The story of the samouni family

bengalraider

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This is a story that is being widely reported in the Israeli and Palestinian media today ,this is a story about a family that has become the face of Palestinian loss in the goldstone report. This more than any other shows the carnage that was inflicted upon the Palestinian population by the Israeli winter offensive. This family lost 29 loved ones in one attack. i am posting these reports from the Israeli owned Haartez newspaper , My condolences to those who still live through this hell and to the dead i can only say rest in peace , your lives were cut short unfairly but your deaths are being remembered.
Story 1 Source:Death in the Samouni compound - Haaretz - Israel News
Death in the Samouni Compound
The Samouni family of Gaza has, to its great misfortune, become one of the best-known families in the world, one that is identified more than any other with the January 2009 onslaught on Gaza. Twenty-nine members of the family were killed on January 4 and 5, the first two days of the ground assault. Two of them, about which this reporter wrote two weeks ago - Atiyeh and his 4-year-old son Ahmed - were killed in their home; 21 were killed in a single building at the same time, and another six were killed separately, in different circumstances.

From eyewitness accounts submitted to human rights researchers and journalists, some in real time and others immediately after the forces left Gaza, suspicions arose that the IDF killed people in or near their homes even after it became fully aware that they were civilians; prevented the rescue of the wounded and the arrival of ambulances for several days; used civilians as human shields in a building seized for military purposes; and fired at a convoy of people escaping (and forbade evacuation of a wounded and handcuffed person, who bled to death).

According to the IDF Spokesman's Office, operational echelons within the IDF have been examining "for several months" allegations regarding the killing of the 29 members of the Samouni family. "It should be stressed that the event is divided into a long series of specific claims that relate to different times and places," the IDF spokesman stated. "When the examination is completed, the findings will be presented to the Military Advocate General, who will decide on the need to take additional steps."

An anonymous military source told Haaretz that "whereas the early reports lacked many substantive details essential for a serious clarification of the allegations ... subsequent petitions that were received were much more detailed."

The Samouni compound covers a predominantly agricultural area of 69 dunams (17 acres) in the Zeitoun neighborhood of southeastern Gaza City. About 34 of the buildings and huts there (most of which belong to the extended Samouni family, some to other families) were scattered between hothouses, orchards, chicken coops and a few workshops. Upon its departure, the IDF destroyed 24 buildings in the neighborhood, uprooted orchards and destroyed chicken coops and hothouses.

The IDF had deployed on foot in the compound early in the morning on Sunday, January 4, after firing for several hours at the neighborhood's buildings from all directions. Residents living on Salah a-Din Road testified that they noticed soldiers that night lowering themselves out of a helicopter onto the roof of a neighborhood building. Tanks did not enter the Samouni compound.

The following is part of a reconstruction of events that Haaretz has passed on to the IDF Spokesman's Office for its response. It is based on eyewitness accounts taken by Haaretz from survivors and on findings of the Palestinian Center for Human Rights and of B'Tselem.

1. January 4, 2009, 5:30 A.M.: Nidal Samouni, 33, tries to offer aid and to rescue two injured persons in the field near his home on the eastern edge of the neighborhood. He is shot and killed. (Apparently the two were Palestinian fighters.)

2. As a result of the gunfire, a fire breaks out on the upper story of the tallest building in the neighborhood - the home of Talal Samouni (51) and his children and grandchildren. The fire is extinguished. Relatives who live in asbestos buildings nearby flee to Talal's home.

3. 6 A.M.: Soldiers break into the home of Talal's brother Atiyeh, 46. (This reporter wrote two weeks ago how he was killed with his young son.)

4. January 4, 6:30 A.M.: An IDF force takes control of the home of the Asa'ad Samouni family (a few hundred meters east of Atiyeh's house) and turns it into an army position (one of six in the neighborhood). A few dozen civilians remain in the house.

