Testimony: Five girls in one family killed by Israeli bombing

Samira Tawfiq Said Balousha, 36, married with nine children, is a homemaker and a resident of Jabalya refugee camp in the Gaza Strip. Her testimony was given to B’Tselem’s Muhammad Sabah by telephone on 30 December 2008:

My husband and I lived with our children in a three-room asbestos house in Jabaliya refugee camp. The house is next to Imad Aqel Mosque. We had nine children: Tahrir, 17, Iman, 16, Ikram, 14, Samar, 12, Samah, 10, Dunia, 7, Juhar, 4, Muhammad who’s a year and a half and Bara, who’s two weeks old.

Last Saturday [27 December], after the Israeli bombing began and after pieces of asbestos fell from our house because of the bombing of the district-government building, my husband and I took the children and went to my father’s house. We stayed there for one day and then returned home and continued our normal life — I did house work and the girls prepared for their mid-year tests that were to take place during the week.

On Monday [29 December], around 11:50pm, I woke up and heard my husband calling to me: “Samira, Samira, they shelled the mosque, get up and see, and recite the Shahada [Prayer of the dying].” It was dark, and I couldn’t see anything. I recited the Shahada. I felt something heavy choking me and pressing on my body. I was buried under a concrete clock, stones, and sand, and barely managed to move. I succeeded in freeing my hand and pushed aside the things that had fallen on me. I got up and went to look for my children.

I found Bara, my two-week-old daughter. She was alive, even though her bed was buried under the ruins. I saw my husband getting out of the ruins, and I handed Bara to him.

I then went to look for my son Muhammad, who was sleeping next to me. At first, I didn’t see him because of the rubble, but I found him alive under the ruins. I managed to free him, and I gave him to one of the people who came to help clear away the rubble.

In the meantime, I continued to look for my daughters. Their bedroom was covered with blocks of concrete and stones and sand. Other people helped me look for them. I was very weak because I had been injured in the head, and I was taken to Kamal Adwan Hospital.

At the hospital, I learned that five of my daughters — Tahrir, Ikram, Samar, Dunia, and Juhar — had been killed, and three were wounded. Muhammad was injured all over his body, mostly in the face.

Israel bombed the mosque next to our house without warning and without thinking about the people who live next to it. Lots of houses in the area were damaged in the blast.

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