26 March 2011 | International Solidarity Movement, Gaza
Khuza’a is a village located in the southern Gaza Strip, in the Khan Younis governorate, near the border with Israel. It is a quiet place inhabited mainly by farmers. On the night of March 21st a warehouse used by the local authority to maintain vehicles and materials needed to provide essential services to citizens was bombed and destroyed.
Near the entrance of the village in an area of about one durum the municipality had set up a garage for some vehicles serving the community and a storehouse of material. The roof was composed of simple steel plates and inside there were tractors, metal mesh, trucks that served the municipality, plastic tanks to store water (water is not always available, and therefore it is necessary to keep tanks) and metal tanks with wheels for transportation. The most important vehicle was the one for the transportation of black water. Khuza’a does not have a system for the centralized recycling of sewage, and every family has its own septic tank. When the septic tank fills up, the tank truck for black water arrives and takes away the sewage. In the basement of the warehouse there was a 94 meter deep well that provided water for irrigation. Around midnight between 21st and 22nd March the site was bombed by F16s, making much of the material useless and destroying the well.
“I do not understand – said the mayor – why the occupation army attacks this building: this place does not pose any danger to Israel, it is a place where equipment is maintained to provide services to citizens of the village. The material destroyed was necessary to safeguard the health of my fellow citizens, now without the black water tank truck, if sewage backs up, in the long run we risk the spread of disease.”
Adjacent to the bombed area there is the water tower, and the mosque. Only through luck they have not been damaged. Among the ruins it is possible to recognize games for children, particularly a yellow plastic slide and a small bike which no child will be able to ride any more. The walls are torn, the roof completely smashed, the vehicles rendered unfit for use, the stored material buried under the rubble. A pump for water and part of the roof have been hurled about twenty feet away. Losses are estimated by the municipality at a total of three hundred thousand dollars.
When the mayor was made aware of the declaration of the occupation forces that the place was considered to be a terrorist base, he replied: “No, really! This place is open all day and vehicles entering and leaving at all hours are visible to everyone. It is also clear to anyone observing the remains that the statements of Israel are false. The occupation forces are crazy: they do not know what to hit and then they hit this place to claim to have hit a goal and scored a victory. This place has nothing to do with what they call terrorism, and there are only civilians working here.”
The house of the family of Samir an-Najjar is adjacent to the bombed site. The bomb destroyed the shack where they kept four sheep killing them all, it also created cracks in some of the columns and supporting walls, and destroyed the septic tank. Half a day after being destroyed by the bomb the septic tank was filled with earth to create a passage in the midst of the debris to one of six children, shot in the head by a bullet during the Israeli attack Operation Cast Lead and confined to a wheelchair. During the night of the bombing the family needed to go to hospital where sedatives were administered to the daughter in shock. The night after the bombing the children were crying in their sleep and waking up with horrible nightmares. “The trauma caused to my children is unforgivable. Here there is only one well and a municipal warehouse for use by all people. Vehicles and equipment stored here are needed to provide services to all citizens.”
The barn of Shawqi An Najjar is also located adjacent to the bombed site, it housed four sheep who are now dead under the rubble, a herd of a hundred chickens and 25 other birds. The agricultural tools it housed are now unusable, even the water tank. The bike mentioned previously belonged to his son. “The occupation forces claim this was a base of Hamas, but it’s just a well and a warehouse, it is helpful to everyone, not just Hamas”
The same night, a drone missile was fired over the house of Mahmud Abu Hussein An Najjar, a few dozen meters away from the warehouse. Five minutes previously the occupation forces had phoned his son and ordered him to evacuate the house. Fortunately, no one was hurt. The same night, another site was bombed in the same governorate, in the municipality of Khan Younis, and two sites near Gaza, resulting in 18 hospitalizations.
Previously, on March 1st in a raid on the area just north of Khuza’a, Israeli bulldozers destroyed tens of dunums of land, and soldiers damaged homes with gunfire. Other smaller raids by occupation forces took place on Friday 19th and Saturday 20th, and since then shots are fired daily at this area of the border. There has also been shelling by the tanks that make incursions into the Palestinian territory.
Khuza’a suffered the worst atrocities during the terrorist attack of Israel’s Operation Cast Lead, during which most of the population were forced to leave the village to go to safer places. During this time it was deliberately bombed and civilians were killed during the ceasefire. The area suffered from white phosphorus attacks and women were killed after being trapped in their houses for days when they tried to exit under the white flag.