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The Plight of Al Samouni Family in Gaza: in their own voices

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The story of Al Samouni’s family of Gaza is tragic and appalling. According to Al Haq’s field research members, the story began on Saturday, 3 January 2009, with Israeli incursion into and firing at the Al Zaytoun neighborhood.

The following day, on 4 January 2009, Israeli occupying forces bombed the same area killing one Palestinian.

On Monday at 7:00 Am, 5 January 2009, again Israeli occupying forces bombed the very same area of Hay (neighborhood) Al Zaytoun. One of the missiles struck the third floor of Tallal Hilmi Al Samouni’s home. Traumatized, the family nonetheless managed to extinguish the fire. Earlier the 16-member family—including the grandfather, grandmother, their children and families—had evacuated into the first floor in fear of the bombs that were striking Gaza.

As the situation deteriorated and the shelling intensified, three additional Al Samouni families sought refuge in Tallal’s home. The families included: Ibrahim Al Samouni (12 members), Rashad Al Samouni (11 members), and Nafiz Al Samouni (10 members). Altogether 49 members of Al Samouni’s family gathered at Tallal’s house.

Later on Monday, the Israeli occupying forces knocked on the door of Tallal’s home and asked the congregated family members to move to Wael Al Samouni’s home (11 members). The Israeli occupying forces also asked the men to lift their shirts on their way out (a dehumanizing gesture across all cultures), then surrounded Wael’s home and left the 60 members of Al Samouni family without water for 24 hours. As for electricity, it has been cut off entirely in the strip since Israel’s bombardment began on 27 December 2009.

The next day, 6 January 2009, the family heard shooting nearby, followed by calm. Some thought that the Israeli occupying forces had withdrawn from the neighborhood, and so one of the men left the front door to bring water from a tank placed in front of the house for the children, who were thirsty. To his surprise, the Israeli occupying forces and their tanks were still surrounding the house, which made him immediately turn back inside.

Five minutes later, the tanks shelled a missile into the house and injured seven people. Only three minutes later the Israelis aimed another missile close by, which killed many Al Samouni family members—predominantly children and women.

About 22 of the survivors, many of whom were injured, left the house raising white banners and carrying four bodies of those killed. The Israeli occupying forces began shooting around them, but they continued to walk, and tried to call the ambulance to pick them up and save the injured among them. But the Israeli occupying forces informed them that they have banned emergency services from reaching the area. Indeed, Israeli soldiers, with their heavy weaponry, vehemently prevented medics and ambulances, including the Red Cross, from entering. However, at a crossroad about a kilometer and a half further on, an ambulance managed to collect the injured.

Back at the house, where the dead bodies of Palestinians lay, there were thirteen family members who were still alive. Eight of them were children, some of them injured, who had been locked in for three days with the bodies of their dead parents and family members, with no access to food or water.
 
The Red Cross was only allowed entry three days later to evacuate the dead and injured, the majority of whom were so critical that they were taken to Belgium, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia for treatment.

Overall, 26 members of Al Samouni family were killed, including 10 children and 7 women.The questions that remain include: who will account for these innocent civilians? Who will hold Israel responsible for their war crimes against humanity? Who will compensate—and clearly, nothing can—for the lives of children, women and men? Will there ever be a time when these children, who were surrounded by the dead bodies of their parents and family members for three days, ever forgive the international silence over the grave violations that struck them and their families? Al Samouni survivors will need answers to these questions including justice to be done.

The information obtained for this report on Al Samouni family and its plight was gathered by Al Haq Research Field Workers based in Gaza. The information was directly solicited from the survivors of Al Samouni family that provided a first hand account.

• Azza Salah Al Samouni, 3 years of age
• Waleed Rashad Al Samouni, 17 years of age
• Ishaq Ibrahim Al Samouni, 14 years of age
• Ismail Ibrahim Al Samouni, 16 years of age
• Rifka Wael Al Samouni, 8 years of age
• Fares Wael Al Samouni, 12 years of age
• Huda Nael Al Samouni, 17 years of age
• Ahmad Atieh Al Samouni, 14 years of age
• Mu’tassim Mohammed Al Samouni, 6 years of age
• Mohammed Hilmi Al Samouni, 5 years of age 

• Rahma Mohammed Al Samouni, 50 years of age
• Safa’ Hilmi Al Samouni, 25 years of age
• Maha Mohammed Al Samouni, 22 years of age
• Rabbab Azzat Al Samouni, 32 years of age
• Laila Nabih Al Samouni, 40 years of age
• Rifqa Mohammed Al Samouni, 50 years of age
• Hannan Khamis Al Samouni, 36 years of age

• Tallal Hilmi Al Samouni, 55 years of age
• Attieh Hilmi Al Samouni, 25 years of age
• Rashad Hilmi Al Samouni, 42 years of age
• Tawfiq Rashad Al Samouni, 23 years of age
• Mohammed Ibrahim, 26 years of age
• Ziyad Izzat Al Samouni, 28 years of age
• Nidal Ahmad Al Samouni, 30 years of age
• Hamdi Maher Al Samouni, 23 years of age
• Hamdi Mahmoud Al Samouni, 70 years of age

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