Cape Town - “To the Almighty, we belong and to Him is our return. Rest in peace my friend, you have served with distinction. Justice will be done, God’s wrath will descend and Truth will be made manifest. Israel has already lost.”
These were the words of Gift of the Givers (GOTG) founder Dr Imtiaz Sooliman, to Ahmed Abbassi, Head of GOTG office in Gaza who, he added along with his brother - also a well-known and respected doctor - was targeted and brutally killed Thursday morning.
The two had just completed the pre-dawn prayer, fajr at a mosque and on returning, were murdered by Israeli Defence Force (IDF).
During a media briefing on Wednesday, World Health Organisation (WHO) director-general Tedros Ghebreyesus said only one-quarter of Gaza’s hospitals were still functioning, with 26 out of 36 hospitals now closed, either due to damage, attacks or because they had run out of fuel. Prior to the escalation in violence, there were 3 500 hospital beds across Gaza, now there is an estimated 1 400.
On Monday, the United Nations (UN) paid tribute to 101 of its United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) staff who were killed in Gaza, the largest loss in the organisation’s 78-year history.
Secretary-General António Guterres said: “Since the start of this conflict, more than 100 UNRWA staff have lost their lives - the highest number of UN aid workers killed in a conflict in such a short time. They will never be forgotten.”
At least 42 journalists and media workers have also been killed.
In a statement, Sooliman described the father of three as a kind, gentle, and warm being, who served the people of Gaza with distinction since being appointed as GOTG Head in Gaza in 2013.
“He was responsible for implementing multiple projects including the care of orphans, widows, elderly and the ill. He delivered water through our desalination plants, distributed food parcels, provided hot meals and upgraded damaged homes. A few days ago he mentioned that it's better to sit with his family of thirty-four in their own apartment and wait for their turn to die in dignity, as unarmed martyrs, rather than run from place to place as directed by the IDF. He was a witness to the lies and deception of the IDF asking communities to move to safety and then bombing them on the way, killing hundreds,” Sooliman said.
“We are grateful that he served us for forty consecutive days during this war where the cold-blooded murder, ethnic cleansing and genocide of a defenseless civilian population, caught up in a ghetto, took place at the hands of the anti-Arab, anti-Palestinian, anti-Christian and anti-Muslim, inhumane Zionist Israeli murderers.”
The organisation fully supported the call by President Cyril Ramaphosa, Sooliman said, “to haul the terrorist from Tel Aviv, Benjamin Netanyahu” in front of the International Criminal Court for war crimes, crimes against humanity, genocide and ethnic cleansing; and supported a draft resolution in Parliament, yesterday, calling for the expulsion of the Israeli ambassador with immediate effect and severing diplomatic ties with the apartheid state of Israel.
“We want to add that Israel should be held accountable to pay war reparation in the rebuilding of Gaza and compensate every single family they have decimated,” Sooliman said.
Speaking to the Cape Argus, GOTG Middle East Head Dr Malik Abou-Rageila said Abbassi’s area was very dangerous over the past three weeks due to the many bombings. Abbassi kept his parents, cousins and other relatives in his home. He moved to a house in another area only four days ago.
“He thought that it would be safer for him in that area but today (Thurs), early morning he went to the mosque to pray, the mosque next to his new house with his brother. Then once they finished the fajr time early morning prayer, they were bombed. They were targeted. We don't know by air force or by tanks. Till now we don’t know the situation because no one can move around,” he said.
“They took the bodies to the hospital. At the hospital, they decided that they should bury him directly because there was no power in the hospital and also the roads were closed so the families, it’s so risky for them to move around, they can’t come to see him. So unfortunately, they decided they should bury him, even before the family saw him or his brother’s bodies.”
Dr Abou-Rageila said his killing was not expected.
“We didn’t expect that this catastrophe could happen for our team because we are ordinary civilians who try to help others and we always wear our vests and our uniforms to show the army that we are humanitarian (workers),” he said.
“The team members there in Gaza will carry on (with) what they promised and we will keep our work and our message going on.”
In the face of a monumental catastrophe and carnage across Gaza, GOTG is visiting hospitals to deliver essential medical aid to the thousands injured as a result of incessant bombings since October 7. Over 11 000 people have been murdered by Israeli bombardment.
Palestinian Ambassador to South Africa Hanan Jarrar called the murders a tragic loss.
"Our hearts go out to their family. We condemn this deliberate and senseless act by apartheid Israeli forces. Ahmed dedicated himself to humanitarian efforts, and his untimely death is a devastating reminder of the brutality and carnage faced by innocent civilians in Gaza.
“The loss of such a devoted individual is deeply felt. We call for justice, accountability, and an end to the Israeli genocidal war against Palestinian civilians."