5. The family of the slain Atiyeh Samouni flees to a nearby house.

6. January 4, 8 A.M.: Salah Samouni departs the home of his father Talal and brings his infant son to the home of Wael Samouni, which seems safer because it is not being fired upon. As he leaves, he discerns three soldiers about 40 meters from Wael's house. They are wearing broad-brimmed hats with nets on them. At first, he thinks they are Palestinian fighters, as he did not expect to see Israeli soldiers walking in the neighborhood. He concludes that they feel safe because there are no armed Palestinians nearby.

7. The soldiers inspect him (pull up his shirt, pull down his pants). He speaks with an officer and tells him the shooting frightens the children. When one of the soldiers starts to act rudely, the officer hushes him. The officer assures Salah that there will be no gunfire. For an hour and a half, there is no gunfire at the house. Everyone is pleased that it is possible to speak with the soldiers and that they listen to civilians.

8. Approximately 10 A.M.: Soldiers lead the neighboring Rashad Samouni family to Talal's house.

9. Walid, 17, the son of Rashad, descends to the ground floor, where the animal feed is kept. Upon seeing the soldiers, he panics and begins to flee. He is shot and killed.

10. 11 A.M. to noon: Soldiers demand that all the people gathered in Talal Samouni's home evacuate it. The building becomes an outpost and firing position. The family is transferred a few dozen meters east, to the home of Wael Samouni - a one-story concrete building with one large room, still under construction. All told, there are 97 people.

11. January 4, 5:30 P.M.: At Wael's house, some women want to bake bread; there is flour but not enough food for everyone and the children are crying from hunger. Several men leave the house, going two meters to collect wood and start a bonfire outside. Soldiers positioned in the high surrounding buildings look on as a young girl, Rizqa Samouni, 14, bakes pita.

12. January 5, approximately 6 A.M.: The children wake up crying, hungry and thirsty. All the water tanks have been punctured by bullets, nothing is left. A woman and child go to a nearby well and filled two jerricans with water as the soldiers watch.

13. January 5, 6:30 A.M.: The women and four or five of the men again leave the building to prepare a fire and bake pita. These persons shout in the direction of the home of Jalal - 100 meters away - where members of the family have been staying. Salah Samouni wanted them to join his group, as he feels that Wael's house is safe because it was the soldiers who transferred them there.

14. Simultaneously, about four or five men begin collecting wood. They want to break apart a plywood board to burn. Everything is in plain view of the soldiers. All of a sudden something is fired at them - Salah Samouni guesses it's a mortar shell or a missile from a helicopter or drone - and it kills Mohammed Ibrahim and wounds Salah (in his head), as well as Wael and Iyad.

15. The wounded men immediately reenter the building; the women begin dressing their wounds. A short time later, another shell or missile lands on the room - with its 96 inhabitants - and explodes. Twenty are killed, about 30 are injured.

16. Amid the confusion, smoke and dust, those who are able leave the building, after trying to determine who is alive.

17. A convoy of several dozen people leave Wael's house, moving east toward Salah a-Din Road. They see a soldier in a position the IDF established in the Sawafiri home. The injured Salah shouts for an ambulance. He claims the soldier yells back in literary Arabic: "Go back to death."

18. They nevertheless continue toward Salah a-Din Road; a helicopter hovers above them. The soldiers shout "Go back, go back," and fire above their heads, but not at them.

Shifa Ali Samouni, a 71-year-old widow who uses a walker, wandered from the home of one of her sons to Talal's and then Wael's house. "In the morning (on Monday)," she recalls, "I went to the bathroom and suddenly felt something falling, which pressed on my ear, and I am falling together with the house. When I came to, I realized blood was dripping from my hand and blood was flowing from my leg. I couldn't see anything, my eye didn't see a thing. After I saw my blood, I saw my son Talal, may God have mercy on him, on the chair. I called him and he did not say anything. Three of my sons were gone (Talal, Atiyeh and Rashad), and my sons' wives, and our grandchildren. And we saw all of them dying, I couldn't see who was who, my children, my grandchildren, I could not tell one from the other. My head is battered, my ears sealed."

