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Gaza: Witness to a Massacre
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Wael Samouni, 32, vegetable stall holder: "We were sitting and suddenly there was bombing on our house and everyone started to run. There were three rockets. I have no idea where they came from. I looked to my side, took hold of my boy Mohammad and I started to run. As I ran I looked back and saw on the floor my mother, two cousins and three of my children. All dead. It's a massacre. I'm 32 years old and I've never seen such things as this. I couldn't help myself or any of those around me. We just want to live in peace."
Nael Samouni, 36. His wife and daughter had been in Wael's house at the time of the shelling. Both were killed: "I wanted to go and join them the night before, but it was too dangerous to go out. If anyone moved he would be shot. Then when I heard the bombing this morning I saw people running. I saw an injured man fall to the ground. I ran to help, but there was an Israeli sniper in the house next door who shouted: 'Leave him alone.' We couldn't rescue anyone."
Ahmed Samouni, 16: “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. My brother was bleeding so much and right in front of my eyes he died. My other brother Ismail, he also bled to death. My mum and my youngest brother, they are gone. Four brothers and my mother, dead. May God give them peace."
Mohamed el-Halby, a paramedic: “On the day we got permission to rescue them, the army told us to leave the ambulances around two kilometres from the house. So we walked and all around us we could see they had bulldozed 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.”
Raed el-Heleky, paramedic: ”We saw people lying dead on the streets. 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.”
Mohammed Shaheen, a volunteer with Palestinian Red Crescent: "Inside the Samouni house I saw about ten bodies and outside another sixty. I was not able to count them accurately because there was not much time and we were looking for wounded people. We found fifteen people still alive but injured so we took them in the ambulances. I could see an Israeli army bulldozer knocking down houses nearby but we ran out of time and the Israeli soldiers started shooting at us. We had to leave about eight injured people behind because we could not get to them and it was no longer safe for us to stay.'
Ahmed Samouni: ”We were put in an ambulance, but there were still people inside the house, dead and injured. For days we all bled. We were so hungry; I remember giving my brother Isaac a tomato to eat before he died.”
Ahmed Ibrahim Samouni, 13, 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.”
Ahmad al-Samouni, 23 religious studies teacher: “"One shell hit the door, killing my cousin Muhammad immediately. One shell, I believe it was from an Apache, hit the ceiling. Then another shell and another. I could only recognise my mother Rahmeh from her clothes and earrings because part of her head was gone.”
One of the infants was the five-year-old daughter of his cousin Salah. "Her last words were 'Baba, Baba' and she died. She was hit in the head.”
Maysaa, 19, a mother: “When the smoke began to clear, I looked around and saw between 20 and 30 bodies, and 20 wounded. The dead included my husband Tawfiq and my father-in-law Rashed, who was hit in the head and whose brain was on the floor, and a five-month-old baby whose whole brain was outside his body.”
Maysaa says she escaped with her daughter and brother-in-law to the house of an uncle. There she found at least 40 Israeli soldiers and about 30 Palestinians. Some of them were blindfolded. The soldiers administered first aid to Maysaa and her daughter before releasing them, but, she says, said they would keep Musa and his uncle "in case Hamas came". She adds: "I understood that they intended to use them as human shields."
Wael Samouni, later, in the hospital, talking about his 6 year old son, Abdullah, who survived. Wael had thought he was dead: “I didn’t know what to do, I still don’t…look at him he is so ill, they are all terrified. He cries all the time. His shoulder is hurt and it has infection but he can’t 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.”
The Israeli military denies targeting any buildings in the area and says it never forcibly gathers civilians in a specific building. It investigated the incident but no soldiers were ever prosecuted.
Compiled from interviews conducted by The Guardian, the Telegraph, the Independent and Al Jazeera.
- Israel closes inquiry into Palestinian family killed during Gaza war | World news | theguardian.com
Military says no action will be taken against soldiers responsible for shelling that killed 21 members of the Samouni family in 2009