Operation Cast Lead *  by Clayton Eshleman

[In this piece Clayton Eshleman synthesizes a number of reports on the Gaza atrocities, to create an accurate & horrifying report on what happened when the Israeli army invaded. Given the short historical memory — a true if invisible plague in a country where news is instant sound-bytes with 5-minute shelf lives — even among those who claim liberal or leftist convictions, it is important to restate & re-member such events, even if they happened only a short 3 months ago. The piece was turned down by Jacket and bookslut.com, where it would have had more readers, probably — but here it is, on Nomadics:]

The night of January 3, 2009, Mas’ouda Samouni and her extended family of some 60 people, in the Al Zeitoun neighborhood of the Gaza Strip, were all moved by soldiers of the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) into one of their houses’ rooms. They managed to prepare food for the children from the poultry kept in the house, after which they were held in the room without food or water for almost 24 hours. When the children, hungry and thirsty, started crying, some of the men tried to reach the water tanks beside the house to fetch some water. All were shot at by Israeli soldiers; one of them was killed.

After a loud explosion family members saw flames flashing from an upper floor of the adjacent house, belonging to other family members. Some of the Samouni men tried to rescue them but they were immediately shot by the soldiers. Mas’ouda’s husband was fatally wounded.

The next morning the house exploded and collapsed. Mas’ouda’s 10 month old baby was killed while sitting on her lap.

A Samouni cousin, Rami, told the following story: “Israeli paratroopers entered our home, breaking everything in their way. They moved us from house to house. At one point there were 120 of us inside one house. They asked for my cousin Atiya’s ID and, when they saw it, shot and killed him. Atiya’s 12 year old son became hysterical and threw a stone at the soldiers who then shot and killed him too.

We were confined, without food or water, in the house. By the third day the situation had became unbearable. My 75 year old grandfather couldn’t take it any longer. He started angrily shouting at the soldiers demanding that they at least release the children. They shot him too and he died.

Because we were shouting at them, they got mad and told the mothers to hold their babies on their laps. Then they shot the babies. One was 3 months old, another 6 months old, another one year old.”

February 2, 2009. Souad Abed Rabbo said that there were 30 to 40 of her family members in their house in Jebel al-Kashif. Tanks began to shell in the neighborhood and Israeli soldiers shouted for everyone to come outside. Souad, her daughter-in-law and her 7 year old daughter all came out, each holding a white flag above their heads. They were accompanied by Souad’s three granddaughters, a 7 year old also called Souad, 4 year old Samar, and 2 year old Amal. When they asked the Israeli soldier on a tank in the garden for permission to leave, he just stared at them for several minutes, then opened fire, shooting the 7 year old in the neck and chest, who died instantly. He also shot the 2 year old in the chest and abdomen, disemboweling her. She died a little later. The 4 year old was also shot and at the time of the interview was paralyzed in a Belgium hospital. Souad was shot in the left arm and left buttock

A neighbor who was an ambulance driver tried to help them. The soldiers shot at him.

Souad’s husband, Muhammad, then carried the dead Amal out. Another family member carried the wounded Samar. Souad herself was carried out on a bed. As they left the house, Israeli soldiers shot around them.

They walked to Zemo Junction to find an ambulance. At the Junction there was a father and his young son with a horse and carriage. After they asked for help from the father, the soldiers first shot the horse and then the father who later died from his wounds.

Doa’ Al Banna, the day before her 15th birthday, on January 12, was sitting on the 5th floor balcony of her family’s apartment, with her two sisters. Suddenly she found herself lying amidst rubble, glass, dust and smoke. Her younger sister lay with her eyes closed as if she was sleeping. She was dead. Her older sister had a large wound in her belly and her intestines were visible. She was dead too. Doa saw that she was in the same condition, her belly torn open, her left hand torn off. She managed to walk downstairs, holding her bowels inside her belly with her uninjured right arm.

She underwent surgery and survived.

On January 4, Sabah Abu Haima was having lunch with her family, 16 people, including 9 children. Suddenly 3 rockets from F-16 fighters were fired into the house.

