On the same day that Israeli tank fire killed eight Palestinian protesters in an incident that dominated international
broadcasts and headlines last week, another young Palestinian died a private, quiet death just a few hundred yards away.
Thirteen-year-old Saber Abu Libdeh was killed by an Israeli sniper last Wednesday while trying to fetch drinking water for
his family in the sealed-off neighborhood of Tel Sultan, his parents and siblings said. There were no headlines and no news
stories. Even some of his relatives and neighbors, locked in their houses under military curfew, didn’t know what had
happened to him until days later, they said.
As Israeli tanks, armored bulldozers and soldiers began pulling out of Rafah Monday morning and military officials said they
had suspended a seven-day offensive, the Abu Libdeh family emerged from seven days of fear to bury their son and tell the
story of his death. It was a story that in many ways captured the suffering felt by about 25,000 Palestinians in a
residential area transformed into a fighting field.
About 10,000 Palestinians attended a mass funeral for Saber Abu Libdeh and 15 other Tel Sultan residents on Monday, just
hours after the army withdrew. But before the ceremony, dozens of distraught relatives and neighbors crammed into the front
room of the boy’s house in a ritual of grief, kissing his face and hugging his tightly wrapped body. His sister Asma fainted.
“See his blood? See my son’s blood?” said the father, pointing at the wall. “He was 13 years old!”
At least 42 Palestinians were killed in the weeklong offensive here that Israeli military officials called Operation Rainbow.
The officials said the offensive had targeted Palestinian guerrillas and uncovered three tunnels used for smuggling weapons
and ammunition across the nearby border with Egypt. Palestinian officials said more than a thousand people have been rendered
homeless by Israeli demolitions, and many more have fled attacks on residential neighborhoods.
The army came to Saber’s neighborhood of concrete houses, narrow alleyways and wide streets before dawn last Tuesday morning,
Saber’s mother recalled. An Apache helicopter gunship fired missiles at men coming out of the Bilal mosque directly across
from the house, killing several people, according to the mother, Hanim, and other relatives…