The following are the names of the members of the Samouni family who were killed within minutes by an IDF shelling of the house in which soldiers had gathered them the previous day: Rizqa Mohammed, 55; Talal Hilmi, 51; Rahma Mohammed, 46; Layla Nabiyeh, 41; Rashad Hilmi, 41; Rabab Azzat, 37: Hannan Khamis, 35; Mohammad Ibrahim, 25; Hamdi Maher, 23; Safaa Subhi, 22; Tawfiq Rashad, 21; Maha Mohammed, 20; Huda Nael, 16; Isma'il Ibrahim, 15; Rizqa Wael, 14; Is'haq Ibrahim, 13; Fares Wael, 12; Nasser Ibrahim, 5; A'zza Salah, 2; Mu'atassem Mohammed, 1; Mohammad Hilmi, six months.

Among the dead: a mother and her four sons (her husband and daughter survived); two parents and their two sons (their daughter is alive) and another couple and their two daughters.

The soldiers left behind graffiti in the home of Rashad Samouni, which Haaretz saw and photographed: "1 down, 999,999 to go," "The People of Israel lives," "God is the king, there is nothing besides him," "Almighty God, we love you," "We have no one to rely on but our father in heaven," "Arabs need to die," "Less than 300 days left 'til I'm released," "We haven't drank our fill of blood."
 

bengalraider

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Story 2

I Fed Him Like Baby Bird
Eight months after Israel Defense Forces soldiers killed Atiyeh Samouni, 46, and his 4-year-old son Ahmed in their home in Gaza City's Zeitoun neighborhood, the army's operational echelons are still examining the incident. In a statement the IDF Spokesman's Office said: "The examination process is complex and involves a large number of entities, which naturally takes time."

This is probably the reason why the IDF did not respond to specific questions from Haaretz - such as whether Atiyeh Samouni was a known member of a military organization and whether soldiers were fired on from his house or from neighboring houses.

Army officials who insist on anonymity imply that it was a query in April by B'Tselem that impelled the IDF to examine the incident and not the many media reports about it. Another 21 members of this same extended family were also killed, among them nine children aged six months to 16 years, when the IDF shelled a structure into which soldiers had herded them the day before. The officials told Haaretz that because the query from the human rights organization was not forwarded to them until mid-August, it "has not yet been submitted to the operational echelons."

On May 8, in her parents' home in Gaza City's Sajaiyeh neighborhood, Zeinat Samouni told Haaretz: "On Saturday [January 3, 2009], there was shooting from the sea and from helicopters. Shrapnel struck the house, water tanks were punctured, the water leaked out, the doves in the cote ran to and fro in fright. We promised the children we would fix it. Early on Sunday morning we began telling each other, 'Praise God, we have come out of this safely.' Because I was afraid and because of the shooting I couldn't prepare food, but the children were hungry. They had bread and water. I grilled eggplants in the kitchen over charcoal, because there was no gas.

"We didn't sleep all night, not even the children. There were 18 of us in one room, we and our children [from 15 days up to 12 years], as well my husband's first wife, Zahwa, and her seven children [the oldest is 23]. They had come the previous evening because they were afraid to stay in their tin hut. We heard my sister-in-law shouting outside when a fire broke out in her home after a shell hit it. That was around 6 A.M. I was afraid from her shouts alone."

Samouni continued: "The soldiers began moving between the houses and shooting. We heard them speaking Hebrew. We all started screaming and crying. My husband only said that we shouldn't be afraid and that we should read the Koran. We left the front door open so they wouldn't break it down with explosives and so they would see that there are children here. They came straight into the living room; we were in the children's room, across the way. [The soldiers] looked frightening. Their faces were blackened with charcoal and they had big helmets with branches in them. We were so afraid we shouted."

Mahmoud Samouni, 12: "They were from Givati" - an infantry battalion.

Zeinat Samouni: "We all shouted. Atiyeh stood up to approach the soldiers and talk to them. He knows Hebrew. Ahmed followed him, crying: Daddy, Daddy. Atiyeh told him, Don't be afraid.

