Half a year has passed since Mahmoud Abu Asbah was killed when a rocket hit a residential building in Ashkelon, but he has yet to be commemorated as a victim of a hostile act on the website of the National Insurance Institute.
Abu Asbah, 48, a father of six from the West Bank town of Halhoul near Hebron, was killed in November in a round of fighting between Israel and Hamas. The NII claims his commemoration was delayed due to a difficulty in reaching his family, although he was recognized as a Victim of Hostile Acts and his family has already received a monetary grant from the government as a bereaved family.
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Abu Asbah was a building contractor. He used to live in Ashkelon during the week, with the approval of the Civil Administration. His body was found thanks to a passerby who was walking near the ruins of the building on Smolenskin Street in the city, after the rescue forces had already left the site, and noticed the fingers of a woman who was trapped under the rubble. Abu Asbah was pronounced dead at the site.
An investigation by Haaretz shows that only after Abu Asbah’s family initiated a request in February was the NII asked to recognize him as a victim of a hostile act. In March the request was transferred to the Defense Ministry, where it was approved within a day, and consequently returned to the NII. The request was approved and in April the first monetary grant was transferred to the family.
Despite the recognition, Abu Asbah’s name was not commemorated on the NII website, where all the victims of hostile acts are mentioned. Others who have been killed since then are already commemorated on the website with their personal details and picture.
Abu Asbah’s brother, Mazen, also stays in Israel legally and works as a building contractor in Ashdod. He says he was surprised by the claims of the National Insurance Institute. “I’ve been working in Israel for the past 20 years,” he said. “Why do I have to pursue the NII? Of course I want them to write about my brother. I want the whole world to know that my brother was murdered by firing from Gaza, it’s not a secret.”
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“The events of recent days brought us back to that time, it’s not easy and it hurts to see that people are continuing to die. I have no idea why it took so long until they recognized him as a victim of a hostile act, but I want people to know Mahmoud’s story, so he won’t be forgotten.”
The NII’s response: “By law, anyone killed in a hostile act who is a resident, a citizen, or entered and stayed in Israel legally will be recognized as a Victim of Hostile Acts. The deceased, Mr. Mahmoud Abu Asbah, entered and stayed here legally (as indicated by a clarification with the Civil Administration). Since the family of the deceased does not live in Israel but in the Palestinian Authority areas, there was difficulty locating them.
“In February the lawyer who represents the family submitted a claim to the NII. The approving authority in the Defense Ministry recognized the deceased as a victim of hostile acts in March 2019, and therefore the family of the deceased is entitled to all the rights of families whose loved one died in a hostile act. In April the family already received initial grants, by law. The NII website commemorates casualties of hostilities only after receiving approval from the family in writing. At present we are trying to contact the family and to request its consent.”