Arafa Hani Abd al Dayem: killed January 4 by Israeli flechette bomb attack
Arafa Hani Abd al Dayem, an elementary school science teacher and volunteer Red Crescent medic, had given 8 years of his life to the emergency medical work he deeply believed in. He was widely recognized as compassionate, personable, brave, and with a non-stop sense of humour. Arafa was full of life, and shared it generously.
During the winter attacks on Gaza, Arafa had resumed his role as volunteer medic, working round the clock, unhesitating in his dedication.
On the evening of 3 January, Abd al Dayem and colleagues were combing the grounds of the just bombed American school in northwestern Gaza. Unable to find any casualties in the dark, he returned at first light, leading the team into the strike area, locating the martyr, and leading the team out.
Just hours after this mission, the 35 year old went on his last mission. It was just after 10 am on January 4th.
A team consisting of Abd al Dayem and colleague Khaled Yousef Abu Sa’da, 43, along with volunteer medic ‘Ala’ Usama ‘Ali Sarhan, 23, had answered the call to retrieve a number of injured civilians, including youths Thaer Abed Hamdan, 19, and Ali Abu al Jidyan, 19, from the Beit Lahia region.
“We were crossing the street, leaving our houses, when the Israeli tank fired. There were many people leaving, not just us,” said Hamdan from his hospital bed just after the attack.
Injured from the shelling, Hamdan called to Ali to carry him. While carrying Hamdan, Ali was shot in the head by an Israeli soldier.
Soon after, the ambulance team of Arafa, Khaled and Ala’a arrived. The medics had loaded Thaer and another youth into the ambulance, and were working on getting Ali’s body to the clearly-marked vehicle when the next Israeli shell hit.
Thaer Hamdan lost his right foot to the shelling. Ali, already dead, lost his head.
Volunteer medic Ala’a survived the blast, but was lacerated by shrapnel bits all over his body.
Khaled Abu Sa’da, who survived the shelling with shrapnel injuries to his head and body, recalls that it was no ordinary shell, but a vicious flechette shell, crammed with up to 8,000 razor-sharp nails. These flechettes, just 2 inches long and dart-shaped, are designed to bore through anything, to break apart on impact, to ensure maximum damage.
Sa’da said: “I picked myself up and found Arafa kneeling down with his hands up in the air and praying to God, his body was riddled with darts. The patient was in pieces, his head was missing. I was hysterical.”
Arafa Abd al Dayem, shredded by the darts, underwent heart surgery, doctors working on his mutilated body. He went into shock and died an hour or so after the attack.
Later the same day, two more emergency rescuers were targeted and killed by Israeli helicopter fire in the Tel al Hawa district of Gaza City as they went to answer a call for help.
The Israeli attacks killed 16 emergency rescuers, and wounded another 22, nearly all of them fired upon while trying to save lives.
Arafa Abd al Dayem was a father of four, lived near his parents, and was dedicated to his family. With medics and volunteers at the Red Crescent, Arafa was a leader, a friend, an inspiration. He was a delightful, warm, man. His humour and gentle demeanour are sorely missed.
*the ambulance at which Arafa Abd al Dayem was standing when the Israeli army targeted the emergency workers with a flechette bomb.