Testimony: Israeli troops open fire on those fleeing shelling

Yusef Abd al-Karim Barakeh Abu Hajaj is resident of Johr al-Dik. The following testimony was given to B’Tselem’s Atef Abu al-Rub by telephone on 6 January 2009:

We live in an agricultural area in the center of the Gaza Strip, where there are not many houses.

On Sunday [4 January] morning, 15 of us from the family were at home. The Israeli army was positioned 300 meters west of our house. The previous night, the army began to shell the area. Our house wasn’t hit directly. We thought that, because we don’t live in a crowded area, and no military post or governmental institution was next to us, we weren’t in danger.

Around 7:00am, an Israeli tank fired at our house. We decided to leave, and went to our neighbor, Hussein al-Aydi. A little while later, we heard that the army told people to leave the houses in the area, and we decided to go to another place. We left together with the neighbor’s family. Together, we were 25 persons.

When we went outside, we held up a white cloth, so the soldiers would know we were civilians. We were afraid they would shoot us, but we walked anyway, having no alternative. Women and small children were in our group. When we got to a point opposite the tanks, they opened fire at us. My mother was hit and fell down. Then my sister Majda was hit in the back. Both were killed. We ran back, toward Hussein al-Ayadi’s house. Mother and Majda remained lying on the ground.
We immediately called the Red Crescent and the Red Cross to ask them to remove the bodies. Because of the shelling, nobody could get there. The next day, we realized we had to leave the area, and we fled.

Now I’m living in the school in Nuseirat. We didn’t manage to coordinate removal of the bodies of Mother and Majda, and they are apparently still outside. We don’t know when we can move them. It is very crowded in the school, so some of my family went to stay in other places.

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