JENIN, West Bank – Ismail Khatib watched his slain 12-year-old son lowered into a grave in this West Bank city Sunday, knowing that organs transplanted from his body would save lives in Israel.

The boy, Ahmad Khatib, was shot by Israeli soldiers Thursday as he played in a street with a toy rifle at the entrance to the Jenin refugee camp. It was the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Fitr, when many Palestinian children take to the streets, some brandishing toy guns.

The army said that soldiers on a raid to arrest militants had come under fire and shot back from their vehicle when they spotted the boy from more than 100 yards away, mistaking him for a gunman.

Ahmad was critically wounded in the head and taken to a hospital in the Israeli city of Haifa. When doctors told his parents there was no hope for his survival, they agreed to donate his organs. On Sunday the organs were transplanted to six Israelis.

It was a rare moment of humanity in the blood-soaked Palestinian-Israeli conflict, highlighted on Israeli news broadcasts as an act of peace.

Ismail Khatib said he had lost a brother who died of kidney failure, and understood the desperate need for organ donations.

“When the doctor told me that there was no hope that my son would live, my brother came to mind, and I thought that I could help,” he said. “The recipients were unknown, and it didn’t matter to me whether they were Jewish, Muslim or Christian. It was a humanitarian matter, so that someone else could live.”

On Sunday, Ahmad’s heart was beating in the chest of Samah Gadban, a 12-year-old girl from Pekiin, a village of the Druze sect in northern Israel. She had waited five years for a transplant.

Her mother, Yusra Gadban, wept tears of gratitude as her daughter lay in intensive care in a hospital near Tel Aviv. She said she wanted to call Ahmad’s mother.

“I will ask her to receive us for a visit at her house, so I can hug her and kiss her and thank her for saving the life of my daughter,” she said.

The boy’s lungs were transplanted to a 14-year-old girl suffering from cystic fibrosis, his kidneys to a 4-year-old girl and 5-year-old boy, and sections of his liver to a 7-month-old girl and 58-year-old woman. Relatives and hospital officials declined to identify the recipients in the immediate aftermath of the surgery.

“Part of our son is still alive,” said Abla Khatib, Ahmad’s mother, weak with grief after her son’s body was brought home to her before burial. “We gave life to someone else. We proved that we want peace.”

Near his son’s fresh grave, Ismail Khatib said he believed that the organ donation had sent an important message to Israelis, for whom Jenin, after more than five years of armed conflict, evokes images of gun-toting militants and suicide bombers.

“Israel sees the Jenin refugee camp as a factory for terrorists,” he said. “This proves to Israel that there are people here who understand the meaning of humanity. I am proud that a part of my son has given life to someone in Israel.

“The occupation is barbaric,” Khatib added. “Maybe a child who received an organ from my son will grow up to be a leader, and put an end to this aggression.”

(c) 2005, Chicago Tribune.

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