Firsthand witness account of Israeli atrocity aftermath… US lawyers delegation

Mondoweiss has posted a letter from an American who was in a delegation that traveled to Gaza to investigate Israeli war crimes.  The letter writer writes thusly:

The things we saw that morning would turn out to be the hardest. We went to Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza City. In the parking lot we saw bombed out, twisted skeletons of ambulances before we were hurried into the building to meet with doctors. Standing in the middle of a care unit, I saw a little boy, about 5 years old, hobble down the hallway, holding his mother’s hand. He had a leg injury and looked in pain. The doctors wanted to show us the white phosphorous cases, since we had asked about that. The doctor pointed to two rooms with patients we could talk to. There were two women in the first one. The one closest to the door just stared at us blankly, not saying anything. It turns out she lost her whole family during the assault. A few of us went into the next room. There we found Mohammad lying in bed — heavily bandaged, missing his left eye. He told us the story of how his whole family was burned to death when two white phosphorous shells hit their family car. He was lucky enough to have been knocked out of the car by the first shell. He lay unconscious and burning on the ground, while several neighbors pulled him away. He didn’t see his family die — both parents, his brother, and his sister. they were in their car driving to a relative’s house to get away from the shelling in their neighborhood. it was during what was supposed to be a 3-hour ceasefire. Their car only made it 70 meters. He and his brother were both in college. His brother was going to graduate this year. As he told us that, a fellow delegate, Linda, who had been translating, suddenly burst into tears. Mohammad grabbed her hand and told her it was ok. Strange how people ended up comforting us. The doctor came in and told us they were changing a child’s dressing if we wanted to come see. We walked into a room to see a baby — about 2 years old — lying on a table. She suddenly sat up and I saw that one whole side of her face and head were severely burnt. I had assumed she was hit with a weapon of some kind, but it turns it was a classic case of “collateral damage”: she had run up to her mom when they started bombing near the house, while her mom was cooking. Then a bomb exploded nearby and the burning oil in her mother’s pan spilled all over this young girl’s face. While we stood there, she just cried and called for her mom. We all stood watching, feeling helpless and guilty.

IMG_2783 We left the hospital and went to Al-Zeytoun, a farming community on the southern outskirts of Gaza City. It was one of the hardest hit areas at the beginning of the ground invasion. The neighborhood was almost entirely inhabited by members of the extended Sammouni family. The town was in the news a lot after soldiers evacuated home after home of Sammounis into one house, that they then shelled, killing dozens of people. We walked up the dirt road and saw the rubble. Only one or two buildings left standing; the rest were completely decimated. Scattered tents served as makeshift shelters. We split up into teams of two and began interviewing survivors. We found two women sitting silently in front of the rubble that used to be someone’s home. One of the women, Zahwa, described the night where she saw her husband executed in front of her with his hands above his head (Zahwa Sammouni is pictured above sitting in front of a tent. Her house was destroyed the night the soldiers came through the neighborhood). She then huddled with her children in a back room of the house as soldiers shot through the two windows above them. She showed us the bullet holes in the wall of the house, the heap of rubble that used to be her house, and the wounds in her back from being grazed with bullets while she hunched over her children. Her 10-year-old son showed us the shrapnel wounds in his leg and proudly displayed the large piece of shrapnel that he single-handedly pulled out of his chest that night. His cousins then gave us a tour of one of the few houses left standing — one that the soldiers had used as a base, after they rounded up all those in the neighborhood and demolished all the other houses. The house was a mess. All the family’s possessions were thrown around the outside perimeter. Bags of feces from the soldiers were strewn around outside. The inside was ransacked. The soldiers had covered nearly every surface with graffiti: “death to the Arabs”, “if it weren’t for Arabs, the world would be a better place”, “kill Arabs”. I feverishly took notes and photographs of the stories of Zeytoun, knowing I did not want to stop and think about what had happened here.

See the rest of his letter at this link:

http://www.philipweiss.org/mondoweiss/2009/03/us-eyewitness-in-gaza-as-a-world-we-utterly-failed-the-palestinians-of-gaza-we-stood-and-watched-the.html

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