The Palestinian Center for the Defense of Prisoners confirmed that the Israeli occupation forces committed war crimes in a deliberate and planned way during its aggression “Operation Cast Lead” against the Gaza Strip, which lasted about 23 days. The IOF executed Palestinians who were arrested from their houses in cold blood, either by shooting them directly by launching missiles and rockets at them. The Center reports that the testimonies of survivors of the assault on Gaza confirmed the status of the executions of these “prisoners of war”, and that the occupation forces violated the international treaties and conventions which clarify the rights of prisoners of armed conflicts. The testimonies confirm that the prisoners were executed a few kilometers away from their houses, and that there were among them children in some cases aged only months, women, and old men.
According to Maisa’a Fawzi Al-Samouni, aged 19, a Palestinian from the Al-Zeitoun neighborhood, the soldiers took her together with her daughter, aged nine months, and about thirty other persons of the Al-Samouni family, to the house of one of her relatives, Wael Al-Samouni, aged 40. The house of Wael is made of concrete, it has about two hundred square meters. According to Maisa’a, “first we were 30 persons, and then we became about 70 persons in Wael’s house. We were forced to stay in this house until the following day without water or food”.
Maisa’a continues: “In the morning of the next day, at about sixth o’clock, the Israeli soldiers fired at people who tried to leave the house to bring their relatives some food, and after a while the Israeli tanks fired shells at the house where everybody was”. She added: “when the shell landed in the house, I threw myself on the ground over my daughter to protect her. Smoke and dust spread everywhere. I heard screams and crying, and when the smoke dissipated, I looked around me I saw that twenty to thirty people were dead, “martyrs” and about twenty wounded”.
Maisa’a was lightly injured, her daughter lost three of her fingers. Maisa’a lost her husband, his parents and seven members of her close family.
The International Committee of the Red Cross accused the Israeli army of denying their paramedics access to the Al-Zeitoun neighborhood. The ICRC stated that the Israeli army did not allow ambulances to reach many homes in the Al-Zeitoun neighborhood where Palestinian civilians were executed by the IOF. The ICRC further reported that their Paramedic teams rescued 18 injured persons in the Al- Zeitoun neighborhood and recovered 12 bodies from the rubble of a house. The ICRC considered that the Israeli delay in granting the paramedic team permission to arrive to the victims as unacceptable, they described the incident as “shocking”.
The United Nations has also said that the Israeli army killed in a bombing 30 among 110 Palestinian civilians were rounded up in another house in Gaza City. The UN’s top human rights official, Navi Pillay, called for an independent investigation of possible war crimes and violations of international human rights laws in Gaza and Israel. Navi Pillay also said that UN human rights monitors must be deployed in Israel as well as in Gaza and the West Bank to document violations and their perpetrators.
The United Nations Office for the humanitarian Activities Coordination stated that they collected certified testimonies which indicated that the Israeli soldiers, on the fourth of January 2009, had gathered about 110 Palestinians in one house in the Al-Zeitoun neighborhood (half of them children) and ordered them to stay at house, and after 24 hours they bombed the house several times – in a deliberate and intentional way – resulting the death of thirty people. The UN office added in the statement that surviving people who were able to walk a distance of two kilometers had arrived at the Salah Al-Din Street, where they were taken to hospitals in civilian cars. The youngest child among these survivor was five months. He died after he arrived the hospital. The UN statement described the incident as one of the most serious incidents since the start of the Israeli operations in the Gaza Strip in December 27, 2008.