In November 2006 a horrible war crime was committed in the Gaza Strip by Israeli army. The operation was not directed to some militants who were heading to fight Israel, but for an extended poor family! A nearby military operation was running by the same army in which they bulldozed farms, crushed cars and uprooted trees and streets. I remember the place of action as well as every single detail. I want to tell you again what has happened as I am encouraged, but not satisfied by what Archbishop Desmond Tutu said after his visit of investigation to Gaza. He was too late to investigate a massacre after 2 years, but it’s better than nothing! He stigmatized Israel indirectly and held her responsible for that offense on civilians.
“In the absence of a well-founded explanation from the Israeli military – which is in sole possession of the relevant facts – the mission must conclude that there is a possibility that the shelling of Beit Hanoun constituted a war crime,” Tutu said in his report to the 47-member council.
Tutu also said that rockets fired by Palestinian militants into southern Israel should stop and should be investigated. “Those firing rockets on Israeli civilians are no less accountable than the Israeli military for their actions,” he said.
“It is not too late for an independent, impartial and transparent investigation of the shelling to be held,” Tutu said.
After the incident, Israel’s military said the shelling into Beit Hanoun that day was a mistake and was the result of a “rare and severe failure in the artillery fire-control system” which created “incorrect range-findings”. It said the shells had been aimed 450 meters away from the edge of town. No legal action was taken against any officer. However, it is unclear why the artillery was fired so close to a residential area that morning and why shells continued to be fired after the first one hit the Athamna house.
Full story of Tutu’s report:
The investigation helped me to remember what I have witnessed that day. I went there quickly and I saw a slaughter. Blood was on walls, houses, streets and all over the place. The smell of Israeli weapons was mixed with blood and burned flesh of children and old people. Women, men, old people and children were lamenting and weeping. Around 18 civilians were killed that day in addition to injuring many others. Those who remained alive have either lost their limps or suffered other severe injuries by the hit.
A friend of mine, M.A, has written a story and a testimony of that day. Below are some accounts of her story. To be more authenticated I have brought you a unique collection of photos from another friend, N. L. For me, it was not appropriate to let this story remain silent. I had to revive this horrific account again because so many people have not heard of it, nor informed correctly of the slaughter. It is time that people see what is really going on, how lives are destroyed, pain endured and hopefully by reading M.A.’s article, people will awaken from their slumber, empathize with those suffering and begin to learn, seek further information on this genocide and take more humanitarian steps towards resolution and ending suffering.
Accounts and witness
“We entered the street; house number 71 has a sad story as well as all other houses in the area. It is the house of Basem Al Kafarnah. He was killed at his own doorstep while he was screaming calling for an ambulance for the injured who were thrown all over the street. Basem is a father for 5 little girls, the eldest of them is 7 years old and the mother is a bout to give birth to her 6th baby. We are not sure that when she delivers her baby she can also download her sadness and wounds on the loss of her lover, who left her alone; a prey for her pains and fears over her 6 weak children who rely on Allah and then her for support.
Basem fell down here, the shell destroyed the entrance of the house and broken the inner walls. Should you see the photo of Basem, you will surly know that he doesn’t need a shell of that size to take his life away and to bury the dreams of his children. The scene ended here, or may be it has jut began; five children who did not yet realize the true meaning of life, but gulped the bitterness of death and lived it with every tiny detail and lineament.
The next house belongs to Mrs. Ne’ma Al Athamnah. She was killed with her daughter Sana’. They both were widows and they were the only remaining hope for their orphans. Now the hope is buried with those who were buried. Nehad, Mrs. Nema’s daughter in law was also killed, and her four children were all injured and three of them are still lying in hospitals after they lost some of their limps.
Umayh, the daughter of Mrs. Ne’ma was also injured she lost a leg and the other was smashed while her hand was broken and she is undergoing treatment in Egypt. Her husband Sameer Mas’oud Al Athamnah was killed and they left behind a very lovely and cute little girl called Malak (Angel). This pretty angel was attacked by splinters on that bloody day which refused to leave her alone, but left its ugly stamp on here face. It could not go away without leaving a token on the innocent body.
Iyad the son of Mrs. Ne’ma has injuries to both his legs and he may never be able to walk again. His wife Inas is still at hospital recovering from her wounds and burns, Pray to Allah for her to overcome her nervous breakdown, as her son Ahmed has a critical injury in his head, may Allah save him.
And so and so
A severed leg here…..
A chopped hand there…..
Slivers in a head……
A group of women gathered around me each of them is trying to tell her piece of the story, which rived them all in pieces, they thrown it all at us, to bring it together.
