When Israel killed twins in front of their father

Israel’s attack on Nuseirat has been compared to “the gates of hell [being] opened” by one witness. 

Omar Ashtawy APA images

Samer Walid was eating a meal given to his family in food aid when the sounds of gunfire started coming from all directions.

A moment later, he heard shelling and a series of missiles being dropped on particular locations. Fire belts – as they are known in Gaza.

As he tried to calm down his children, Samer asked Rehab, his wife, to grab some essentials so that they could flee their home in Nuseirat refugee camp.

They did not have time to do so. Suddenly, Israeli soldiers attacked his house.

“They were heavily armed, with their faces covered,” Samer said.

“And they were screaming in Hebrew, which I couldn’t understand,” he added. “They shot me and I collapsed to the floor.”

The forces then killed Samer’s twin sons Yazan and Omar, 12.

“They were shot dead in front of me,” he said. “In cold blood.”

“I was unable to help them,” he added. “I was bleeding.”

“The ambulance crews were unable to reach us because the bombing was continuing. We were trapped in the house for two hours, soaked in our blood.”

The soldiers locked his wife Rehab and two of their other children in a room. The soldiers then made a hole in the wall of the house and went through it into an adjacent building.

Rehab recalled how she was locked in the room throughout the massacre. After everything had gone silent, she forced her way out of the room by breaking the door.

When she found Samer and the bodies of the twins on the floor, “I couldn’t believe what I was seeing,” she said.

In a state of shock, Rehab went onto the street barefoot.

“All the neighbors’ houses were destroyed,” she said. “Everyone was running away and screaming.”

A large number of corpses could be seen on the ground.

“I saw burnt bodies and I saw bodies sliced to bits,” she said. “And I saw my neighbor carrying her son in her arms, without his head.”

A man on the street agreed to bring Samer and the twins to hospital on an animal-drawn cart.

When they arrived at al-Aqsa Martyrs Hospital in the nearby city of Deir al-Balah, it was confirmed that the twins were dead.

More than 270 Palestinians were killed by Israel in its 8 June attack on Nuseirat refugee camp. Yazan and Omar were among them.

“They were not guilty of anything,” Rehab said. “They loved life and wanted to be engineers when they grew up.”

“Gates of hell”

Maryam Salah had gone to the market in Nuseirat camp with her 10-year-old son Ahmad as he wanted candy.

“While we were shopping, the world turned upside down,” Maryam said.

Israel first used a quadcopter to fire on people in the crowded market, then it began shelling the area.

“I had no idea what was happening,” Maryam said. “I took my son’s hand and began running.”

As they escaped, Ahmad fell to the ground. He had been struck by a missile and lost his right arm.

Maryam picked Ahmad up and began heading to hospital. She was relieved that he was still breathing.

It felt like a miracle that he survived. But Maryam had to perform the horrific task of burying his severed arm when they arrived at the hospital.

Rami Aziz was fetching water near his home late on Saturday morning when the attack occurred.

“It was as if the gates of hell had opened,” he said.

Israel began flying its US-made military helicopters and warplanes over the camp, firing missiles at the residents.

“A fog filled the whole place,” he said. “I couldn’t see anything any more.”

Twenty members of Rami’s extended family – mostly children – gathered in one room.

“In the blink of an eye, my family and I were under the rubble,” he said. “Thankfully, I was still alive.”

“I began shouting for help from under the rubble. But no one heard me.”

Rami remained trapped under the rubble for about two hours and almost lost consciousness.

After the bombardment came to a halt, Rami sensed that the Israeli soldiers had withdrawn from the area.

A passerby heard something from beneath the rubble and called out, “Is there anyone here?”

“Yes,” Rami replied. “I am alive and breathing.”

A group of young men then came and rescued him.

Once he was lifted to safety, Rami went looking for the others who had been in his home.

He was able to save 15 members of his extended family. Five others could not be found.

Doaa Shaheen is a journalist from Gaza.