From Gaza, with Love

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Amnesty International Delegate Visits Scene of Gaza killings

Wednesday November 08, 2006
Amnesty International Delegate Visits Scene of Gaza
Killings



Those killed, most of whom were asleep in their beds
when their homes were struck by shells fired by
Israeli forces, included eight children.



(Press release, 11/08/2006) - The killing this morning
of 18 civilians in the Palestinian town of Beit
Hanoun, victims of Israeli shelling, was an appalling
act, Amnesty International said today. The
organization called for an immediate, independent
investigation and for those responsible to be held
accountable. It said previous Israeli investigations,
such as that carried out into the killings of a
Palestinian family on a beach in the Gaza Strip last
June, had been seriously inadequate and failed to meet
international standards for such investigations, which
must be independent, impartial and thorough.

Those killed, most of whom were asleep in their beds
when their homes were struck by shells fired by
Israeli forces, included eight children. An Amnesty
International delegate who visited the scene of the
killings shortly after the attack was told that 15 of
the victims were killed in the first strike and that
three others were killed by a second shell as they
raced to help the dead and injured.

“This terrible act follows a renewed upsurge in
killings of Palestinians since Israel forces launched
their latest military operation into the Gaza Strip on
2 November,“ said Malcolm Smart, Director of Amnesty
International’s Middle East and North Africa
programme. “Israeli actions during this entire
operation have been marked by nothing less than
reckless disregard for the lives of Palestinian
civilians, over 20 of whom had been killed even before
this morning’s tragedy.”

In all, before today’s deaths, more than 53
Palestinians were killed during the Israeli military
siege of Beit Hanoun in the northern Gaza Strip, and
many more were wounded. Two ambulance workers were
among the civilians killed. Dubbed “Autumn clouds”by
the Israeli army, the operation began on 2 November
and continued until 7 November when Israeli forces
redeployed outside the town. Israeli authorities said
they mounted the operation in an attempt to prevent
Palestinian armed groups firing home-made Qassem
rockets at Israeli towns and villages near to the Gaza
Strip. Most of the dead were killed in Beit Hanoun,
which was kept under siege throughout the six days,
but others were killed as a result of Israeli military
strikes in the surrounding area.

Amnesty International condemns all attacks on unarmed
civilians and is calling on the Israeli authorities to
establish independent investigations into every
incident in which Palestinian civilians were killed or
injured by Israeli forces, and to bring to justice
those responsible for human rights violations.

As Israeli forces began their siege of Beit Hanoun,
one senior officer, Lieutenant Colonel Yarom, said
that troops had been instructed to avoid causing
civilian casualties. Four days into the operation, in
face of a rising toll of deaths and injuries among
Palestinian civilians, Israel’s Prime Minister Ehud
Olmert declared: “Those Palestinians who have been
wounded were mostly armed, but, to our regret, they
are using innocent people as human shields, resulting
in the injury of uninvolved civilians as well”.

The information gathered by Amnesty International
delegates currently in the Gaza Strip contradicts
this, however, and indicates that at least half of
those killed, including at least two women and several
children, were unarmed bystanders not involved in the
confrontations. The pattern is the same for those
injured as a result of Israeli force air strikes and
artillery shelling.

Those killed or injured as a result of Israeli attacks
include:

Ramzi al-Ashrafi, 16, was killed and seven other
children were injured on the morning of 6 November
when an Israeli shell exploded close by the bus on
which they were travelling to school along a busy road
between Beit Lahia and Jabalya, north of Gaza City.
Najwa Khleif, a 20-year-old teacher who was also in
the bus, sustained severe brain injuries. Doctors
treating her in the intensive care unit of Gaza City’s
main hospital told Amnesty International that she was
in critical condition. The bus was hit apparently in a
failed strike by Israeli forces on a vehicle believed
to belong to a Palestinian armed group. However, the
attack was carried out at a busy intersection during
the morning rush hour, when it could be expected that
the streets would be busy with adults and children
making their way to work and school. The shell which
killed Ramzi al-Ashrafi and injured others in the
school bus, fell near a kindergarten although,
fortunately, without causing further deaths or
injuries there.

Ala’ Mansour al-Khdeir, an 11-year-old girl, one of
two children who were wounded by Israeli fire on 4
November when they were returning home from a morning
at school in Beit Lahia. She was struck by a bullet
which entered the left side of her head and travelled
to the left side of her neck, where it remains lodged,
and remains seriously ill. Her mother told Amnesty
International that Ala’was near home in the Sayafa
area of north-west Gaza, an area where there has been
frequent Israeli army shelling in recent days, when
she was wounded. The other child, a boy, was also
seriously injured.

