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Palestine: “They used our clothes as a toilet”

Bloggers in Gaza are gathering information about what happened during the recent Israeli attacks. In this update, we hear from families whose homes were looted and left covered with faeces by Israeli soldiers, learn what the effects of DIME weapons are, and are told the story of a father whose baby daughter was shot, his wife breastfeeding the girl as she bled to death.

Canadian activist Eva Bartlett blogs at In Gaza, and writes in a post (January 27) about visiting Ezbet Abbed Rabbo, eastern Jabaliya, an area which was invaded by Israeli troops and where many homes were occupied:

The first house I visited was that of my dear friends, who we’d stayed with in the evenings before the land invasion began. […] Upstairs to the first level apartment. Complete disarray. Feces on the floor. Broken everything. Opened cans of Israeli army provisions. Bullet holes in walls. Stench. To the second floor, next two apartments, all of the extended sons and wives and children’s rooms. More disarray, greater stench. This was the main base, apparently, from the boxes of food – prepackaged meals, noodles, tins of chocolate, and plastic-wrapped sandwiches – and the left behind IOF soldiers’ clothing. A pair of soldiers trousers in the bathtub, soiled with shit.
F. tells me: “The smell was terrible. The food was everywhere. Very disgusting smell. They put shit in the sinks, shit everywhere. Our clothes were everywhere. The last time they invaded (March 2008), it was easy. They broke everything and we fixed it. But this time, they put shit everywhere: in cupboards, on beds – my bed is full of shit.”
She is strong and has handled the invasions before, but the desecration of her house has got her down.
“A minute ago, Sabreen opened her clothing cupboard: there was a bowl of shit in it! They used our clothes for the toilet. They broke the door of the bathroom and brought into our room. I don’t know why.”
[…] Two days later, I re-visited, the house much tidier but still soured with the clinging stench of the soldiers’ presence. “We’ve cleaned as much as we can, but it’s so difficult. We still don’t have running water, we have to fill jugs from the town water supply.” I’d walked the sandy track up, I know how hard it is even empty-handed on foot, let alone laden with heavy jugs or trying to navigate any sort of wagon to carry large amounts of water. The track had been more of a proper dirt road before. Before it, and the land around, was torn up by Israeli tanks and bulldozers.

For photos of the temporary shelters many people in Jabalia have been forced to live in see here.

In another post (January 29) Eva writes about Yousef Shrater, a father of four whose home was also occupied:

Shrater explains how the Israeli soldiers forcibly entered the house and ordered the family members out, separating men and women and locking them in a neighbouring house with others from the area. His father and mother, living in a small shack of a house nearby, were soon to join them. The soldiers then occupied the house for the duration of the land invasion, as Israeli soldiers did throughout the Abed Rabbo area, as they did throughout all of Gaza. And as with other houses in occupied areas, residents who returned to houses still standing found a disaster of rubbish, vandalism, destruction, human waste, and many stolen valuables, including mobile phones, gold jewelry, US dollars and Jordanian dinars (JOD), and in some cases even furniture and televisions, used and discarded in camps the soldiers set up outside in occupied areas. Shrater says the soldiers stole about US$1,000 and another 2,000 JOD (~US$2828) in gold necklaces. Back in the east-facing corner room, Shrater steps around a 1.5m by 1.5m depression in the floor where tiles have been dug up and the sandy layer of foundation beneath has been harvested. “They made sandbags by the window, to use as sniper positions.” The bags are still there, stuffed with clothing and sand. “They used my kids’ clothes for their sniper bags,” Shrater complains. “The clothes they didn’t put in sandbags they threw into the toilet,” he adds.