5 persons died. Some had their heads shot off. Sabah’s 8 year old son burned to death shouting “Mommy, mommy, we must pray.”

2 bodies were inseparable due to the heat.

When the survivors were leaving the house to go to the hospital, they were shot at by Israeli soldiers. 2 nephews died in this shooting.

Sabah Abu Haima said she could see no reason for her house to be attacked.

As of 29 January, it was calculated that 1417 people in Gaza had been killed. Of these, 236 were fighters, the rest civilians, including 411 children, 106 women, and 16 ambulance drivers. 33 health care centers were attacked. 21,000 homes were destroyed. Some 50,000 people have been displaced from their homes. Many mosques were also destroyed.

Extensive use of white phosphorus munitions (manufactured in Louisiana) has been documented. The dead include 3 women, 7 children, and a 15 month old baby. White phosphorus which burns at 1500°F, goes through flesh to the bone and reignites, upon contact with oxygen, when the burn is cleaned.

Hospitals and mobile clinics were specifically targeted, including a number of ambulances, by American-made F-16 jets and Apache helicopters. Many of these attacks took place during mercy missions that had been authorized by the ICRC (International Committee of the Red Cross) and the Israeli Army. Israel’s intervention has been fueled largely by U.S. supplied weapons paid for with U.S. tax dollars.

The underlying meaning of the attack on the Gaza Strip appears to be one of creating terror without mercy to anyone.

Upon hearing of a ceasefire from 10 AM to 1 PM, Muhammad Shurrab and his two sons, Qassab, with a degree in construction engineering, and Ibrahim, a student at AlAzhar University, left their farm to drive to the Shurrab home in Khan Yunis. Muhammad waved to Israeli soldiers along the road who waved back. Their red Land Rover windshield was then hit by 22 bullets, wounding Muhammad’s left arm. The soldiers shouted at them to leave the car. Qassab got out and was shot in the face and killed. When Ibrahim got out, he was shot in the leg. Muhammad started to dial the ambulance center; soldiers shouted at him that they would kill him if he used his mobile phone.

Muhammad crawled to Ibrahim, who was lying bleeding in the road, and managed to call 101 on his son’s phone. The ambulance center told him that they had not been given permission to come to that area but that they would contact the media on his behalf. Hours passed, with Ibrahim crying “Father call 101,” which Muhammad repeatedly did to no avail. He begged the soldiers to give them first aid; his request was met with a warning shot. Ibrahim kept asking, “Are you satisfied with me, father” to which Muhammad said “yes, yes” again and again.

It became dark and very cold. Sitting on the ground in front of the crashed car, Muhammad placed Ibrahim’s head in his lap and covered him with his bloodstained jacket. He could not believe that a leg injury could cause death. Around 10 PM, he started receiving calls from local radio stations and human rights organizations. They only wanted to interview him and told him that he himself must phone for help. At a certain point, Muhammad cried out in a clear, sad, and trembling voice: “IDF, you murdered my son Qassab, my son Ibrahim is dying, either do something or let me die.” The answer was: “let the ambulance come and take you.”

A little after midnight, Ibrahim stopped breathing.

* This piece compresses, without distorting the information, a half dozen reports of what happened to various Palestinian families and individuals during the Israeli “Operation Cast Lead.”. These reports, along with much more information, are collected in the 92 page Final Report / Individual Fact Finding Mission into Violation of Human Rights in the Gaza Strip during the period 27.12.2008-18.01.2009, commissioned and organized by Physicians for Human Rights-Israel and Palestinian Medical Relief Society. The full report is on line at: http://www.phr.org.il/phr/files/articlefile_1239020519406.pdf

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3 Responses

  1. Steven says:

    This reads like a chapter of Candide.

  2. Candide was an optimist. What optimism do you find in this thoroughly horrifying account?

  3. Shannon says:

    I am so very, very sorry, including that the U.S. government, the government that supposedly represents me [HA!] has helped all this happen…

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