"My husband walked toward the soldiers with his hands up. 'Here I am, Khawaja [term for a non-Muslim]. He barely said a word and they shot him. It wasn't just one who fired. Atiyeh was at the door of the children's room, [the soldiers] were maybe a meter away. They kept shooting into the room where we were. Ahmed was hit in the head and the chest, Zahwa in the back. Her sons Faraj and Qanan were also hurt, and my Abdallah [10] was hit in the head and the hip, also Amal [his twin sister].

"We all lay down on the floor. After maybe a quarter of an hour I shouted to the soldiers, 'Ktanim, Khawajam, ktanim' ["little ones," in Hebrew], and they stopped shooting. I saw one soldier spit twice on my husband. Then they came into the children's room and in my bedroom they began destroying the furniture and threw something [probably a stun grenade], so the room filled up with smoke and a fire started and everything in the room - clothes, documents, money - was lost.

"Because of all the smoke and fire we started shouting again, and again said 'Ktanim, ktanim,' and we prayed and read the Koran and coughed. I couldn't see the children because of all the smoke. The soldiers put on gas masks and lit up the place with the lights on their rifles, and spoke Hebrew. We're crying and the children are peeing their pants and the soldiers are laughing. In the end, they said, 'Come on, come on,' and took us out. They spat on my husband again. I look at the pool of blood under his head and a soldier aims his rifle at me. Outside there were soldiers who fired. My children and I went out barefoot, our arms raised. Fahed, Zahwa's son, carried Ahmed. I told a soldier I wanted to take my husband. He said no. Outside I saw many soldiers.

"Amal ran to the house of [Uncle] Talal, but the soldiers wouldn't let us follow her. We walked on the paved road [eastward, toward Salah al-Din Street]. I didn't notice anything, and suddenly everyone stopped. It turned out that there was a snipers' post in Sawafiri's house. They ordered my husband's [older] sons to pull up their shirts and turn around, and then they ordered them to go to Rafah [south]. We continued and entered the home of Majed [Samouni, another relative]. I looked at Ahmed; his clothes were covered with blood and I saw the two big holes in his head. I gave him mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, I screamed, I asked for an ambulance. His mouth was dry. I moistened his lips with saliva, and then with water that Majed brought me.

"We tore a sheet for white flags, so we could go out. Majed's wife was pregnant and began going into labor. His mother and I helped her give birth. There were about 40 or 50 of us. The children were hungry. Majed brought pita and olives and tomatoes that were in the house. I asked Ahmed if he wanted to eat and he whispered, 'Yeah . . . Mommy,' and I gave him a little bread in water. I fed him like a baby bird. All the time blood was running, everything was covered in it. In the evening he told me, 'I want to take you and Dad to Paradise.' I kept bringing towels to absorb the blood and I thought about Amal and about my husband's dead body.

"Ahmed died at about or 4:30 or 5 A.M. [on January 5]. I screamed and I closed his eyes. Salah's girl came and said a shell landed on the home of Wa'el [a relative] and that the roof fell in and everyone was screaming and covered in blood. She said everyone had fled to the city. I said that in that case we'd all leave the neighborhood.

"We left, the big ones holding the little ones, Fahed carrying Ahmed's body, all of us holding white flags. The soldiers on the roof of Sawafiri's house started shooting just as we went out, and there was also shooting from a helicopter and from a tank [on Salah al-Din Street]. We were screaming and crying. We kept walking, barefoot, until the Star Cola factory. An ambulance came a little later. They asked if there were wounded. I said there were some behind us, who could barely walk.

"We were about 300 people, everyone with white flags and some with plastic bags because they couldn't find white cloth. The ambulance people apologized for not being able to come, because the soldiers shot at the ambulances. They took us to Shifa Hospital. They put Ahmed next to the others who were killed, and there I saw Talal's family, all of them crying. Then I noticed the dead and I started to recognize them. I wandered around Shifa like a madwoman, looking for Amal. They told me, 'We were all in Talal's house and the soldiers took us to Wa'el's and a shell hit and we were all wounded and killed.'