Shrater's father was abducted from his home:

From the roof we see more clearly the surrounding area where tanks were positioned, the countless demolished and damaged houses and buildings, and bits of shrapnel from the tank missiles. Shrater’s father, 70, is on the roof, and begins to tell of his experience being abducted from his house and locked up with his wife and others for 4 days. “They came to our house there,” pointing to the low-level home which housed he, his wife, and their sheep and goats. “The Israeli soldiers came to our door, yelled at us to come out, and shot around our feet. My wife was terrified. They took all of our money, then handcuffed us. Before they blindfolded us, they let our goats and sheep out of their pens and shot them. They shot 8 dead in front of us.” The elderly Shrater and his wife were then blindfolded and taken to another house where for the next 4 days Israeli soldiers denied him his inhaler for his asthma and his wife her diabetes medications. Food and water were out of the question, and Yousef Shrater’s father says their requests for such were met with soldiers’ retorts ‘No, no food. Give me Hamas, I’ll give you food.’

At Tales to Tell, Australian activist Sharyn Lock writes (January 26) about a discussion with a doctor:

When I saw Dr Halid the other day, on the request of a journalist, I asked him about evidence of the weapon called gbu39 or “dime” (dense inert metal explosive) bomb. This is believed to have been used by Israel for the first time in Lebanon in 2006, and now here as well. Dr Halid said the ICU doctors were seeing something new to them: what appeared to be mild external shrapnel injuries coupled with disproportionate massive internal damage.
“There will be small chest wounds, but then the lungs will be destroyed. Or minor abdominal entry wounds but then kidneys and liver destroyed.” I heard today that it seems that the dense metal shrapnel splinters into tiny particles upon entry to the body, which are then carried by the bloodstream, swiftly shredding everywhere they reach. So many patients appear to stabilize, and then die shortly afterwards. As if that wasn’t enough, Lebanon experience suggests that those who do survive experience quick onset of cancer. What kind of mind dreams this stuff up?

In another post (January 22) Sharyn tells us Amer's story:

Amer is 29. 14 people from his family were in the house that night, and they were all trying to sleep under their stairs as some sort of shelter. Even though the stairs were partly open to the back yard, the F16 attacks on the house made downstairs seem the safest place. […] Amer didn’t know it yet, but his brother Mohammed had already been killed elsewhere that day, struck by drone rockets.
The Israeli soldiers came to their house at about 5.30am, after the house had been shelled for 15 hours, and immediately opened fire on the family, killing Amer’s father with three shots. Then they told the family to leave. Amer had called an ambulance (which had to turn back after being shot at) and was refusing to leave his father’s body but the soldiers said they would shoot him if he stayed, so they fled 300 yards up the dirt track behind their house, at which point they were shot at again by another group of soldiers. This time Amer’s brother Abdullah was shot, Amer and Shireen’s 6 year old daughter Saja was shot in the arm, and their 1 year old daughter Farah was shot in the stomach. They spent the next 14 hours sheltering behind a small hill of dirt, while the wounded bled, and were not allowed to access help though the soldiers were aware of the injuries. Having no other way to comfort her small daughter, whose intestines were falling out, Shireen breastfed Farah as the little girl slowly bled to death.
After 14 hours, at about 8 in the evening, the soldiers sent dogs to chase them out of their shelter and dropped phosphorous bombs near them, but due to the wounded family members and having bare feet in an area of broken glass and rubble, escape was difficult. The army took the three wounded and put them behind the tanks, and captured Amer, but the rest of the family managed to get away and call the Red Crescent. The ambulance that eventually reached the injured people 7 hours later (driven by my medic friend S) took an hour to find them, and by this time Farah was dead. […] Amer was held for 5 days in army custody (the first 3 without access to food, water, or a bathroom), beaten and tortured, and questioned about resistance activity which he knew nothing about. When he was finally released on the border, the army sent two known collaborators to escort him, so it would look to the resistance fighters like he himself was a collaborator. But the fighters knew who he was and that he was not a collaborator. He tells us:
“I had my four children young, and they gave me the most happiness in my life. I took such good care of them. […] Now my remaining children will not go to sleep without their shoes on, because they think we will have to run for our lives again.”

