Meet The Proud Mother Of Palestinian Man Accused In Death Of Israeli Teens

Relatives of Amer Abu Aisheh, accused of abducting three Israeli teens, don't expect to see him again. His mother's definition of a martyr: "one who chooses to give their life to kill the Jews."

IDF soldiers on patrol in Halhul on June 30.
IDF soldiers on patrol in Halhul on June 30.
Maurizio Molinari

HALHUL — The remains of Amer Abu Aisheh’s house are on a dirt road in Halhul, near Hebron in the southern West Bank. Amer is one of the two Palestinians that Israel accuses of having kidnapped and murdered Eyal Yifrach, Gilad Shaar and Naftali Frankel, the three teenagers who disappeared while hitchhiking home from their religious schools on settlements near Hebron on June 12.

Half of his home has been reduced to ashes following the explosions and fires started by the Israeli military (IDF) in retribution for the deaths. To welcome me, Amer’s cousin Abdul Rahman, 24, is standing on a pile of debris. He says he is "still in shock" at what he has seen.

"There were almost one hundred soldiers, they came at 8:30 p.m. and put the women and children into one room, and kept us men out of the house while they started smashing everything. Doors, windows, furniture, sofas, sinks — everything went to pieces," he says. "By 11 p.m., there was an explosion on the side of the house where Amer, his wife and their three children lived, and the fire that broke out afterward lasted for hours because they prevented the fire brigade from intervening."

While Abdul is telling me about their "night from hell," Mohammed, 59, sits down on a plastic chair beside him. He is the uncle of this suspected terrorist, as well as his landlord. "The Israelis have proven themselves to be animals when it comes to our family, and for them peace means chasing us away from this land. What’s worse is that the Palestinian leaders who govern us are incapable of defending us, guiding us or constructing a State for us, so all that is really left is Allah."

Mohammed takes me on a tour through the remains of his demolished house with its smashed doors, broken stairs and blackened walls. The relatives of this Hamas suspect absolutely refute "the false version of events invented by Israel." Abdul describes his cousin as a boy with health problems since hitting his head in a swimming pool, and who has "a very basic education and worked as an unsuccessful locksmith."

His only real passion? "Going to the mosque."

"He met and made friends with Marwan Qawasmeh at the mosque," adds his uncle, referring to the other man sought after by Israel. "But that does not mean that they were part of Hamas or that they kidnapped those three boys. It’s a full Zionist-American invention. In reality the Israelis probably already have Amer and Marwan in custody, or maybe they have already killed them. But we’ll never see them again."

Marwan Qawasme and Amer Abu Aisheh — Photo: IDF via Twitter

When it comes to Eyal, Gilad and Naftali, there is no mercy in this house. "Now everyone is crying for them," says Ziad, another of Amer’s uncles, "but the situation was that three Jewish intruders were on Palestinian land, as intrusive and violent as the other settlers who steal our water, work, security and our lives."

Mother of a martyr

In the part of the house that isn’t demolished, where Amer’s parents and brothers live, the only thing still stuck up on the wall is a flyer that has the Hamas insignia on it. It features a picture of Amer and his brother Zayd, who died during an attack against the Israelis during the Second Intifada.

From a room in the back, Amer’s mother Nadia, 50, comes forward. Wearing a white hijab, she lets everyone know with a nod of her head that she wants to speak. Some family members take a step back to show respect for her, as she has lost one son, two more are in jail, and another is on the run as the Most Wanted man by the IDF.

"I am the mother of a Palestinian martyr, perhaps two because I will probably never see Amer again," she says.

Nadia says that she is "proud and strong because of what her sons have achieved," and wishes Amer a "victorious Ramadan," underlining that she feels they are "respected by their people and by Allah."

For Nadia, the definition of a martyr is "one who chooses to give their life to kill the Jews," and being victorious means "achieving this."

Since Amer has disappeared — he hasn’t been heard from since the Jewish children were kidnapped on June 12 — and with the house now gutted, Nadia is determined to "continue what her children started." How? "We will rebuild this house, piece by piece, and we will have a bigger and stronger place because Allah will give us the strength. The Israelis have destroyed five houses in our family over the past 20 years, since the so-called peace began, but we have always rebuilt, we remain on this earth and we are stronger every day."

