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UN: Israeli troops ordered civilians into house in Gaza City, then shelled it
by Haaretz (reposted)
Friday Jan 9th, 2009 8:42 AM
A UN agency has said Israeli troops evacuated Palestinian civilians to a house in Gaza City, then shelled the building 24 hours later.
The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs dated the incident to Jan. 4, a day after Israel began its ground offensive against Hamas militants in Gaza.

Based on eyewitness testimony, the account added details to an incident previously reported by The Associated Press and an Israeli human rights group.

The UN agency said 110 people were in the house and 30 people were killed, far higher figures than in other accounts.


It said a Red Cross medical team was blocked from reaching the area until three days later. Rescuers were allowed in on foot, without ambulances.

Witness claims relatives among the dead

"Abu Salah died, his wife died. Abu Tawfiq died, his son died, his wife also died. Mohammed Ibrahim died, and his mother died. Ishaq died and Nasar died. The wife of Nael Samouni died. Many people died."

"There were maybe more than 25 people killed," said Ahmed Ibrahim Samouni, a 13-year-old Palestinian boy who was wounded in the leg and chest but survived the Israeli shelling of a house in north Gaza on Jan. 4.

A report by the UN's Office for the Coordinator of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said at least 30 people were killed in the incident. Most were members of Samouni's family.

OCHA deputy chief Allegre Pacheco quoted eyewitness in the Zeitun district as saying Israeli troops had ordered about 100 civilians to get into the house and stay there, out of their way. But the following day the house was hit by Israeli shells.

"There are no bomb shelters in Gaza," she said.

The Israeli army said it was investigating the incident.

Speaking to Reuters from his hospital bed in Gaza, the boy recounted how his family came to be herded into the building that was later targeted.

"We were asleep when the tanks and the planes struck, we all slept in one room," Samouni said in a weak voice. "One shell hit our house. Thank God we were not hit."

"We ran out of the house and saw 15 men ... they landed from helicopters on rooftops of buildings." Soldiers beat residents and forced them all into one house.

After it was hit the next day and his mother was among those killed, Samouni kept his three younger brothers alive and tried to help injured adults lying among the dead.

"There was no water, no bread, nothing to eat," he said.

Local Red Cresent rescue workers and a team from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) managed to reach the house on Jan.7 after being denied access by the Israeli military for what the Red Cross called an "unacceptable" period.

The children were starving when help finally reached the place, the Geneva-based ICRC said.

"They were too weak to stand up on their own. One man was also found alive, too weak to stand up. In all there were at least 12 corpses lying on mattresses," it said.

Earth redoubts built by Israeli bulldozers blocked the streets so the ambulances could not get close. "The wounded had to be brought out on donkey carts," Pacheco told Reuters.

"This is a shocking incident," said Pierre Wettach, ICRC chief for Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories.

The ICRC accused Israel of delaying ambulance access to the area and demanded it grant safe access for Palestinian Red Crescent ambulances to return to evacuate more wounded.

"The Israeli military must have been aware of the situation but did not assist the wounded. Neither did they make it possible for us or the Palestinian Red Crescent to assist the wounded," he said.

In a written response, the Israeli army said it works in coordination with international aid bodies "so that civilians can be provided with assistance" and that it "in no way intentionally targets civilians".

http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1054217.html
by reposted
Friday Jan 9th, 2009 8:54 AM


UNITED NATIONS (AP) — Palestinian children are dying at a heavy rate in the Israeli-Hamas fighting — about one of every three persons killed, according to Gaza statistics.

As of Thursday, 257 children were among the approximately 760 reported dead in Gaza. There were another 1,080 children among the 3,100 injured in the conflict, according to statistics from Gaza's health ministry.

The U.N.'s top humanitarian official, John Holmes, described the numbers as "credible" and deeply disturbing. U.N officials say about half of the casualties were civilians.

Holmes and John Ging, head of Gaza operations for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, both expressed anger and regret at their decision Thursday to temporarily suspend aid shipments in the Gaza Strip because it was too risky for their aid workers.

"It's particularly distressing and horrifying that the current casualties seem to be increasingly civilian casualties, with an increasing incidence of whole families being buried in houses which have been hit," Holmes said.

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