Some of the Samouni family died from shrapnel wounds and others from being crushed by falling masonry.
By Tim Butcher in Jerusalem
January 6 2009
But the one death that sticks in Nael al Samouni’s mind is that of the relative he claims was shot by an Israeli sniper.
“We ran from the shelling and there were people everywhere, members of my family, but one fell down injured,” Nael, 36, said.
“I heard the shot as I ran but there was nothing I could do.”
With Israel barring foreign journalists from reaching Gaza, it is impossible to verify the account of what happened to the Samouni family emerging from eyewitness testimony provided by survivors.
But different survivors all gave near identical accounts of how the Israeli army arrived at dawn on Sunday in the area of Zeitoun where the Samouni family have lived for generations.
In what the United Nations fears could be the bloodiest single attack of the Israeli assault, as many as 60 members of the extended Samouni family were killed near their homes in the Gazan town of Zeitoun while nine more died in hospital.
Dozens of bodies are believed to remain under the rubble of a large house hit repeatedly by Israeli shelling in the incident.
The International Committee of the Red Cross has formally requested permission from the Israeli army to visit the scene of the attack to establish the exact scale of the slaughter.
Israel has so far not granted permission to the ICRC due to ongoing fighting.
Palestinian ambulances have also tried to reach the scene but it remains too dangerous. Several ambulances have been hit by Israeli shelling and at least seven paramedics killed.
“There are many houses where we live and they ordered us into the house of my brother, Wael,” Nael said.
Wael, 39, another survivor, said as many as 100 members of the clan crowded into his single-storey home with strict orders from the Israeli soldiers not to move.
Three teenage members of the family – Walid, Moussa and Imad – were taken away for questioning by the Israeli army while the remainder waited anxiously without adequate food or water until night fell and fighting intensified outside.
They thought they had survived the night when at 6.35 am on Monday the house was suddenly hit by a shell that brought the roof down. It was then hit again and again.
“I saw my father and mother, and three of my children killed,” Wael said. “There was blood and bodies everywhere but some people were lost under the rubble.
“My wife survived and we had no choice but to run as the shelling continued.
“I carried my five-year-old son with me but when we got to hospital they had to cut off his arm.” He said the survivors ran on foot for about a mile and a half until they reached the main north-south road in Gaza, Salahudin Street, where they found civilian cars to take them to hospital.
It was in the chaos of the Israeli barrage that Nael said he saw someone fall down injured.
The exact number of dead is impossible to say at this time although doctors in the mortuary at Shifa, the biggest hospital in Gaza, recorded nine members of the Samouni family as reaching the mortuary by Monday afternoon.
Among them were Issa, 3, and two other infants. A photograph of their burial made it onto the front page of the International Herald Tribune yesterday.
Another survivor, Hilmi al Samouni, 26, said that when the Israeli soldiers ordered the 100 or so family members into one place they confiscated their mobile phones.
A source at the UN said the Samouni family killings could be the bloodiest single attack for civilians since Israel launched operation Cast Lead eleven days ago.
An inquiry about the incident was made to the press office of the Israeli army but by last night no answer had been received.
They were ordered into a house by Israeli Soldiers, told not to move and then killed.
- Wael, 39, another survivor, said as many as 100 members of the clan crowded into his single-storey home with strict orders from the Israeli soldiers not to move.
- Another survivor, Hilmi al Samouni, 26, said that when the Israeli soldiers ordered the 100 or so family members into one place they confiscated their mobile phones.
- Three teenage members of the family – Walid, Moussa and Imad – were taken away for questioning by the Israeli army while the remainder waited anxiously without adequate food or water until night fell and fighting intensified outside.
- They thought they had survived the night when at 6.35 am on Monday the house was suddenly hit by a shell that brought the roof down. It was then hit again and again.
This was no accident, this was deliberate murder of innocent civilians, sickening, shameful, premeditated murder.
GAZA : “This is an all-out war against the civilian Palestinian population”
January 6, 2009
Mads Gilbert, a Norwegian doctor working at Al-Shifa Hospital Al-Quds Hospital in Gaza City , tells Sky News that the number of civilians injured and killed in Gaza proves that Israel is deliberately attacking the population.
“Just a little bit more than an hour ago the Israelis bombed the central fruit market in Gaza city and we had a mass influx of about 50 injured and between 10 and 15 killed. At the same time they bombed an apartment house with children playing on the roof and we had a lot of children also. So this is really like speaking from the dumps of Inferno, it’s like hell here now, and it’s been bombing all night. Until now close to 500 people have been killed and the number of casualties is getting to 2,500 of which 50% are children and women.”
“Are your hospitals reaching capacity? Can you deal with these people?”
“We have been doing surgery around the clock. I have just talked with one of my colleagues in the ICU (Intensive Care Unit), he’s not been sleeping for three days and the hospital is completely overcrowded, we are running 6 – 7 Ors (Operating Rooms) and there are injuries you just don’t want to see in this world… children coming in with open abdomens and legs cut off. We just had a child that we had to amputate both legs and an arm. And their only crime is being civilians and Palestinians living in Gaza. The relief now is not more doctors and more drugs; the relief now is to stop the bombing immediately, this cannot go on, it’s a disaster.”
“You’ve talked about the civilians, the women, the children, the men who aren’t involved in this, but are you also getting casualties that are Hamas fighters?”
“To be honest, we came on New Year’s Eve in the morning. I’ve seen one military person among the tenths… I mean hundreds that we’ve seen and treated, so anybody who tries to portrait this as a totally clean war against another army are lying.
This is an all-out war against the civilian Palestinian population in Gaza, and we can prove that with numbers. And you have to remember that the average age of the Gaza inhabitants is 17 years. It’s a very young population and 80% are living below the poverty limit of the UN. So this is a poor and very young people, and they are able to escape absolutely nowhere, because they cannot flee like other populations can in war time, because they are fenced in and they are in a cage, so they’re bombing 1.5 million people in a cage… young people, poor people and, you know, you cannot separate between the civilians and the fighters in such a situation.”
Transcribed by Atenea Acevedo (Tlaxcala) and Hana Al Bayaty (IAON)