January 24, 2009
Family accuses Israel of ‘execution’ of 2 girls
01.25.2009 | The Toronto Star
By Oakland Ross
MIDDLE EAST BUREAU
ABED RABBO, Gaza Strip–Two young Palestinian sisters are dead and another is critically injured as a result of what family members are calling a deliberate attack carried out by an Israeli soldier.
The girls’ grandmother was also severely wounded in the same incident, they say.
“It was an execution,” said Hosam Abed Rabbo, an uncle of the three girls, who was with them when they were shot at around 1 p.m. on Jan. 7, days after Israeli forces launched a ground offensive in the Gaza Strip aimed at stopping Palestinian militants from firing rockets across the border.
“We didn’t know what to do,” he added.
As he described the incident, Abed Rabbo was standing amid the wreckage of a neighbourhood that once was home to 7,000 people, most of them members of the Abed Rabbo clan, who lend the area its name.
The community, which was destroyed earlier this month by Israeli bombardment, adjoins
the large Jebaliya refugee camp located south of Gaza City and is within sight of Gaza’s border with Israel.
Abed Rabbo said he and other family members were in their home in a five-storey apartment building when Israeli tanks entered the area. A voice in Arabic boomed over a loudspeaker, advising residents to flee for their safety because the neighbourhood was to be attacked by Israeli forces.
Carrying a white flag, Abed Rabbo and nine family members left their home, meaning to flee, but quickly confronted three Israeli tanks parked near their house.
“There were two soldiers sitting on one of the tanks,” said Abed Rabbo. “They were eating chips. They looked at us. We expected them to tell us where to go.”
But that is not what took place.
“Suddenly, by surprise, a soldier came out of the turret, out to his waist,” said Abed Rabbo. “He got an M-16, and he started shooting at us. He shot the kids.”
Hit were Souad, 7, Samar, 4, and Amal, 2, all nieces of Abed Rabbo. His mother – the girls’ grandmother – was also hit, suffering three bullet wounds. Her name is also Souad.
He said he and the other adults pulled their wounded family members back into their apartment building. By this time, the younger Souad was dead. Amal died about 10 minutes later, he said.
They called for an ambulance, but none came. They waited, terrified, for two and a half hours, until a voice in Hebrew ordered everyone out, because their houses were to be destroyed. The family carried their dead and wounded for two kilometres, Abed Rabbo said, until they found an ambulance.
The Abed Rabbo neighbourhood was subsequently destroyed by Israeli bombardment and is now a wasteland of smashed concrete and uprooted trees.
A spokesperson for the Israel Defense Forces said yesterday it does not target civilians and struck only at Hamas installations during the Gaza war. He said claims of civilian casualties are being investigated.