The story of Hala, Maimana and Habiba: The mother and her daughters killed in Gaza by Israel's bombs
October 25 may be the cruellest day Hadeel Saleh will ever experience. Minutes after ending a phone call to her big sister Hala who lives in the Gaza Strip, a massacre took place, one which killed Hala, alongside her two daughters Maimana and Habiba.
Hala's husband is still among the missing with many other members of her family.
Hadeel, a Palestinian living in the UK, says to Al-Araby Al-Jadeed, The New Arab's Arabic-language sister edition: "I had been very worried since the start of the assault on Gaza because I've lived through several of the previous wars on the Strip. Each time I called my family I could feel their distress and anxiety.
"In my final call to Hala, before the line cut, I asked how she was, even though I was completely aware of the dire situation she was living in, and the question wasn't even looking for an answer: it was just a way of expressing my anxiety. We talked about normal, everyday things, in an attempt to speak about anything other than the war."
"We talked about normal, everyday things, in an attempt to speak about anything other than the war"
She adds: "Hala's voice was very calm. She was scared. But she was accepting of her fate, and she said a few times: "We are fine, everything that comes from our Lord is good. Take care of yourself and your children."
I felt like these words were a farewell, but I refused to acknowledge to myself that it could be the final one. We didn't say goodbye to each other like we usually did, because the call cut off. A few minutes later, the Israelis began to bomb the area".
Hala: an exceptional woman
Hadeel is crying as she continues: "My sister was an exceptional woman, I cannot summarise her character in a few words. She worked in an insurance company. She was that person who would always make you feel happy with her constant smile and her optimism, and she had big aspirations and dreams that reached the sky.
"This made her stand out among everyone who knew her. She opened new doors, thought outside the box, and always dreamed of becoming a journalist. She also loved reading, wrote poetry, and she’d started writing children’s stories, which spurred her to set up a WhatsApp group for exchanging books and ideas."
In the last few years, explains Hadeel, Hala had started recording voice clips of excerpts from books she loved, and she would post them on her Instagram account. She also volunteered in the Champion Club in Gaza, which is a cultural entertainment centre for families and children, where she would read stories to the children every week, and organize fun activities for them. She dreamt of setting up a book club where people's different reading experiences on the ground in Gaza could be exchanged.
"Hala had four children who carried the seeds of her dreams, and she was the source of inspiration for them. She never stood in the way of their desires or made them study certain specialisms. Instead, she always supported them and left them the opportunity to discover their own passions and interests. But the war has taken her and her two daughters."
Her daughters: Maimana and Habiba
Her eldest daughter, Maimana, loved art, and she chose to study it at university. She longed to travel to America or Britain as soon as she finished university – she hoped she would have the chance to continue her journey in the world of art and creativity and fulfil her expansive dreams.
As for Habiba, she was full of life and always happy, and her presence anywhere was always uplifting. She had a strong personality and dreamt of becoming a lawyer.
Hadeel says: "On my last visit to them, in November 2022, Habiba was next to me the whole time, cuddling and kissing me, and giving me handmade accessories she had crafted herself. Those simple moments would have remained beautiful memories bringing joy to my heart if I hadn't lost my sister and her daughters."
Hadeel relates what she knows of the deaths of her sister and her two nieces.
"I will never forgive those who caused me to lose them. They killed them while they were scared, and they told me this. They found Hala lying on the bed hugging her daughter Maimana. As for Habiba, they found her on the balcony sitting on the swing, as though trying to enjoy the moments of calm amidst the chaos and destruction.
"I thank God for the survival of my nephew, who is 17, who was standing near his martyred sister, but was thrown some distance by the force of the explosion. He received a head injury but survived – by a miracle. Her younger son, who is nine, was in another room with his grandparents and other members of the family. In the moment the bomb struck his 22-year-old cousin embraced him, and they were both buried under the rubble. However, they managed to dig their way out."
Hadeel finishes: "I will keep talking about what happened to Hala and her daughters because she wouldn't have remained silent, and it doesn't matter to me who's around, nor what their nationalities are.
"I will spread her story as widely as I can. Hala wanted to live in better circumstances, and she deserved to achieve her dreams, and for her children to achieve theirs. She deserved to live in peace and safety. I could cry silently at home, but I won't do that. I will keep talking about the massacre."
This is an edited translation from our Arabic edition. To read the original article click here.
Translated by Rose Chacko
This article is taken from our Arabic sister publication, Al-Araby Al Jadeed and mirrors the source's original editorial guidelines and reporting policies. Any requests for correction or comment will be forwarded to the original authors and editors.
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