Mohammed Ali, who works for the NGO Oxfam, writes on the Oxfam blog (January 20) about his sister's children:

My sister will not leave her house; she is still scared that something terrible might happen if she steps out of her front door. Since the ceasefire started, she has encouraged her children to return to sleeping in their beds. She awoke this morning to find her kids curled together in the centre of the living room, like they had been doing for the last three weeks. It will take them weeks, months if not years for their wounds caused by this conflict to heal.

Natalie Abou Shakra, a Lebanese activist, blogs at Moments of Gaza; in a post written on January 20 describes visiting Dr. Imad, professor of microbiology:

As I get into Imad's living room I see a painting of a woman, with traditional Palestinian attire, pink (remember that the colour pink is targeted by the Israeli Occupation Forces… pink pajamas… especially children in pink pajamas)… the painting was on the floor, and there was a hole in the wall where it used to hang… it was a beautiful painting… vibrant and full of life… perhaps, that is why it was targeted. On another wall, there was a photo of a man and woman in an intimate position, kissing… I stood in front of it. Don't we have the right to love and intimacy too? We want the right to love and intimacy too… They bombed two bedrooms, and the holes were just above the beds… the ruins were all on the bed. Intimacy… ‘love'… sex… destroyed. A society whose right to develop [has been] hindered, obstructed.

9 comments

  • Dörte

    I really want to know why the average Israeli calls these atrocities a military success and an act of heroism. Can anyone enlighten me?

  • […] in Gaza are gathering information about what happened during the recent Israeli attacks. In this update, we hear from families whose […]

  • acshalom

    Just for the same reason leaders from Hammas calls the atrocities they did a military victory and an act of heroism. Neither of them is right, both sides loosed. Only hate wins in both sides.

    I consider myself an average Israeli – I would not call the IDF acts in Gaza a military success or act of heroism – but a necessary act provoked by incessant launching of rockets on civil targets in Israel for years, and the declaration of the launchers that their goal is to destroy Israel.
    Of course, this do not justify acts described in the blog, and as an average Israeli I can be only ashamed of such inconsiderate behavior. You can find amongst Israelis from the extreme right (that are very close to the Hammas, just from the jewish point of view. Both groups incentive hate and seeks no compromise.
    But there are others Israelis that think otherwise, and express overtly their point of view.
    I am sure there are also Palestinians that think different from Hammas – but we just don’t hear from them – many of them that tried were killed by the Hammas

  • Dörte

    acshalom, I agree, hate is the real winner. How can you say at the same time that the attacks on Gaza were necessary? Even if you expected they would stop the firing of rockets, now you must see they did not. I am not concerned about Hamas, you are right about them (although I think it is necessary to negotiate with them. That would force them to show their voters how responsible they can act, and if it causes some friction within the organization, so much the better). I am concerned about the fate of civilians and I can assure you that I had great difficulties to read on when reading reports from Gaza, because I could not stand the cruelty. If this was necessary as you say, what on earth was the positive result? The only results of the Gaza war I can see are hundreds of dead and maimed children, more hatred, and on both sides more strength of those groups who want anything but peace.

  • Soldiers are supposed to be respectable… Even during war they should show respect to their enemies, but this? These soldiers sound so immature.

  • Matthew A. Sawtell

    And people around the world are confused why American taxpayers are calling their Senators and Representatives and demanding that American Taxes should only be be spent in America?

  • […] your company has helped to create.  These words are simply euphemisms for the heinous crimes – eg. here, here and here carried out by organisations your company has helped […]

  • Chen Shui-bian

    Taxation without representation!!! Damn and to think I got prosecuted for stealing candy from a baby (hard earned tax payers money). I should go take a course with the IDF..

    Chen Shui Bian

  • […] media from voices of ordinary people will never be silenced though, as this compilation of stories from Ayesha Saldanha illustrates. They are the stories from ordinary Palestinians who are starting to count the cost of the recent […]

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