‘Her smile never left her face’

Palestinian teen Sadeel Naghniyeh was shot in the head while standing at the entrance to her home in Jenin refugee camp during an Israeli raid last month.

By: Basel Adra

On July 4, the Israeli army announced that it had ended its two-day assault on Jenin refugee camp in the northern occupied West Bank. The invasion, which included both ground troops and air strikes, ended with 12 dead Palestinian fighters, hundreds wounded, and one dead Israeli soldier. The intense media coverage of the incursion overshadowed the fact that just two weeks ago, in a previous military raid in Jenin, the army killed seven Palestinians, including 15-year-old Sadeel Naghniyeh, who according to witnesses was shot in the head while standing at the entrance to her home. Her death began reverberating after images of her fellow classmates carrying her body for burial went viral.

Sadeel was shot on June 19, and died of her wounds two days later. Her father Ghassan described the scene to +972: “The alarms started going off in the camps, we heard screaming, and people began running to their homes. This is a scene that repeats itself in every invasion of the camp. Israeli snipers went up to the roofs of the houses and buildings and began shooting. The clashes were not close to our house, we only heard them. My daughter was speaking to her cousins through the window, and told me that she wanted to go to her uncle’s house. I told myself that it is better that she go and not talk through the window, since doing so is more dangerous because of the snipers.”

“I walked with Sadeel to the door of the house and she went down the stairs,” Ghassan continued. “She held the phone in her hand and took a picture. I told her not to stand near windows and balconies. I turned and walked two steps into the house. Then my young son came to me and said, ‘Sadeel fell down.’ I rushed to her and saw that a bullet had hit her face and she was bleeding. I picked her up to take her inside the house. A car approached and the driver got out and helped me put her in the car to take her to the hospital. I went back to the house, I was afraid that the rest of my children would go down the street and get hurt too. 

“My wife and I arrived at the hospital after half an hour,” Ghassan continued. “There were many wounded people there, and the hospital was packed. I saw many people crying and bleeding. The doctors told me that Sadeel is in critical condition in intensive care. We lost our only girl. She loved to take photos, she loved to study, she had ambitions.”

In Ghassan’s eyes, Sadeel’s killing is a result of Israel’s desire to “punish the entire camp, because the people of the camp allow fighters to remain inside it.” He explained that the situation has become especially frightening over the last two years since Israel stepped up its military raids in cities across the West Bank — in particular for the children, who speak about Israeli invasions and death more than anything else. “It was clear that her friends were the ones who would carry her body at the funeral,” Ghassan added. “This is what they wanted.”

The damage caused from clashes between Israeli forces and Palestinians in the West Bank city of Jenin, June 19, 2023. (Nasser Ishtayeh/Flash90)

Ramzi Fayad, a political activist from Jenin, told +972 that Sadeel left the house in order to film the military vehicles that were on their way out of the camp. Fayad said that the footage, which was found after she was taken to the hospital, showed that she was shot despite the fact that there were no clashes with Palestinian fighters in the area. “A soldier fired one bullet from one of the jeeps that were on their way out, which hit Sadeel in the head and killed her. She was in the hospital for two days, there was no oxygen supply to her brain and her heart stopped beating for seven minutes. They performed CPR on her and she was put on ventilation. After 48 hours, she was declared a martyr.

“The soldiers shoot live fire at everything that moves when they invade the camp,” Fayad continued. “People try to hide and stay in their houses. The army surrounded my brother’s home back in March; I laid on the floor there for 40 minutes while a sniper shot live fire in my direction. I pretended to be dead until an ambulance arrived and took me away from there.”

Mustafa Sheta, the director general of the Jenin Freedom Theatre — a decades-old institution in the camp that teaches Palestinian youth resistance through art and acting — and which was partially bombed by Israeli forces this week, knew Sadeel well. “She grew up in the theater, was educated here, and became a part of the community. Everyone who was present or visited the theater was in contact with Sadeel. She participated in most of the theater’s activities. She was always helping the little children to fit in and participate in the theater activities. Her smile never left her face.” 

A version of this article first appeared in Hebrew on Local Call. Read it here.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *