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"We see women and children carrying white flags looking for food” – Israeli soldier

Palestinians stand inside their home in the Jabalya refugee camp 02 March 2008, damaged during an Israeli incursion and airstrikes which left about 115 Palestinians dead in Gaza over five days.
(Wissam Nassar/IRIN)

As the Israeli operation in Gaza entered its 13th day, human rights NGOs in Israel began collecting testimonies over the phone from Gazans. 

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Sarit Michaeli, a spokesperson for Israeli NGO Betselem, told IRIN on 7 January: “We collect testimonies over the phone; [but] it is becoming increasingly hard to reach Gazans by phone. Our staff keep going at it.”

Casualties in Gaza are now estimated at at least 683 killed, according to the Gaza ministry of health; some 3,085 have been wounded.

On 6 January, the Israeli authorities allowed a brief testimony of an Israeli army officer in Gaza to be aired on public radio: “The situation in Gaza is grim; we see women and children carrying white flags looking for food, it will take years to rehabilitate [Gaza]”, he said.

Dan Magen from Israeli NGO Physicians for Human Rights asked the defence minister to open a humanitarian corridor and allow wounded Gazans into hospitals in Israel. But he told IRIN: “This is too little. Opening a humanitarian corridor without letting the wounded into Israel is only a move to help Israel’s public image.”

Three-hour bombing reprieve

Nael Shaeth, a 40-year-old father of four, told IRIN by phone from Nasr neighbourhood in central Gaza: “I heard about this three-hour cessation of [Israeli] bombing from a friend who called me two hours ago. But I did not feel anything because three hours might pass without hearing anything [bombing]. This is when the attacks are taking place in another area. I did not sense an increase in the people’s movement in the streets. Probably they did not hear about this as almost everyone is disconnected from the outside world. There is no electricity to watch TV or listen to the radio. Even batteries are rare in the market these days.”

Shaeth added: “I think people will go out if they need to, regardless of whether there is a cessation of bombing. I was outside fetching water when I heard about this. I guess the news will circulate very quickly and will be of more interest to people if electricity is back.”

Bombed out

Typical of the testimonies collected by Betselem is that of Abdallah Tawfiq Hamdan Kashku, a 44-year-old policeman with four children and a resident of Gaza City.

“My family lives in a three-storey house in al-Zeitun, Gaza City. On Sunday [28 December], around 7pm, I was sitting with nine members of my family around a bonfire in the yard. It was cold, and we didn't have electricity to heat the house. I turned on the generator to turn on the light. Then we heard the sound of planes in the sky. I heard a buzz and within a few seconds, I found myself under the rubble. I didn't know what happened to me or to my family. I began to cry for help. The smoke was thick. I couldn’t see any of my family, who had been sitting with me a few moments earlier.

“It took a few moments before I realised the house had collapsed because of the bomb. Neighbours rushed to pull us from the rubble. People took my family to the hospital, some by car and some by ambulance. I was taken to al-Shifa Hospital where the doctors treated me. I was slightly wounded in the leg. I asked my relatives and the doctors where the rest of my family was. They told me my wife had a broken pelvis and that the others had suffered light wounds but that they hadn’t found my little daughter, Ibtihal. I felt horrible, worrying so much about her.

“Early the next morning, my brothers went home to look for Ibtihal. They looked under the ruins and found her body in the kitchen on the second floor.

“Our house was in a quiet area. I don’t think there are military targets in the area. We don’t have relatives or neighbours who are wanted. I am still in shock. In a few minutes, the life of my family was turned completely upside down.”


This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions

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