Remembering Cousin Aamer, a nurse who loved crab, and was killed by Israel

Aamer Saeed al-Ramlawi, 45, was the father of five children, two daughters and three sons. He was loved by many, not least by his cousin and best friend, Hassan Youssef al-Ramlawi, 33.

Aamer also loved barbecuing and cooking, especially on the beach, which fit in with his obsession with seafood, especially crab.

“Because my wife is an amazing seafood cook, he’d always ask for an invitation for crab soup,” Hassan told Al Jazeera with a little smile.

“Before October 7, we spent most of our time together; hanging out every Thursday evening, barbequing, playing cards, and talking every other day. It was lovely,” Hassan told Al Jazeera of life before the war on Gaza broke out.

Aamer the phenomenon

“Aamer was full of life … his spirit unmatched, full of happiness and love. He was always organising outings in spite of entertainment in Gaza being limited even before October 7 due to the Israeli blockade of Gaza,” Hassan said.

“He was a nursing director at al-Sorani Clinic, and whenever someone called him for help, he would rush to them, even if we were hanging out together.

“He always had chocolate in his pockets for the kids and took tonnes of photos every time we went somewhere. His biggest fear was losing someone he loved, and he would pray constantly that everyone would stay safe.”

On October 15, about a week after Israel’s assault on Gaza began, Hassan and his family decided to heed the veiled Israeli threats and relocate away from “planned operations” in Gaza City, where they lived.

“Aamer and his family refused to leave. I called him every day to check on him. The idea that he may not respond to one of my calls was terrifying since his area was under intensified attacks,” Hassan said, adding that the last time he saw Aamer was on the day he left the north.

Shocking news

On October 25, Hassan was in his uncle’s house in Deir el-Balah, having made it there in a harrowing trek from Gaza City.

As he sat checking online for news of what was happening in the rest of Gaza, he was stunned to see a photo of his 24-year-old cousin Doaa with a caption that said she had been pulled out of the rubble after an Israeli raid hit their home in the al-Taj 3 building in Gaza. Aamer lived in the same building

He showed the picture to everyone around him and they all agreed that it was Doaa, who had survived. Hassan started calling Aamer frantically, checking every online platform he could to see if there was any news about his cousin.

“I called without a response. I couldn’t accept or even imagine the idea that Aamer and his family were killed. They were moments of sheer devastation,” he recalled sadly. “His nieces and nephews were injured, but there was no news about Aamer, that night, nightmares tore my brain apart.”

Dangerous journey back to Gaza City

The next morning, Hassan decided to go back to Gaza City to find out what had happened to his cousin.

“There were no ground military operations at that time. It was certainly life-threatening to do so, but I had to since he was literally my other half,” he said.

It took him about three hours to make the 20-minute trip to Gaza City from Deir el-Balah but as soon as he arrived he rushed to the building only to find it completely flattened.

“Civil defence workers were still still pulling bodies from under the rubble. I saw half a body, squeezed between the columns of the destroyed building walls. I wondered it if was him.

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