Testimony: Gaza family massacred, survivors detained

Meysa Fawzi al-Samuni, 19, a married homemaker with an infant daughter, is a resident of Gaza City. The following testimony was given to B’Tselem’s Iyad Haddad by telephone on 7 January 2009:

On Sunday [4 January], around 9:00am, soldiers came to the house of my father-in-law, Rashed al-Samuni, which is located next to a concrete engineering company. We were 14 people in the house, all of us from the al-Samuni family: me, my husband, Tawfiq (21), our infant, Jumana, nine months old, my father-in-law, Rashed (41), my mother-in-law, Rabab (38), and my husband’s brothers, Musa (19), Walid (17), Halmi (14), Zeineb (12), Muhammad (11), Shaban (9), Issa (7), Islam (12), Israa (2).

The soldiers came to the house on foot and knocked on the door. We opened and then, threatening us with weapons, they forced us to leave the house. They had bullet-proof vests on and had automatic weapons. Their faces were painted black. We left the house. Walid ran from another door of the house, but the soldiers caught him.

The soldiers led us by foot to the house of my father-in-law’s brother, Talal Halmi al-Samuni, 50, about 20 meters away. In the house were already about 20 people, and together we were 35. The soldiers left us, apparently to search my father-in-law’s house.

About an hour later, the soldiers came back and ordered us to go with them to the house of Wail al-Samuni, 40. His house is a kind of concrete warehouse, about 200 square meters big, about 20 meters from Talal’s house, where we were. We reached Wail’s house at 11:00am. There were already 35 people there, so now we were about 70 in total. We stayed there until the next morning. We didn’t have food or drink.

Around six o’clock in the morning [Monday, 5 January], it was quiet in the area. One of the men in the family, Adnan al-Samuni, 20, said that he wanted to go and bring his uncle and family so they could be with us. My father-in law and his nephew, Salah Talal al-Samuni, 30, and his cousin Muhammad Ibrahim al-Samuni, 27, were standing at the door of the house and planned on going together to bring them. The moment they left the house, a missile or shell hit them. Muhammad was killed on the spot and the others were injured from the shrapnel. My husband went over to them to help, and then a shell or missile was fired onto the roof of the warehouse. Based on the intensity of the strike, I think it was a missile from an F-16.

When the missile stuck, I lay down with my daughter under me. Everything filled up with smoke and dust, and I heard screams and crying. After the smoke and dust cleared a bit, I looked around and saw 20-30 people who were dead, and about 20 who were wounded. Some were severely wounded and some lightly.

The persons killed around me were my husband, who was hit in the back, my father-in-law, who was hit in the head and whose brain was on the floor, my mother-in-law Rabab, my father-in-law’s brother Talal, and his wife Rhama Muhammad al-Samuni (45), Talal’s son’s wife, Maha Muhammad al-Samuni (19), and her son, Muhammad Hamli al-Samuni, 5 months, whose whole brain was outside his body. Razqa Muhammad al-Samuni (50), Hanan Khamis al-Samuni (30), and Hamdi Majid al-Samuni (22).

My husband’s brother, Musa, and I were lightly injured. Musa was injured in the shoulder and my left hand was injured. My daughter was injured in the left hand. Her thumb, second finger, and third finger had been cut off. I took a kerchief and wrapped her hand to stop the bleeding. The wounded who lay on the floor cried for help and couldn’t move. The small children and my husband’s grandmother, Shifaa al-Samuni (70), were crying.

About 15 minutes after the second strike, Musa said that it would be better to escape and go to the house of his uncle, Assad al-Samuni, about 20 meters away. We ran and knocked on the gate, but nobody answered. Musa jumped over the gate and opening it and we went inside. We were me, my daughter, Musa, and his little sisters Islam (5), and Isra (2). There were 40-50 soldiers in the house, and more people were gathered in one of the rooms. There were about 30 people, 7-10 of them men. The men were blindfolded.

One of the soldiers came to me and gave me and my daughter first-aid. He bandaged our hands and checked our pulse. Then the soldiers tied Musa and blindfolded him.

The soldiers told us that they would release us and leave only Musa and his uncle Emad in case Hamas came. I understood that they intended to use them as “human shields.” They ordered us to leave the house, and we walked along the street about 400-500 meters until we found an ambulance, which took me and my daughter to al-Shifa Hospital. The others from my family continued to walk in the street. Later, some of them also arrived at the hospital.

As far as I know, the dead and wounded who were under the ruins are still there. I didn’t see that any of them had been brought to the hospital.

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