Monday, January 12, 2009

Young Palestinian witness of Israeli War Crime in Gaza recalls the events

If you have been following the events in Gaza closely as I have, then you have surely heard about the tragic story of young children rescued by the Red Cross who were found starving next to their dead mothers. AlJazeera has done an interview with these children. I cannot imagine the nightmares that these young innocents are suffering at night. Once again AlJazeera and its reporters and crews should receive the highest praise for their fearless reporting in Gaza. In fact I think AlJazeera should receive a Pulitzer Prize, or whatever is the equivalent for video journalism, for their reporting from Gaza during this Israeli invasion.

Here are some excerpts from the print version of this story from AlJazeera titled "Shelled family recounts Gaza horror"

Ahmed Samouni, who was left for days amidst the dead bodies of his mother and four brothers, witnessed what many are calling a massacre.

The horror that the 16-year-old has seen is hard for him to put into words, but the effects are written all over his face.

"It was the third missile I remember. The other ones had killed my elder brother and injured people, they kept bleeding. But the third missile, that killed them all," he said in between sobs.

"My brother was bleeding so much and right in front of my eyes he died. My other brother Ismail, he also bled to death.

"My mum and my youngest brother, they are gone. Four brothers and my mother, dead. May God give them peace."

On January 7, paramedics finally brought the dead and injured to hospital, after they had spent four days trapped in their home in the Zeitoun neighbourhood.
In this previous report (from British TV) Katharine Ritz, head of the International Red Cross in Israel and Palestine, makes some stunning accusations [at 1:00 in video] against the Israeli government with regards to this incident. This is followed [at 4:35 in video] by Mark Regev, the Israeli Prime Minister's spokesman defending Israel's actions while being repeatedly challenged by the journalist conducting the interview.

Here is the official statement from the International Red Cross.
8-01-2009 News release 09/04
Gaza: ICRC demands urgent access to wounded as Israeli army fails to assist wounded Palestinians

Geneva/Jerusalem/Tel Aviv (ICRC) - On the afternoon of 7 January, four Palestine Red Crescent Society (PRCS) ambulances and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) managed to obtain access for the first time to several houses in the Zaytun neighbourhood of Gaza City that had been affected by Israeli shelling.

The ICRC had requested safe passage for ambulances to access this neighbourhood since 3 January but it only received permission to do so from the Israel Defense Forces during the afternoon of 7 January.

The ICRC/PRCS team found four small children next to their dead mothers in one of the houses. They were too weak to stand up on their own. One man was also found alive, too weak to stand up. In all there were at least 12 corpses lying on mattresses.

In another house, the ICRC/PRCS rescue team found 15 other survivors of this attack including several wounded. In yet another house, they found an additional three corpses. Israeli soldiers posted at a military position some 80 meters away from this house ordered the rescue team to leave the area which they refused to do. There were several other positions of the Israel Defense Forces nearby as well as two tanks.

"This is a shocking incident," said Pierre Wettach, the ICRC's head of delegation for Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories. "The Israeli military must have been aware of the situation but did not assist the wounded. Neither did they make it possible for us or the Palestine Red Crescent to assist the wounded."

Large earth walls erected by the Israeli army had made it impossible to bring ambulances into the neighbourhood. Therefore, the children and the wounded had to be taken to the ambulances on a donkey cart. In total, the ICRC/PRCS rescue team evacuated 18 wounded and 12 others who were extremely exhausted. Two corpses were also evacuated. The ICRC/PRCS will recover the remaining corpses on Thursday.

The ICRC was informed that there are more wounded sheltering in other destroyed houses in this neighbourhood. It demands that the Israeli military grant it and PRCS ambulances safe passage and access immediately to search for any other wounded. Until now, the ICRC has still not received confirmation from the Israeli authorities that this will be allowed.

The ICRC believes that in this instance the Israeli military failed to meet its obligation under international humanitarian law to care for and evacuate the wounded. It considers the delay in allowing rescue services access unacceptable.
It's highly unusual for the Red Cross to publicly criticize the actions of one side over another in a conflict. They have a very strong interest in maintaining their neutrality. Yet in this case the ICRC has openly condemned the actions of the Israeli military. Will Israel now condemn the Red Cross and accuse them of anti-Semitism and siding with the "Islamo-fascists"? Is AlJazeera spreading Hamas propaganda when it reports on these incidents?