Nisreen, Nem’a’s daughter said “My mother, Manal and Fatima Mas’oud the three of them turned to piles of burnet and torn flesh. We collected what’s left of them from the walls, doors and tree leaves, and then put them in buckets carrying their names. We recognized them from pieces of their clothes which were stuck to their burned flesh.” And that’s how they left.
The scene is not over yet ladies and gentleman and I believe it will never come to an end.
We moved to the next house, expecting new tale or tales. The stories sounded similar, but the amount of death in each story was different.
A sandy path separates the houses of the brothers Sa’d and Mas’oud Al Athamnah from that of their cousin. Nine shells fell over the house, yes nine; this is not a misprint or a slip of the pen.
Take notes please, ladies and gentlemen:
The first shell struck the house between the second and third floors and its victims were the grandmother, Fatima Al Athamnah 78, her son Mas’oud 52, his son Samir Mas’oud 23, his daughter Fatima 18 and his second wife Sabah 40. No it is not only the names and ages of those who departed, it is not a simple question, and it is rather a real tragedy where blood was mixed with the burnt flesh and the crushed bones. So please don’t pass by the names simply as these people were alive one day. Yes, they were living a simple life, but the last moments of their life were catastrophic. They died in a savage way that did not befit their life style.
They didn’t leave peacefully, they screamed, and called for help, tried to escape the perfidy of the savage tool, which kept going after them until it pulled their souls away ruthlessly. It turned them into pieces and deprived them the peace of the last moments.
When the rest of the thirty residents heard the explosion of the first shell, they hurried up to the street or that sandy path if you still can remember it, yes, and there a new chapter of the tragedy was recorded. The shill hit the wall of the second floor and exploded into burning slivers to harvest the souls of all those who were in the street, escaping the death which insisted to follow them. Blazing iron polluted with radiant substances dissolved the flesh, and with it dissolved every nice memory in the heads of those who remained a live. The shell harvested the souls of Mohammed 16, Mahdi 17, and Arafat 18 the sons of Sa’d and Hayat Al Athamnah. Mrs. Hayat was standing beside us, firm as a rock while telling the story of the departure of her children.
“I saw Mahdi, his head was wide open and I could see his brain lying to his side. I called him, but received no answer, so I said, may Allah rest your soul. I then saw my son Mohammed. His body was burned out and deformed and I called him, but only silence answered me, so I said may Allah rest your soul.
I ran out from the shelling to a nearby allay, there I found my son Arafat, he was in half a body and the lower half was completely ruptured and his guts were dangling on the ground. I said Arafat, my baby, sweetheart, go with your brothers, they have all left, he pulled his head up and looked at himself then he started collecting his flesh and put in on what remained of his abdomen.
Yes, he was a live and looking at me. He then passed away in the hospital.
Many meanings vanished inside me….they were getting smaller and smaller, while Mrs. Hayat was telling her story. The words sadness and pain were devoid from their meaning and words like patience and faith declined in front of this indescribable lady.
She continued talking constantly …. The shelling continued… Another shell pulled out the soul of her grandson Mahmoud Majdi Al Athamnah 12. The shell stroke the balcony of the room where he was sleeping in the fourth floor. Another one broken into from the roof, they both gathered on the tiny body and the canine of death extracted him from his worm bed along with his cousin Ahmed, 10. I’m sure that the same question occurred to you, since when the soft bodies need tons of iron to harvest them!!!!!
Another shell….and another. The new victim is Manal, the wife of Ramiz Mas’oud, 26. She was killed with her two daughters, Maysa’, 9 months and Maram, 3 years, but their brother Abdullah is still at the hospital as he lost his left hand. Mrs. Hayat said “We found the head of Maram at the entrance of the path and the body was at its end”
If you are still with us, please keep going. This is the home of Mohammed Al Athamnah, the cousin of Sa’d and Mas’oud Al Athamnah. He rushed up to call for ambulances, but he had very little time to do any thing. Instead, the ambulances carried his dead body as the perfidious shells followed him, leaving behind 5 little buds, I mean kids.
Another chapter of the tragic day… Mrs. Hayat began to count the injuries; her husband and their son Abdul Mohaymen are lying at hospitals in Egypt in critical situation. They are injured in the back and nick and many slivers still inhabit their bodies. The hand of her grandson Mohammed was cut off and remained there on the ground of the horrible sandy path long before somebody took it to its final abode. Hayat said “I saw the hand of Mohammed on the floor. I recognized it from his watch, which was warped around it; it was also carrying a mobile phone and a hand bag.”
Samah A. Habeeb, B.A.
Photojournalist & Peace Activist
Humanitarian, Child Relief Worker
Gaza Strip, Palestine