It’s time to say goodbye, and Nadia picks up Amer’s youngest son and adds, "I would like the Italians and the rest of Europe to know that there is nothing more beautiful than to be a mother of martyrs."

Just a few seconds later a senior official of the Palestinian Authority appears at the door. Nadia turns her back to him, and the rest of the family walk past him quickly.

Mohammed, however, stays to explain their collective repulsion: "When the Israelis come to demolish the house, not one soldier from the Authority came to see it. Had it been the home of a Fatah militant they would have been compensated, but we won’t be given anything at all because we go to the mosque. Because of this, Allah is our best ally."

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7 Ways The Pandemic May Change The Airline Industry For Good

Will flying be greener? More comfortable? Less frequent? As the world eyes a post-COVID reality, we look at ways the airline industry has been changing through a pandemic that has devastated air travel.

Ready for (a different kind of) takeoff?

Carl-Johan Karlsson

It's hard to overstate the damage the pandemic has had on the airline industry, with global revenues dropping by 40% in 2020 and dozens of airlines around the world filing for bankruptcy. One moment last year when the gravity became particularly apparent was when Asian carriers (in countries with low COVID-19 rates) began offering "flights to nowhere" — starting and ending at the same airport as a way to earn some cash from would-be travelers who missed the in-flight experience.

More than a year later today, experts believe that air traffic won't return to normal levels until 2024.

But beyond the financial woes, the unprecedented slowdown in air travel may bring some silver linings as key aspects of the industry are bound to change once back in full spin, with some longer-term effects on aviation already emerging. Here are some major transformations to expect in the coming years:

Cleaner aviation fuel

The U.S. administration of President Joe Biden and the airline industry recently agreed to the ambitious goal of replacing all jet fuel with sustainable alternatives by 2050. Already in a decade, the U.S. aims to produce three billion gallons of sustainable fuel — about one-tenth of current total use — from waste, plants and other organic matter.

While greening the world's road transport has long been at the top of the climate agenda, aviation is not even included under the Paris Agreement. But with air travel responsible for roughly 12% of all CO2 emissions from transport, and stricter international regulation on the horizon, the industry is increasingly seeking sustainable alternatives to petroleum-based fuel.

Fees imposed on the airline industry should be funneled into a climate fund.

In Germany, state broadcaster Deutsche Welle reports that the world's first factory producing CO2-neutral kerosene recently started operations in the town of Wertle, in Lower Saxony. The plant, for which Lufthansa is set to become the pilot customer, will produce CO2-neutral kerosene through a circular production cycle incorporating sustainable and green energy sources and raw materials. Energy is supplied through wind turbines from the surrounding area, while the fuel's main ingredients are water and waste-generated CO2 coming from a nearby biogas plant.

Farther north, Norwegian Air Shuttle has recently submitted a recommendation to the government that fees imposed on the airline industry should be funneled into a climate fund aimed at developing cleaner aviation fuel, according to Norwegian news site E24. The airline also suggested that the government significantly reduce the tax burden on the industry over a longer period to allow airlines to recover from the pandemic.

Black-and-white photo of an ariplane shot from below flying across the sky and leaving condensation trails

High-flying ambitions for the sector

Joel & Jasmin Førestbird

Hydrogen and electrification

Some airline manufacturers are betting on hydrogen, with research suggesting that the abundant resource has the potential to match the flight distances and payload of a current fossil-fuel aircraft. If derived from renewable resources like sun and wind power, hydrogen — with an energy-density almost three times that of gasoline or diesel — could work as a fully sustainable aviation fuel that emits only water.

One example comes out of California, where fuel-cell specialist HyPoint has entered a partnership with Pennsylvania-based Piasecki Aircraft Corporation to manufacture 650-kilowatt hydrogen fuel cell systems for aircrafts. According to HyPoint, the system — scheduled for commercial availability product by 2025 — will have four times the energy density of existing lithium-ion batteries and double the specific power of existing hydrogen fuel-cell systems.

Meanwhile, Rolls-Royce is looking to smash the speed record of electrical flights with a newly designed 23-foot-long model. Christened the Spirit of Innovation, the small plane took off for the first time earlier this month and successfully managed a 15-minute long test flight. However, the company has announced plans to fly the machine faster than 300 mph (480 km/h) before the year is out, and also to sell similar propulsion systems to companies developing electrical air taxis or small commuter planes.

