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Slain Al-Qassam leader marred by Gaza war

July 31, 2010 3:49 P.M. (Updated: Aug. 1, 2010 5:11 P.M.)
Gaza – Ma'an – Hours before he was killed by an Israeli air strike, the Al-Qassam Brigades leader told his second wife “Farewell! Today is departure day ... I can no longer tolerate life away from my previous family.”

The fighter's first wife, Manal Sha’rawi, was killed along with five of their children, Bilal, Izz Ad-Din, Ihsan, Islam and Eyman, on 26 January 2009, when an Israeli shell targeted the family’s balcony in the Al-Bureij refugee camp in the central Gaza Strip.

The attack was one of the few that followed Israel's unilateral declaration of a ceasefire in the wake of its Operation Cast Lead, which killed more than 1,400 Palestinians in the Gaza Strip over 21 days.

“We will follow in your footsteps!” his wife replied as her husband walked out the door. Hours later the 41-year-old Issa Abdul-Hadi Al-Batran was killed. His wife Sundus Taha Al-Muqayyad, 24, related to Ma'an their last conversation.

Only one of Al-Batran's sons, toddler Abdul-Hadi, survived the 2009 attack, Sundus recalled, saying her husband had been devastated by the deaths of his wife and children.

After he lost his family, Batran’s mother urged him to continue with his life and remarry. Six months after the attack, he married Sundus.

"We got married in June [2009] and he used to weep everyday when he remembered his late wife and children," she said.

"Only yesterday, he whispered in my ear telling me than he could no longer go on living without them despite the fact that he loved his son Abdul-Hadi and our son Muhammad. He kissed both of them several times before he left and he urged me to take good care of them."

She said that when the first Israeli shelling targeted Tel Al-Hawa in western Gaza City at 10.30 p.m. on Friday, she telephoned her husband to check up on him, and he told her he was fine. However, when the news came about a second air strike on a deserted area in the Nuseirat refugee camp, Batran’s wife had a feeling her husband was there.

Batran had survived four previous targeted assassination attempts, one of which killed his family during Israel’s Operation Cast Lead assault on the Gaza Strip.

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