Posted by: Lister | January 9, 2009

Evacuees Shelled

The Guardian:

At least 30 people were killed in the Zeitoun district of Gaza after Israeli troops repeatedly shelled a house to which more than 100 Palestinians had been evacuated by the Israeli military, the UN said today.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), said it was “one of the gravest incidents since the beginning of operations” against Hamas militants in Gaza by the Israeli military on 27 December.

OCHA said the incident took place on 4 January, a day after Israel began its ground offensive in Gaza.

According to testimonies gathered by the UN, Israeli soldiers evacuated around 110 Palestinians to a single-storey house in Zeitoun, south-east Gaza. The evacuees were instructed to stay indoors for their own safety but 24 hours later the Israeli army shelled the house with rockets. Around half the Palestinians sheltering in the house were children, OCHA said.

The OCHA report does not accuse Israel of a deliberate act but calls for an investigation.

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Responses

  1. Timesonline links to the OCHA report (pdf):

    according to
    several testimonies, on 4 January Israeli foot-soldiers evacuated approximately 110 Palestinians into a single-residence house in Zeitun (half of whom were children), warning them to stay indoors. Twenty-four hours later, Israeli forces shelled the home repeatedly, killing approximately thirty. Those who survived and were able, walked two kilometres to Salah Ed Din road before being transported to the hospital in civilian vehicles. Three children, the youngest of whom was five months old, died upon arrival at the hospital.

    After several days of requesting safe passage to the area, on 7 January during a three-hour lull in hostilities, an ICRC/PRCS medical team was finally allowed on foot (without ambulances) into the closed military area to evacuate any remaining survivors. Due to the limited time allowed, the ICRC/PRCS team was not able to reach all houses in the area. In all, ICRC/PRCS evacuated 30 Palestinians including 18 wounded.

  2. The Washington Post also reports, giving details of the survivors’ testimony.

    My post on a related story: Gaza’s house of horror.

  3. Reuters reports the testimony of Ahmed Ibrahim Samouni, who was wounded in the leg:

    “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 alleged Israeli shelling of a house in north Gaza on Monday, Jan 5.

    […] Lying in hospital in Gaza, the Palestinian boy told how his family were ordered into a house that was hit a day later.

    “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 forced them all into one house, he said.

    But the house that they supposed would provide shelter from the battle was hit the next day, and Samouni’s mother was among those killed.

    […] Local Red Crescent rescue workers and a team from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) reached the house on Wednesday after being denied access by the Israeli military for what the Red Cross called an “unacceptable” period.

    […] Jessica Montel, head of the Israel human rights organization B’TSelem, said she was still awaiting an IDF account of the alleged incident.

    “We don’t have an explanation from the IDF about their behavior in Zeitun, neither why the Samouni compound was shelled in the first place nor why ambulances were not able to reach the wounded,” she said.

    The same article reports that:

    An Israeli army spokesman on Friday denied the allegation.

    “The IDF (Israel Defence Forces) did not mass people into any specific building,” Jacob Dallal told Reuters. “Furthermore, we checked with regard to IDF fire on the 5th. The IDF did not target any building in or near Zeitun on the 5th.”

  4. The Independent’s report gives Ahmad al-Samouni’s age as 23.

    With foreign journalists barred by Israel from entering Gaza, it is not easy to reconstruct every detail of what happened with any certainty. But Maysaa’s account to the Israeli human rights organisation B’Tselem is broadly and quite separately corroborated by other family members, including a religious studies teacher, Ahmad al-Samouni.

    […] Ahmad says they counted 25 bodies – 10 adults and the rest children. One of the infants was the five-year-old daughter of his cousin Salah. “Her last words were ‘Baba, Baba’ and she died,” he said. “She was hit in the head.”

  5. Update


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