I couldn't find Amal. My aunt came and started crying and said, 'Rashad is dead and Talal is dead and Rahma is dead and Safa is dead and Mohammed is dead and Hilmi is dead and Leila is dead and Tawfiq is dead, and Walid and Rebab - and I hugged her and we screamed together. Men and women gathered around, crying with us.

"They took my son Ahmed from the bed and put him into the refrigerator, and I'm behind them, screaming. The young people are holding me and I'm saying that I want to go into the refrigerator with him. The refrigerator was full. There were so many dead that they didn't even put Ahmed in a separate compartment, but on the floor. With Mu'athazam and Mohammed. Then a relative came and took us in his car. I didn't yet know that I had no home to go back to [the IDF demolished it before pulling out]. I didn't yet know where Amal was and what had happened to her."
Source: 'I fed him like a baby bird' - Haaretz - Israel News
 

bengalraider

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Story 3

This story is about the forgiveness of this family and how they have forgiven the Israeli Govt for this horror!
Gaza family that lost 29 relatives drops lawsuit against Israel

Arafat Samouni talks about his killed relatives during a wake in Gaza City in January.
(AP)

Last update - 10:27 11/03/2009

By Amira Hass, Haaretz Correspondent

GAZA - A Gaza family that lost 29 relatives to Operation Cast Lead, which also left 45 family members injured and their home destroyed, on Tuesday asked that a lawsuit that had been filed in their name for NIS 851 million be withdrawn. The lawsuit names Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi as respondents.

The suit was filed in the Nazareth District Court by attorney Mohammed Fukra on behalf of the Samouni family.
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However, family members told Haaretz on Tuesday that they had not signed power of attorney over to Fukra, and that they are being represented by the Palestinian Center for Human Rights in Gaza.


In response to a question from Haaretz, the human rights group said it had no connection with Fukra, and that at the family's request it would on Wednesday be initiating action to stop the suit. A relative, Salah Samouni, confirmed that he had been in telephone contact with Fukra and had sent him a fax with details of the deaths of 29 family members and their names. Fukra could not be reached by press time for comment.

The Samouni family live in a number of metal shacks and concrete buildings in Gaza City's Zeitun neighborhood. Most of those injured or killed were hit when two shells fired by Israel Defense Forces on Monday, January 5, hit one of the houses where soldiers had ordered the family to gather.

Masia Samouni, 19, told Haaretz Tuesday night that on Sunday morning, January 4, after the first shell hit her house, the whole family gathered in the stairwell of a concrete house. When the soldiers arrived, they demanded that everyone move to a neighboring house.

Later, the family was once more to yet another house. Masia said that between 90-100 people were crowded in one room from Sunday morning to Monday morning with no food, water or other supplies. At 6 A.M., on Monday, January 5, a few male relatives went to bring an uncle who lived in a shack next to the concrete house. Masia said the men were all shot, and one was killed. A shell then hit the house, and another fell nearby, killing seven more Samouni family members. Masia Samouni's husband, mother-in-law, father-in-law and brother-in-law were all killed, and her baby daughter was injured. Masia and some of her relatives managed to flee, but the more seriously injured remained in the ruins of the house. The Red Cross received the IDF's permission to evacuate them four days later.

Eli Ashkenazi contributed to this report.
Source: Gaza family that lost 29 relatives drops lawsuit against Israel - Haaretz - Israel News
 

bengalraider

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The fourth and final story

This is a report that was in Haartez today

Last update - 09:58 18/10/2009

Family who lost 29 members in Gaza war: We envy the dead
Richard Goldstone visited the Gaza City neighborhood of Zaytoun in late June to tour the compound of the extended Samouni family, the subject of coverage here in recent weeks ("'I fed him like a baby bird,'" September 17; "Death in the Samouni compound," September 25). Twenty-nine members of the family, all of them civilians, were killed in the Israel Defense Force's winter assault - 21 during the shelling of a house where IDF soldiers had gathered some 100 members of the family a day earlier.

