Monday, January 12, 2009

Gaza boy recounts house of death

Date: Mon, 12 Jan 2009 01:04:37 +0200

Gaza boy recounts house of death

Nidal al-Mughrabi
Reuters North American News Service

Jan 09, 2009 10:35 EST

GAZA, Jan 9 (Reuters) - "Abu Salah died, his wife died. Abu Tawfiq died, his son died, his wife also died. Mohammed Ibrahim died, and his mother died. Ishaq died and Nasar died. The wife of Nael Samouni died. Many people died."

"There were maybe more than 25 people killed," said Ahmed Ibrahim Samouni, a 13-year-old Palestinian boy who was wounded in the leg and chest but survived the Israeli shelling of a house in north Gaza on Jan. 4.

A report by the U.N. Office for the Coordinator of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said at least 30 people were killed in the incident. Most were members of Samouni's family.
OCHA deputy chief Allegre Pacheco quoted witness in the Zeitun district as saying Israeli troops had ordered about 100 civilians to get into the house and stay there, out of their way. But the following day house was hit by Israeli shells.

"There are no bomb shelters in Gaza," she said.

The Israeli army said it was investigating the incident.

Speaking to Reuters from his hospital bed in Gaza, the boy recounted how his family came to be herded into the building that was later targeted.

"We were asleep when the tanks and the planes struck, we all slept in one room," Samouni said in a weak voice. "One shell hit our house. Thank God we were not hit."

"We ran out of the house and saw 15 men ... they landed from helicopters on rooftops of buildings." Soldiers beat residents and then forced them all into one house, he said.


But the house that was supposed to provide shelter from the battle was hit the next day, and Samouni's mother was among those killed. Samouni kept Yaccoub and his other two brothers alive and tried to help injured adults lying among the dead.

"There was no water, no bread, nothing to eat," he said.

"I got up on my own. I had my wound tied and I got up to get them water from outside, trying to hide from tanks and planes. I went to our neighbours and called on them until I almost fainted. I brought a gallon of water." Local Red Crescent rescue workers and a team from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) managed to reach the house on Jan. 7 after being denied access by the Israeli military for what the Red Cross called an "unacceptable" period.

A Palestinian medic told how they found the survivors.
"We started calling: 'Is there anyone alive there in this house?' and we heard the voices of children."

The children were starving, the Geneva-based ICRC said.

"They were too weak to stand up on their own. One man was also found alive, too weak to stand up. In all there were at least 12 corpses lying on mattresses," it said.
Earth redoubts built by Israeli bulldozers blocked the streets so the ambulances could not get close. "The wounded had to be brought out on donkey carts," Pacheco told Reuters.

"This is a shocking incident," said Pierre Wettach, ICRC chief for Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories.
The ICRC accused Israel of delaying ambulance access to the area and demanded it grant safe access for Palestinian Red Crescent ambulances to return to evacuate more wounded.
"The Israeli military must have been aware of the situation but did not assist the wounded. Neither did they make it possible for us or the Palestinian Red Crescent to assist the wounded," he said.
In a written response, the Israeli army said it works in coordination with international aid bodies "so that civilians can be provided with assistance" and that it "in no way intentionally targets civilians". (Additional reporting by Stephanie Nebehay in Geneva; Writing by Douglas Hamilton; editing by Samia Nakhoul)

Source: Reuters North American News Service <> <>


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