New aircraft designs

Airlines are also upgrading aircraft design to become more eco-friendly. Air France just received its first upgrade of a single-aisle, medium-haul aircraft in 33 years. Fleet director Nicolas Bertrand told French daily Les Echos that the new A220 — that will replace the old A320 model — will reduce operating costs by 10%, fuel consumption and CO2 emissions by 20% and noise footprint by 34%.

International first class will be very nearly a thing of the past.

The pandemic has also ushered in a new era of consumer demand where privacy and personal space is put above luxury. The retirement of older aircraft caused by COVID-19 means that international first class — already in steady decline over the last decades — will be very nearly a thing of the past. Instead, airplane manufacturers around the world (including Delta, China Eastern, JetBlue, British Airways and Shanghai Airlines) are betting on a new generation of super-business minisuites where passengers have a privacy door. The idea, which was introduced by Qatar Airways in 2017, is to offer more personal space than in regular business class but without the lavishness of first class.

Aerial view of Rome's Fiumicino airport

Aerial view of Rome's Fiumicino airport

Hygiene rankings  

Rome's Fiumicino Airport has become the first in the world to earn "the COVID-19 5-Star Airport Rating" from Skytrax, an international airline and airport review and ranking site, Italian daily La Repubblica reports. Skytrax, which publishes a yearly annual ranking of the world's best airports and issues the World Airport Awards, this year created a second list to specifically call out airports with the best health and hygiene standards.

Smoother check-in

​The pandemic has also accelerated the shift towards contactless traveling, with more airports harnessing the power of biometrics — such as facial recognition or fever screening — to reduce touchpoints and human contact. Similar technology can also be used to more efficiently scan physical objects, such as explosive detection. Ultimately, passengers will be able to "check-in" and go through a security screening anywhere at the airports, removing queues and bottlenecks.

Data privacy issues

​However, as pointed out in Canadian publication The Lawyer's Daily, increased use of AI and biometrics also means increased privacy concerns. For example, health and hygiene measures like digital vaccine passports also mean that airports can collect data on who has been vaccinated and the type of vaccine used.

Photo of planes at Auckland airport, New Zealand

Auckland Airport, New Zealand

Douglas Bagg

The billion-dollar question: Will we fly less?

At the end of the day, even with all these (mostly positive) changes that we've seen take shape over the past 18 months, the industry faces major uncertainty about whether air travel will ever return to the pre-COVID levels. Not only are people wary about being in crowded and closed airplanes, but the worth of long-distance business travel in particular is being questioned as many have seen that meetings can function remotely, via Zoom and other online apps.

Trying to forecast the future, experts point to the years following the 9/11 terrorist attacks as at least a partial blueprint for what a recovery might look like in the years ahead. Twenty years ago, as passenger enthusiasm for flying waned amid security fears following the attacks, airlines were forced to cancel flights and put planes into storage.

40% of Swedes intend to travel less

According to McKinsey, leisure trips and visits to family and friends rebounded faster than business flights, which took four years to return to pre-crisis levels in the UK. This time too, business travel is expected to lag, with the consulting firm estimating only 80% recovery of pre-pandemic levels by 2024.

But the COVID-19 crisis also came at a time when passengers were already rethinking their travel habits due to climate concerns, while worldwide lockdowns have ushered in a new era of remote working. In Sweden, a survey by the country's largest research company shows that 40% of the population intend to travel less even after the pandemic ends. Similarly in the UK, nearly 60% of adults said during the spring they intended to fly less after being vaccinated against COVID-19 — with climate change cited as a top reason for people wanting to reduce their number of flights, according to research by the University of Bristol.

At the same time, major companies are increasingly forced to face the music of the environmental movement, with several corporations rolling out climate targets over the last few years. Today, five of the 10 biggest buyers of corporate air travel in the US are technology companies: Amazon, IBM, Google, Apple and Microsoft, according to Taipei Times, all of which have set individual targets for environmental stewardship. As such, the era of flying across the Atlantic for a two-hour executive meeting is likely in its dying days.

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