting media reports, Abir, her sister and two friends came into the line of fire by Israeli border guards, who were allegedly firing rubber bullets at several young boys hurling stones towards their patrol jeep. However, some eyewitnesses claimed that Abir was apparently killed by a blunt object, which corroborates the findings of an autopsy carried out on Friday. Police say the findings were inconsistent with her having been killed by a rubber bullet and indicate that she may have been hit by a rock hurled by possible rioters.
The tragic irony of this event is that Abir's father, Bassam Aramin, 39, was among the founders of Combatants for Peace, a group of former Israeli soldiers and Palestinian militants who have pledged to seek a peaceful solution to the Israeli-Arab conflict by laying down arms on both sides.
Abir's father, a former Fatah member, had served a seven-year prison sentence in an Israeli jail after being arrested in Hebron when he was 17 years old. In a meeting at the home of singer David Broza held several months ago, Aranmin told the Israeli audience that it was while serving time that he began to understand the need for reconciliation. He went on to tell of the lengthy conversations he had had with a prison guard saying that rather than becoming an enemy the guard had become a partner for dialogue.
With the tragic death of his young daughter, who was buried at a cemetery near Jerusalem's Old City walls by the Lion's Gate, it is hard to comprehend the twisted course fate has taken in light of one of Aranmin's most poignant statements which was often sounded at the group's meetings: "We've already spilled so much blood, now we want to save lives on both sides. This is why I've joined this movement. Our religion is tolerant and our message instructs us not to hurt innocent people."
Not seeking revenge
Supported strongly by members of the organization who are mourning along with Aranmin's family, he says he will not abandon the path of peace despite what has happened, and that he is not seeking revenge. He added that his only revenge is to bring the perpetrator to justice so that other children would not be hurt.
Police have launched an investigation into the event after the family lodged a formal complaint, and four border police officers have been questioned so far. Yet the question remains, what was the purpose of the patrol's presence in Anata at the time, as construction of the separation fence was completed months ago, during which border police would frequent the area to guard bulldozers at work.
Combatants for Peace is a non-profit organization comprised of dozens of Israeli and Palestinian individuals who were personally involved in the ongoing cycle of violence. They formed the group last year after each had reached a turning point, either as a militant or as an Israeli combat soldier, bringing them to the realization of the futility of bloodshed. The alternative path reached them independently of each other and it surprised them to find others who shared similar thought processes on the "other side."
Combatants for Peace calls for an end to the occupation and violence, the establishment of an independent Palestinian state with its capital in East Jerusalem alongside Israel, and return to 1967 borders.