Salah Samouni and the owner of the house that was shelled - Wael Samouni - took Goldstone around the farming neighborhood, showing him its devastated homes and uprooted orchards. In a telephone conversation this week, Salah described how he had shown Goldstone a picture of his father, Talal, among the 21 killed in the house. He told the Jewish South African judge and head of the United Nations inquiry team into Operation Cast Lead, that his father "had been employed by Jews" for nearly 40 years and that whenever he was sick, "the employer would call, ask after his health, and forbid him to come to work before he had recovered."

The Samounis were always confident that, in the event of any military invasions into Gaza, they could always manage to get along with the Israeli army. Until 2005, before Israel's disengagement from the Strip, the Jewish settlement of Netzarim was located right next door, and several family members worked there from time to time. When the joint Israeli-Palestinian patrols were active, Israeli soldiers and Palestinian security officials sometimes asked the Samounis to "lend" them a tractor to flatten a patch of land or repair the Salah al-Din Road (for example, when a diplomatic convoy needed to pass through). While Samouni family members worked on their tractors, gathering sand, the soldiers would watch them.

"When the soldiers wanted us to leave, they would fire above our heads. That's what experience taught me," recalls Salah Samouni, who lost a 2-year-old daughter in the IDF attack, along with uncles and both of his parents. The older men of the family, among them his father and two uncles who were killed by IDF soldiers on January 4 and 5, worked in Israel until the 1990s in different localities, including Bat Yam, Moshav Asseret (near Gedera) and the "Glicksman Plant." They all believed that the Hebrew they had learned would assist and if necessary save them during encounters with soldiers.

As was reported here last month - on January 4, under orders from the army, Salah Samouni and the rest of the family left their home, which had been turned into a military position, and moved to the other, the home of Wael, located on the southern side of the street. The fact that it was the soldiers who had relocated them, had seen the faces of the children and the older women, and the fact that the soldiers were positioned in locations surrounding the house just tens of meters away, instilled in the family a certain amount of confidence - despite the IDF fire from the air, from the sea and from the land, despite the hunger and the thirst.

On the morning of Monday, January 5, Salah Samouni walked out of the house and shouted in the direction of another house in the compound that he thought other family members were still in. He wanted them to join him, to be in a safer place, closer to the soldiers. Nothing prepared him for the three shells and the rockets the IDF fired a short time later.

"My daughter Azza, my only daughter, two and a half years old, was injured in the first hit on the house," Salah told Haaretz. "She managed to say, 'Daddy, it hurts.' And then, in the second hit, she died. And I'm praying. Everything is dust and I can't see anything. I thought I was dead. I found myself getting up, all bloody, and I found my mother sitting by the hall with her head tilted downward. I moved her face a little, and I found that the right half of her face was gone. I looked at my father, whose eye was gone. He was still breathing a little, and then he stopped."

When they exited the house - injured, confused, dazed, fearing the fourth shell or rocket would soon land - determined to get themselves to Gaza despite the soldiers' shouts from nearby positions to go back, they believed only corpses remained in the house. They did not know that under the dust and rubble in one large room, nine family members remained alive: the elderly matriarch and five of her grandchildren and great-grandchildren - the youngest of whom was three years old, the eldest 16 - along with another kinsman and his son. They had passed out, some of them beneath corpses.

When they regained consciousness, 16-year-old Ahmad Ibrahim and his 10-year-old brother Yakub saw the corpses of their mother, four of their brothers and their nephew. Mahmoud Tallal, 16, had lost his toes; bleeding, he saw that his parents - Tallal and Rahma - had been killed. Three-year-old Omar, Salah's son, was buried unconscious under 24-year-old Saffa's dead body, explaining why they hadn't found him during the terrible moment of panic as they left the house. Ahmad Nafez, 15, recalled how when little Omar woke up and pulled himself out from under the corpse, he spotted his grandfather Tallal and started shaking him, crying: "Grandpa, Grandpa, wake up."

The previous day Amal, a nine-year-old girl, had witnessed soldiers bursting into her home and killing her father, Atiyeh. She had taken shelter in her Uncle Tallal's home and together with other family members was moved to Wael's house. She did not know that her brother Ahmad was bleeding to death in his mother's arms, in another house in the neighborhood.

