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Middle East
Shelled family recounts Gaza horror
Survivors of Israeli shelling that left 30 people dead relive their ordeal.
Last Modified: 12 Jan 2009 17:13 GMT

Ahmed Samouni survived the shelling of his Zeitoun home,
but lost his mother and four brothers

Ahmed Samouni, who was left for days amidst the dead bodies of his mother and four brothers, witnessed what many are calling a massacre.

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 in between sobs.

"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."

On January 7, paramedics finally brought the dead and injured to hospital, after they had spent four days trapped in their home in the Zeitoun neighbourhood.

'Israeli shelling'

According to the survivors' accounts, partly corroborated by the International Red Cross and the United Nations, Israeli soldiers raided their homes and then moved the extended family together into one house.

The following day, shells and missiles fired by the Israeli military fell around the house.

"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 tomatoes 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."

'War crimes'

Al Jazeera tried to reach the family's house in Zeitoun but it was not safe.

The closest anyone can get is about 1km away, and journalists, paramedics and aid workers need Israeli army permission to get to the area.

"We only went into five homes, there are other homes in the area and I am sure there are more dead in these houses"

Raed el-Heleky,
paramedic

Zeitoun is only one neighbourhood where Israeli ground forces are operating.

The Red Cross says there are many more homes in other areas where people are probably dead or injured inside.

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 has said that the Samouni family's story sounds as though it has many elements of a war crime.

However, Mark Regev, an Israeli government spokesman, denied that Israeli troops had moved the family and suggested the story could be Hamas "propaganda".

"I would urge a certain amount of caution, we know that the Hamas regime in Gaza is cvery careful what they want to get out and this is the sort of story that fits into their propaganda ambitions," he told Al Jazeera.

"We have no information on this particular incident, we are not aware of it."

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.

Source:
Al Jazeera
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