Khaled Abed Rabbo in the remains of his family house, destroyed during the three-week Israeli offensive
Grieving Palestinian father says children were killed after family obeyed order from troops to leave Gaza home
By Donald Macintyre in Gaza City
January 21 2009
A Palestinian father has claimed that he saw two of his young daughters shot dead and another critically injured by an Israeli soldier who emerged from a stationary tank and opened fire as the family obeyed an order from the Israeli forces to leave their home.
Khaled Abed Rabbo said Amal, aged two and Suad, seven, were killed by fire from the soldier’s semi-automatic rifle. His third daughter, Samer, four, has been evacuated to intensive care in a Belgian hospital after suffering critical spinal injuries which he said were inflicted in the attack early in Israel’s ground offensive.
Mr Abed Rabbo stood near the wreckage off his subsequently destroyed home on the eastern edge of the northern Gaza town of Jabalya yesterday and described how a tank had parked outside the building at 12.50pm on 7 January and ordered the family in Arabic through a megaphone to leave building. He said his 60-year-old mother had also been shot at as she left waving her white headscarf with her son, daughter in law and her three grandchildren.
“Two soldiers were on the tank eating chips, then one man came out of the tank with a rifle and started shooting the kids,” Mr Abed Rabbo, who receives a salary as a policeman from the Fatah-dominated Palestinian Authority in Ramallah said. The family say they think the weapon used by the soldier was an M16 and that the first to be shot was Amal. Mr Abed Rabbo said that Suad was then shot with what he claimed were 12 bullets, and then Samer.
The soldier who fired the rifle had what Mr Abed Rabbo thought were ringlets visible below his helmet, he said. The small minority of ultra-Orthodox Jews who serve in the army are in a unit which did not take part in the Gaza offensive and only a very small number of settlers who also favour that hairstyle serve in other units.
It has so far been impossible independently to verify Mr Abed Rabbo’s claim and the military said last night Israeli Defence Forces “does not target civilians, only Hamas terrorists and infrastructure”. It added: “The IDF is investigating various claims made with regard to Operation Cast Lead and at the end of its investigation will respond accordingly.”
The district is named Abed Rabbo after the clan who live in most of it. The dense concrete roof of the house now hangs at more at more than a 45-degree angle, and at least three other substantial buildings have been flattened in the agricultural, semi-rural immediate neighbourhood. Khaled Abed Rabbo said that there had been a delay before the ambulance could reach the building because the road from the west had been made impassable by the churning of the tanks.
The soldiers had in the end let the family leave on foot, he said. He added that they walked two kilometres before finding a vehicle to take them to Kamal Adwan Hospital. He said: “I carried Suad, who was dead, my wife carried Amal and my brother Ibrahim carried Samer.”
He added: “We are not Hamas. My children were not Hamas. And if they were going to shoot anyone it should have been me.” He added: “I want the international community and the International Red Cross to ask Israel why it has done this to us. They talk about democracy but is it democracy to kill children? What did the kids do to them? What did my house do to them? They destroyed my life?
Gaza City is showing signs of returning to a form of normality as more shops reopen. The offices of the main Palestinian telephone company Jawwal reopened though this has not eased severe problems of connectivity on the Palestinian mobile network.
Some Hamas policemen were back directing traffic, though in smaller numbers than before the offensive. Unconfirmed figures are that 270 Hamas policemen were killed, mainly in the air attacks during the first week. In a victory rally in Gaza city yesterday, Hamas supporters converged on a square near the remains of the bombed parliament building..
‘Heartbreaking’: The ugly face of war
The UN secretary general, looking distressed, described the devastation of Gaza as “heartbreaking” on a visit to the area yesterday after the 22-day Israeli assault.
“I have seen only a fraction of the destruction,” said Ban Ki-moon, as he stood in front of a UN warehouse set on fire by Israeli shells last Thursday. “This is shocking and alarming. These are heartbreaking scenes I have seen and I am deeply grieved by what I have seen today.” he said.
Mr Ban demanded a full investigation into the Israeli shelling of the UN Relief and Works Agency compound. UN officials say the compound, still smouldering yesterday, was targeted by white phosphorus munitions which are not supposed to be used in densely populated areas because of the harm to civilians. Mr Ban said the Israeli attacks on UNRWA headquarters and two UN schools in Gaza, one of which killed 40 sheltering Palestinians, were “outrageous”.