The children found some scraps of food in the kitchen and ate. Later, Ahmad Nafez told his relatives how Ahmad Ibrahim had gone from corpse to corpse - his mother, his four brothers and his nephew among them - shaking them, hitting them, telling them to get up. Perhaps from the blows, Amal regained consciousness, her head bloody and her eyes rolling in their sockets. She kept crying out "water, water," said she wanted her mother and father, and beat her head on the floor, her eyes rolling the whole time.

It is too dangerous to remove the shrapnel embedded in her head - that is even what the doctors at a Tel Aviv hospital say. Now everything hurts her and will continue to hurt her: when it's cold, when it's hot, when she's in the sun. She will not be able to concentrate on her studies.

No one can reconstruct how the hours passed for them in Wael's bombarded house; some remained in a state of exhaustion and apathy. The first to recover was actually Shiffa, the 71-year-old grandmother. On the morning of Tuesday, January 6, she realized that no one was coming to rescue them anytime soon. Not the soldiers positioned just meters away, not the Red Cross nor the Red Crescent nor other relatives. Perhaps they didn't even know they were alive, she concluded. Her walker had been bent and buried in the house, but she managed to leave with two of her grandchildren - Mahmoud (his legs bleeding) and little Omar.

They hobbled out and started walking - along the silent street, among the vacated houses, realizing some were occupied by soldiers. "The Jews saw us from above and shouted to us to go into the house," related Shiffa. That was when they were walking down the street and passed by her sister's home. They went inside, but didn't find a living soul. The soldiers - firing into the air - came in after them. "We begged them to let us go home. 'Where is your home?'" they asked. She told them "over there" and pointed east, toward the home of one of her sons, Arafat, located closer to Salah al-Din Road. The soldiers let them continue on. "We saw people coming out of Arafat's house and Hijjeh's house. Everyone was a bit injured and the soldiers were shooting overhead."

At Hijjeh's house she found everyone crying, each with his own story of those dead or wounded. "I told them what had happened to us, how everyone had fallen on everyone else, in heaps, the dead and the wounded." She remained there with the rest of the injured for another night. Omar remembers this house fondly: He was given chocolate there.

Only on Wednesday, January 7, did the IDF allow Red Cross and Red Crescent crews to enter the neighborhood. They attest that they'd been asking to enter since January 4, but the IDF would not let them - whether by shooting in the direction of the ambulances that tried to get closer or by refusing to approve coordination. The medical teams, which were allowed to go in on foot and had to leave the ambulances a kilometer or a kilometer and a half away, thought they were going to rescue the injured from Hijjeh's house. But then the grandmother told them about the wounded children who remained behind, among the dead, in Wael's house. The medical team set out to rescue them, totally unprepared for the sight they found.

On January 18, after the IDF left the Gaza Strip, the rescue teams returned to the neighborhood. Wael's house was found in ruins: IDF bulldozers had demolished it entirely - with the corpses inside.

In a general reply to questions from Haaretz regarding the behavior of the military forces in the Samouni family's neighborhood, the IDF Spokesman said that all of the claims have been examined. "Upon completion of the examination, the findings will be taken to the military advocate general, who will decide about the need to take additional steps," the spokesman said.

Salah Samouni, during the telephone conversation, said: "I asked [Richard] Goldstone to find out just one thing: Why did the army do this to us? Why did they take us out of the house one at a time, and the officer who spoke Hebrew with my father verified that we were all civilians - [so] why did they then shell us, kill us? This is what we want to know."

He feels that Goldstone, in his report, lent the victims a voice. He did not expound on his frustration upon learning that the debate on the report had been postponed, but sought a way to describe how he feels nine months after the fact. "We feel [we are] in an exile, even though we are in our homeland, on our land. We sit and envy the dead. They are the ones who are at rest."
Source: Family who lost 29 members in Gaza war: We envy the dead - Haaretz - Israel News
 

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