Ibtisam Masoud, 44, was killed and ten other women,
including Tahrir Shahin, a 37-year-old mother of
seven, were injured by Israeli fire during a women’s
demonstration on the morning of 3 November at the
entrance of Beit Hanoun. Tahrir Shahin, whose leg had
to be amputated, told Amnesty International from her
hospital bed in Gaza city that she and other women
were unarmed and standing less than 100 meters from
the Israeli tanks which fired at them: “Ours was a
peaceful demonstration, we were all women, there were
no men, no militants, no weapons. We were just women
standing in front of tanks. We did not think the
Israeli soldiers would shoot us, but they fired
indiscriminately”.

Heba Rajab, 20, a volunteer with the Palestinian
Centre for Democracy and Conflict Resolution, and
Sou’ad Abu Najem, 43, a mother of eight, both
sustained serious gunshot wounds to their legs and
hands in the same incident. They said they had seen
Israeli soldiers taking aim at the women demonstrators
from the tops of their tanks. The women were
demonstrating in response to a call by a Hamas party
member of the Palestinian parliament to help break the
siege by Israeli forces of a mosque in which members
of Palestinian armed groups were reported to be
sheltering, surrounded by Israeli forces. However, the
women were shot before they could approach the mosque.

Ahmad al-Madhoun, 42, and Mustapha Habib, 26, both
volunteer emergency ambulance workers with the
Palestinian Red Crescent Society (PRCS), and a third
man who was assisting them, were killed in an Israeli
air strike on the evening of 3 November as they were
evacuating the body of a man killed in an earlier air
strike. Iyad Yousef Abu al-Ful, the ambulance driver
accompanying them, told Amnesty International: “Ahmad
and Mustapha were about 20 meters from the ambulance
and were about to load the body of a dead man on the
stretcher; I had just got out of the ambulance and was
beginning to move towards them when a missile struck
at the spot where they were. I got back into the
ambulance and called for help. I cannot get out of my
mind the sight of my colleagues killed while they were
doing their duty”. The medical rescue team was in an
open field near Beit Lahia. It was dark but the
ambulance should have been clearly visible from the
emergency light on its roof. The other victim had
directed the ambulance crew to the body of his friend,
who had been killed earlier in unclear circumstances.

Palestinian ambulances have been frequently attacked
and dozens have been hit by Israeli strikes in recent
years. During the siege of Beit Hanoun, emergency
rescue workers faced increased obstacles and delays in
carrying out their duties due to the virtually
continuous curfew imposed by Israeli forces. Israeli
tanks controlled the access to Beit Hanoun hospital
and delayed the passage of ambulances in and out of
the hospital, as well as into and out of the town.

Zahir Mustapha Shabat, 32, was shot and seriously
injured and his cousin, Mazen Shabat, was killed by
Israeli soldiers in the evening of 4 November when
they were returning home after they had both been
released from three days’ detention by the Israeli
army. He told Amnesty International from his hospital
bed, shortly after he was moved from the intensive
care unit: "After three days in detention the soldiers
released us and gave us a paper, which they said we
could show if we got stopped by other soldiers on our
way home, about 1.5 to 2 km from the place where we
were detained. They told us that they had coordinated
with the tanks in the area and that we would have safe
passage home but when we got about 150 meters from my
house soldiers jumped out of the house of one of my
relatives and fired on me and my cousin, Mazen,
Shabat. Mazen was killed and I was seriously injured
in the abdomen and back."

-For interviews, please contact Amnesty
International's researcher Donatella Rovera in Gaza on
+970 599 446 703 or +44 7771 796 091, or Amnesty
International's Middle East and North Africa press
officer Nicole Choueiry on +44 7831 640 170

3 Comments:

  • Hi & Salam,

    may God bless you all.
    you're in my thoughts & prayers.
    i'm sad that i don't know what to do to help you. but I know God can. Amen.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11/09/2006 2:08 PM  

  • MY GOD Mona .. what can I say in the face of this immense horror .. what can I say to comfort, what to do to help? All I can do is give you a BIG hug and assure you, we are with you ALL, supporting you, spreading the truth the best we can ... and crying bitter tears with you! It does hurt each and every one of us to the bone ...
    May Allah take the souls of the brutally murdered straight to jannah!
    WE LOVE YOU dear - hang in there and be strong! WE send you strength so that YOU can pass it on to the people!!
    Another BIG HUG is on the way!! :-)

    By Blogger I love Munich, at 11/09/2006 9:39 PM  

  • I condemn the U.S. veto of the U.N. resolution regarding Israel's actions in Gaza. I wish you peace.

    By Blogger Joanna, at 11/12/2006 10:32 PM  

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