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The testimony of a young Palestinian in Beit Hanoun, Gaza: “They shoot at anything that moves”

The interview below describes events that took place nearly a week ago. Early this morning another massacre took place in Beit Hanoun. Eighteen Palestinians were killed instantly (7 of them children) and more have since died. Sixty people were lying injured on the ground, according to Palestinian doctors on the scene.

Interview conducted by Silvia Cattori, 3 November 2006

“Beit Hanoun, a town in the northern Gaza strip with 30,000 inhabitants, has been the target of daily aggressions and air strikes since June 25. It is now besieged by Israeli troops. We have seen the tanks advance and take up their positions. We are now encircled by about 70 tanks and at least 450 soldiers who announce that the city is a ‘closed military zone’. That means that no one can leave. No one can flee. It is an offensive modeled on those carried out in the West Bank in 2002.

“We have no water, no electricity. We hide in the remote corners of our houses. Ambulances are not authorized to enter into this occupied and closed zone. The soldiers have circled the houses they want to invade. They occupied the houses and they shut up the families in one room. Now they are using then as forts. They use explosives to pierce holes in the walls, they blow off doors, and the people are terrified. They shoot anyone that moves.

“Yesterday they fired on people that were seeking shelter, who were not armed, who were not in fighting positions. They shot them in the back, and when one was wounded and wanted to flee, they killed him. Those who wanted to collect his body were targets as well. In numerous cases, ambulances couldn’t go to the aid of the wounded. Children who slip out from their parent’s watch or that look out of the windows are killed by Israeli soldiers positioned on the roofs and balconies of the houses they occupy.

“They have the green light from Bush, and those politicians that affirm that Israel ‘has the right to defend itself, to kill us. They use arms that transform the dead and wounded into something monstrous. The wounds caused by the missiles launched from the drones are very impressive. They are like razor cuts; the legs, the feet, the hands all cleanly cut. They are as horrifying as wounds from an M-16. The soldiers have orders to shoot at the upper body. They aim at the chest, near the heart, the head.

“The victims are mostly civilians, killed or wounded in the throat, the neck, the chest, the head, even though they were in their houses. They shoot at people running in fear, who are trying to save themselves. We have lost any notion of time; we have no idea how long we have been caught in this war. We feel lost. There are planes that bomb us, drones ready to fire their missiles over our heads. They control the entire zone. With the sound of the drones, we always have the feeling of having a bee buzzing in our ears. It is really disturbing.

“There is no one to defend us. We don’t have an army. We have only our parents to defend us, knowing that they are going to their deaths and that they cannot defend us. This new aggression is horrible especially for the children who are very numerous here. They are forced to stay couped up inside, they are terrorized, and they cry when there are bombings. At any moment we can learn there are people killed, that there are people wounded who are bathed in their own blood, that people don’t know how to stop the hemorrhaging, and that the ambulances can’t give them any aid without being hampered.

“The Israelis say that they are waging this offensive to prevent the entry of arms from Egypt. That is false. Nothing can enter. In Gaza, there are only rifles that can do nothing against the Apache helicopters and the Merkava tanks of the Israeli army.

“Yesterday, through their loud speakers the soldiers demanded that all the young men fifteen years and older leave their houses. Then, sector by sector, they searched the houses and brought them out, handcuffed, and took them to a place where they certainly forced them to strip, as they did in Beit Lahia in June. They leave the men in their underwear. For an Arab, it is the worst of humiliations. They might as well kill us.

“We think that after Beit Hanoun they will attack Beit Lahia, and then Jabaliya and do what they have done here: search house by house. Beit Hanoun, like Rafah, is a very vulnerable zone because they are geographically separated from other inhabited areas. They are therefore easy to isolate from the rest of Gaza.

“This morning, the women went out to come to the aid of their sons or husbands threatened by the armored cars that encircled the Mosque. The women defied the Apaches and the armored vehicles. For us, it was a tremendous moment. We felt like we were wrapped up in a veil of humanity. It was very moving to see these women ready to die to save their sons and husbands. They continued on without hesitation, and the soldiers, who hadn’t expected this, were disoriented. Because of this effect of surprise, they succeeded, saving the lives of these fighters. They demonstrated that people with empty hands could defeat the largest army in the world. We took it as a message to the men of the Arab countries who remain silent. These women said, by their gesture, ‘There, in the face of your cowardice, Palestinian women by themselves are in the process of fighting for the release of their men who are besieged by the enemies of the Arabs, Israel.'”