Amnesty International said Israel’s repeated use of the munitions despite evidence of their indiscriminate effects and harm to civilians “is a war crime”. The Israeli army has launched an investigation but says Hamas fighters operate from densely populated areas, and used UN buildings as cover for attacks.
Mr Ban said: “It has been especially troubling and heartbreaking for me as secretary general that I couldn’t end this faster,” he said. He urged Israel and Hamas to “exercise maximum restraint and nurture the ceasefire”.
They should get statements from as many Palestinians as they can.
They hold the truth. Their truth must be told and those responsible must be held responsible.
UN wants all Gaza borders opened
By EDITH M. LEDERER
January 21 2009
U.N. humanitarian chief John Holmes said Tuesday he’s heading to Gaza. A top priority will be to get all border crossings opened, he said, not only for food and medicine but for desperately needed construction materials which Israel has refused to allow in since Hamas seized power in June 2007.
He said “it’s absolutely critical” that cement, pipes and other building materials are “unbanned” by Israel and allowed into Gaza to start rebuilding the war-ravaged Palestinian territory.
“Otherwise, the reconstruction effort won’t get off first base,” Holmes said.
Holmes, who expects to arrive in Israel on Wednesday, told a news conference he will also be pressing Israeli authorities to allow humanitarian staff from international organizations into Gaza.
“In theory, they have permission,” he said. “In practice, it’s proving very difficult to get into Gaza.”
Holmes said Monday that hundreds of millions of dollars in humanitarian aid will be needed immediately to help Gaza’s 1.4 million people and billions of dollars will be required to rebuild its shattered buildings and infrastructure.
Israel launched the war on Dec. 27 in an effort to halt years of militant rocket fire by Hamas on its southern communities and arms smuggling into Gaza. The Israeli government declared a cease-fire that went into effect early Sunday, and hours later, Hamas agreed to silence its guns, too. Israel had withdrawn the bulk of its forces from Gaza by Tuesday evening, ahead of the inauguration of U.S. President Barack Obama, but the temporary cease-fire remained shaky.
Holmes said Tuesday the U.N. is “trying to ramp up the humanitarian efforts in Gaza,” and while some trucks and fuel are getting into Gaza, the number remains small and “very inadequate” compared to the number of trucks allowed in before Hamas seized power.
“We need more food, wheat grain in particular both for the humanitarian food distribution and for local bakeries,” Holmes said.
Gaza also needs continuing supplies of fuel for its power plant, for hospital generators and for bakeries to bake bread, he said.
Holmes said a lasting and durable cease-fire and the reopening of all border crossings are essential to get humanitarian aid, commercial goods and construction materials into Gaza.
The temporary cease-fire doesn’t include an agreement on the opening of border crossings, he noted.
“There’s a lot of talk about it but it doesn’t exist yet. So that’s one of the points I’m very keen to pursue when I go there myself later this week,” Holmes said.
Under an Egyptian-French initiative being discussed, the temporary cease-fire would be followed by separate talks with Israel and Hamas on a permanent cease-fire in which weapons smuggling routes into Gaza would shut down with international help. Discussions on opening Gaza’s blockaded border crossings would take place at a later date.
Holmes said construction materials “were effectively to virtually 100 percent banned from entering into Gaza since the Hamas takeover in 2007, which meant even before these hostilities a lot of humanitarian projects which had been planned were not able to be completed.”
He cited the repair of Gaza’s sewage system, which was further damaged in the latest conflict, as an example.
“So it’s absolutely critical that these kind of materials now be allowed into Gaza on a regular … basis … without too much bureaucracy,” Holmes said. “That is something we need to pursue with the Israeli authorities to make sure they are doing that, and that’s one of the things we’ll be pursuing.”
John Ging, head of Gaza operations for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency which helps Palestinian refugees, said that when Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon visited the seriously damaged UNRWA office in Gaza City on Tuesday, representatives of Gaza civic organizations told him the cycle of violence in the territory must end, “even in terms of building.”
They want to make sure that “what is built now will remain standing because many of the buildings that have been destroyed _ the ministry buildings, other vital infrastructure here _ they were built with international money in the last 15 years, and now they’re piles of rubble,” he said.
“What a waste of money,” Ging said. “We unfortunately now have to put money back into building that should be going into further development.”
Just added January 22. More war crimes in Haiti compliments of US funding. Haiti: War Crimes and Oil