Only the hatred remains as a 'martyr' is mourned: Wasteland funeral of a Muslim gunman during Gaza's curfew

PALESTINIAN guerrillas made off with Zakaria Sharbaji's head yesterday, or what was left of it after the Israelis fired a light anti-armour weapon at his hideout in the Tofah district of Gaza City. For their part, the Israelis kept his body. Which created problems for Sharbaji's family in the Jabaliya refugee camp.

Yesterday morning, the gunman's blood still lay across the smashed breeze-block hut in which he was killed, along with some remarkably undamaged pages of the Koran which - so his sympathisers unconvincingly claimed - had fallen from his pocket at the moment of death. 'They picked up the bones from his head and the brains and took them away,' a young visitor to the newly established shrine remarked. 'But the Israelis had already taken the corpse.'

The Israelis would say nothing about the torso. Long ago, they developed the habit of releasing such human remains at night, ordering the families of dead men to bury their relatives before dawn without any public demonstration - and thus without the predictable Palestinian ceremony of stone-throwing and tyre-burning.

No one denied that the 30-year-old 'martyr' - his baby is only six months old - was a member of the Qassem Brigade of the Islamic Hamas movement. For three months, so they said in Tofah, he had been on the run from the Israelis, hiding in Jabaliya and then in Tofah. Which is presumably why, with their usual penchant for a little collective justice, the Israelis cleared the surrounding streets and blew up no fewer than 17 Palestinian houses - homes to perhaps 200 people - within the space of just 12 hours. Where, one wondered, did punishment end and vandalism begin?

It was not a matter which Sharbaji's parents were likely to debate. Unable to retrieve either part of their son's body, they decided to mourn his death at their home in Jabaliya camp, a step to which the Israelis had their own unique response. Jabaliya, they decided, was under curfew. Jabaliya would become - and the phrase is already part of the lexicon of Gaza - a 'closed military area'.

In Gaza, a 'curfew' exists whenever an Israeli officer produces a piece of paper and scribbles a name, date and hour on it. It happened to us yesterday when we tried to visit Sharbaji's parents. A border police patrol stopped our car with that imperishable command: 'No pictures.' Where, I asked, was the law which prevented us taking photographs?

Quick as a flash, out came a printed sheet from the pocket of the green-uniformed policeman, an Israeli Arab in dark glasses who swiftly filled in the words 'Jabaliya', '21 April' and '0600 hours' beneath the title 'closed military area'. Would we like to take a picture of him signing the piece of paper? Of course we would. Kafka had nothing on this.

Predictably, the whole charade had little effect on the streets of Gaza City. No sooner were the first stones thrown at the Israelis from behind the smoke of burning tyres than the first wounded were carried into al-Ahli hospital. One man arrived with a plastic-coated bullet buried deep in his thigh, another with blood streaming from a bullet wound to his ankle. By midday, 14 youths had been brought into the hospital, two of them struck in the chest, after throwing stones or - as they preferred to claim - 'walking in the streets'. A dangerous pastime in Gaza City these days.

Before dark last night, uniformed and hooded men appeared at the corpse-less funeral rites for Zakaria Sharbaji in a wasteland of sand in the very centre of Gaza City. But there were mourners present who wanted to share a grisly secret. They took us to a shabby street where a cheap concrete breeze-block was lying in a square foot of newly smoothed sand below the wall of a tenement.

'Here we buried our martyr's brains,' a Hamas official confided, then pointed to a tree. 'Over there, we buried some pieces of his jaw.' There was a pause. 'Would you like us to dig them up to show you?' In Gaza, such offers are best refused.

(Photograph omitted)

Arts and Entertainment
Kirk Cameron is begging his Facebook fans to give him positive reviews
film
Sport
premier leagueMatch report: Arsenal 1 Man United 2
Arts and Entertainment
Jason goes on a special mission for the queen
tvReview: Everyone loves a CGI Cyclops and the BBC's Saturday night charmer is getting epic
Sport
Jonny May scores for England
rugby unionEngland 28 Samoa 9: Wing scores twice to help England record their first win in six
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Project Manager

£45000 - £65000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Shopfitter

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join a successful an...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Sales Account Manager

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Digital Sales Account Manager...

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Sales Account Manager

£20000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Trainee Sales Account Manager...

Day In a Page

US immigration: President Obama ready to press ahead with long-promised plan to overhaul 'broken system' - but will it get past a Republican-controlled Congress?

Immigration: Obama's final frontier

The President is ready to press ahead with the long-promised plan to overhaul America's 'broken system' - but will it get past a Republican-controlled Congress?
Bill Cosby rape allegations explained: Why are these allegations coming out now? Why didn’t these women come forward earlier? And why has nobody taken legal action?

Bill Cosby rape allegations explained

Why are these allegations coming out now? Why has nobody taken legal action? And what happens next for the man once thought of as 'America's Dad'
Four years of excruciating seizures caused by the 1cm tapeworm found burrowing through a man's brain

You know that headache you’ve got?

Four years of excruciating seizures caused by the 1cm tapeworm found burrowing through a man's brain
Travelling to work by scooter is faster than walking and less sweaty than cycling, so why aren’t we all doing it?

Scoot commute

Travelling to work by scooter is faster than walking and less sweaty than cycling, so why aren’t we all doing it?
Paul Robeson: The story of how an American icon was driven to death to be told in film

The Paul Robeson story

How an American icon was driven to death to be told in film
10 best satellite navigation systems

Never get lost again: 10 best satellite navigation systems

Keep your vehicle going in the right direction with a clever device
Paul Scholes column: England must learn to keep possession and dictate games before they are exposed by the likes of Germany and Brazil

Paul Scholes column

England must learn to keep possession and dictate games before they are exposed by the likes of Germany and Brazil
Michael Dawson: I’ll thank Spurs after we win says defender as he prepares to return with Hull

Michael Dawson: I’ll thank Spurs after we win

Hull defender faces his struggling former club on Sunday ready to show what they are missing. But he says he will always be grateful to Tottenham
Frank Warren column: Dr Wu has big plans for the professionals yet he should stick to the amateur game

Frank Warren column

Dr Wu has big plans for the professionals yet he should stick to the amateur game
Synagogue attack: Fear unites both sides of Jerusalem as minister warns restoring quiet could take 'months'

Terror unites Jerusalem after synagogue attack

Rising violence and increased police patrols have left residents of all faiths looking over their shoulders
Medecins sans Frontieres: The Ebola crisis has them in the headlines, but their work goes far beyond West Africa

'How do you carry on? You have to...'

The Ebola crisis has Medecins sans Frontieres in the headlines, but their work goes far beyond West Africa
Isis extends its deadly reach with suicide bombing in Kurdish capital

Isis extends its deadly reach with suicide bombing in Kurdish capital

Residents in what was Iraq’s safest city fear an increase in jihadist attacks, reports Patrick Cockburn
Underwater photography competition winners 2014 - in pictures

'Mysterious and inviting' shot of diver wins photography competition

Stunning image of cenote in Mexico takes top prize
Sir John Major: Negative West End portrayals of politicians put people off voting

Sir John Major hits out at theatres

Negative West End portrayals of politicians put people off voting
Kicking Barbie's butt: How the growth of 3D printing enabled me to make an army of custom-made figurines

Kicking Barbie's butt

How the growth of 3D printing enabled toy-designer to make an army of custom-made figurines