Shelled family recounts Gaza horror
January 12 2009
Ahmed Samouni just about survived the shelling of their Zeitoun home, but lost his mother and four brothers
The United Nations human rights council is considering a draft resolution on the treatment of civilians in Gaza by the Israeli army.
A number of allegations have been made about the use of white phosphorus and the treatment of the Palestinian population as the Israeli offensive against Hamas continues.
In the second week of the offensive, the International Committe for the Red Cross alleged that the Israeli army had refused to let them help a family trapped in a shelled house.
They said it took four days to get access to the building, even though army units were stationed nearby and did nothing to help the injured inside.
When paramedics were granted access, they say what they found was shocking: starving children were sitting beside the bodies of their dead parents and family.
Al Jazeera’s Sherine Tadros has gained exclusive access to the survivors and their rescuers.
Ahmed Samouni witnessed what many are calling a massacre, after being left for days amidst the dead bodies of his mother and four brothers.
The horror that the 16-year-old has seen is hard for him to put into words, but the effects are written all over his face.
“It was the third missile I remember. The other ones had killed my elder brother and injured people, they kept bleeding. But the third missile, that killed them all,” he said.
“My brother was bleeding so much and right in front of my eyes he died. My other brother Ismail, he also bled to death,” he narrated in between sobs.
“My mum and my youngest brother, they are gone. Four brothers and my mother, dead. May God give them peace.”
On January 7, paramedics brought back the dead and injured from the Samouni and other houses nearby, after they had spent four days trapped in their home.
According to the survivors’ accounts, partly corroborated by the International Red Cross and the United Nations, Israeli soldiers raided their homes and then huddled the extended family together into one house.
The following day they shelled and dropped missiles around the house.
Witnesses say at least 30 members of the Samouni family were killed.”We were put in an ambulance, but there were still people inside the house, dead and injured,” Ahmed told Al Jazeera. “For days we all bled. We were so hungry; I remember giving my brother Isaac a tomato to eat before he died.”
Al Jazeera tracked down the ambulance driver who rescued Ahmed. The Red Cross personnel were denied access by the Israeli army to the area for four days after the house was shelled.
“On the day we got permission, the army told us to leave the ambulances around two kilometres from the house,” said Mohamed el-Halby, a paramedic. “So we walked and all around us we could see they had bulldozered the area. The houses we passed had Israeli soldiers standing on the roofs.”
“We went inside and heard screams coming from one room. There were about 15 people inside, two were dead, the rest sitting around them. That was just one room.”
Six year-old Abdullah was trapped inside the same house as Ahmed, surrounded by his dead cousins and uncles. Terrified and distraught he struggled to speak.
He said they only had tomoatoes to eat, and when asked what happened to his family, he said they were there, in front of him, dead. All he could do was just look at them.
Wael, Abdullah’s father, escaped on the first day of the Israeli raid. For four days he thought his son was dead.
“I didn’t know what to do, I still don’t…look at him he is so ill, they are all terrified,” Weal said.
“He cries all the time. His shoulder is hurt and it has infection but he cant stand the smell, he cries when he looks and smells his wounds. And his leg, look. I want to take him out of Gaza for treatment and I want to be able to go back to the house and get the rest of my family so that I can bury them.”
Al Jazeera tried to get to the family’s house, in an area called Zeitoun, but it wasn’t safe.
The closest one could get was about one kilometre away, and journalists, paramedics and aid workers need Israeli army permission to get to the area.
Zeitoun is only one neighbourhood where Israeli ground forces are operating.
The Red Cross says there are many more homes in other areas with people dead and trapped inside.
Wael, Abdullah’s father, escaped on the
first day of the Iraeli raid
Raed el-Heleky, another paramedic who took part in the rescue effort, said he could smell dead bodies and blood in the area.”We saw people lying dead on the streets,” he told Al Jazeera. “More than nine along the way before we got to the houses. We only went into five homes, there are other homes in the area and I am sure there are more dead in these houses. But the Israeli army stopped us from going any further.”
The United Nations says the Samouni family’s story appears to have all the elements of war crimes.
Humanitarian organisations have asked for an investigation, but while these processes get under way, Israel is denying access to the areas worst effected by its ongoing war.
Aid workers fear Abdullah and Ahmed’s stories may well be just the beginning of what Israel has done, and continues to do to the people of Gaza.
Why is Israel using Bulldozers? To bury their war crimes of course?
There are more deaths then most of us realize those buried by the bulldozers are not counted yet. You can bet they are doing just that Hiding the evidence is typical of criminals.