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Israel Acted in Self-Defense in Brutal Slaying

Court Declares Israel Acted in Self-Defense in Brutal Slaying of Professor Kahled Salah and Son in 2004

By Genevieve Cora Fraser

It all seemed so hopeful in January when I visited Salam, the widow of murdered Palestinian professor Kahled Salah, in her new home in America. She described how six months earlier, five years after the attack, she had been summoned before an Israeli court in Jerusalem for a hearing into the deaths of her husband and their 16 year-old son, Mohammed. Her hope was that there would soon be a trial in open court.

“I want justice for Kahled and Mohammed,” she said. “I want the world to know what the Israeli soldiers did.”

In the early hours of July 6, 2004, Dr. Salah and his teenage son were gunned down in cold blood in their Nablus home by Israeli snipers. Earlier that evening, 1,000 Israeli troops had gathered to hunt down known resistance fighters who had been spotted in the neighborhood. But after they were killed, at some point, the order was given to turn their efforts on the Salah household.

Nablus is both a valley and mountain community, with a 3,000-year Old City and modern market places and shops located in the valley, and terraced homes and apartment buildings constructed along the twin North and South Mountains. The Salahs lived on Asikka Street on Al-jabal Al- Shamali Mountain, the North Mountain. Across the valley is the South Mountain, also know as Atour Mountain where Moses was reported to have been handed the tablets, the commandments set down by God. But on that evening in the summer of 2004, the doctors living above and below the Salahs were quietly evacuated while the trap was set to ensnare the professor and his family.

Neighbors later informed Salam that the week before, the IDF had been making inquiries into where the Salahs lived. Professor Salah received his doctorate from the University of California, Davis. Both he and his wife had permanent US residence status and two of their children were born in California. And despite offers to live elsewhere, he had returned to Palestine with his family and was instrumental in establishing the Engineering Department at An-Najah National University in Nablus.

Kahled and his son, Mohammad, had appeared on Israeli television stating that Palestinians and Israelis should fight it out on soccer fields, not with guns. Kahled had never owned a weapon and believed in reason, not violence. He was a noted peace activist and always prayed for his children to live in peace. But he had a premonition he shared with Salam that he would be martyred.

I visited the family in Nablus exactly six months to the day after the attack. Salam, along with her daughter and a young son who survived the attack, had moved in with her mother to escape the memories that haunt her to this day. But on that day in January 2005, Salam drove me to the apartment where they had once lived in peace. Her home had been her pride and joy. The happy couple had fallen in love in college and invested in carpets and hand crafted ceramic tiles and other luxuries to blunt the hardship of their lives under occupation. Now, blood soaked the rolled carpets. Israeli snipers who had perched on rooftops and balconies surrounding the apartment entered, following the killing, and rampaged through their home. The kitchen, bedrooms, bathroom, and living room had been sprayed by machine gun fire. Clothes were shredded and pots and pans were sieved with bullet holes.

Salam described that night of horror when the metal front door was welded shut by the heat of missiles fired from tanks and helicopter gunships. She showed me the spot where the family huddled in the dark and made phone calls pleading to make it stop. She showed me her bedroom window. It was open that night as her husband stood pleading for their lives and was subsequently gunned down. Mohammad rushed from the protection of their hiding place to help his dying father. Shots were fired, and the son soon joined his father in death as Salam cradled them in her arms. She pleaded with the soldiers to allow her neighbors, the doctors, to attend to her dying husband and son, to allow the ambulances gathered at the scene to take them to the hospital. She was ridiculed, and her request was denied, until they were confirmed dead.

Finally, an Israeli judge ordered a hearing on the circumstances surrounding their deaths. The court scheduled the hearing on the exact day, the fifth year anniversary of the killings. Despite the anguish of memory and despair, Salam believed that at long last justice would be served. She traveled back to Palestine to meet-up with her daughter who still lives in Nablus. Even with the court order in hand, it took three attempts before they were allowed to pass through the checkpoints to get to Jerusalem. But they finally made it and testified before the judge, sparing no details about the brutal attack.

I recently called Salam just to say, Hi, and asked if she had heard anything from her lawyer. Her voice was filled with despair. The court had met twice since her visit, and her request for a trial was denied. “They claim the soldiers acted in self defense,” she said. “They had casualties too.”

“How can that be –one thousand soldiers against unarmed civilians?” I asked.

“I was told an Israeli soldier died in the raid, and that it was only right that Palestinians should die too,” Salam explained in a monotone. She was obviously drained from the ordeal.

“But your husband and son had nothing to do with the resistance fighters,” I said dumb-founded. “So, what do you plan to do?”

“How can I seek justice, if I can’t take it to trial?” Salam asked. “Israel has all the power. It is a form of torture - what they are doing to me. But I will not give up. I plan to appeal. I will keep fighting until justice is served for Kahled and Mohammed,” she stated emphatically.


NOTE: Genevieve Cora Fraser, a human rights and environmental activist, is the author of the soon-to-be released, "Palestine: Waiting by Lazarus' Tomb," a 561 page collection of her prose and poetry published from 2003 - 2009.

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