“The children of Hamas have used us like targets”- - - - - - - - -
Inhabitants of Gaza accuse militants Muslims: “They prevented us from leaving the houses and they fired from there”
GAZA — “Go away, go away from here! Do you want the Israelis to kill us all? Do you want to see to our children die under the bombs?”
“Take away your arms and missiles!”
These were the calls by many of the inhabitants of the Gaza strip to the militants of Hamas and their allies of the Muslim Jihad. The bravest were organized and had blocked the access doors to their courtyards, nailed planks over the entrances to the buildings, hurriedly blocked staircases up to high flat roofs. But by and large the guerrillas listened to nobody.
“Traitors, collaborators of Israel. spies of Fatah, cowards.”
“The soldiers of the holy war will punish to you. And in any case you will all die, like us. Fighting the Zionist Jews we are all destined for paradise, aren’t you content to die together?”
And thus, shouting furiously, they pulled down doors and windows, hid in high places, in the gardens, used the ambulances, barricaded themselves near hospitals, schools, UN buildings.
In extreme cases they fired at those who tried to block their way in order to save their families, or beat them savagely. “The Hamas militia tried to provoke the Israelis. They were often children, 16 or 17 years old, armed with machine guns. They could do nothing against tank and jet. They knew they were weaker. But they wanted the Israelis to fire on our houses in order to then accuse them of war crimes,” says Abu Issa, 42 years old, an inhabitant of the Tel Awa area.
“Practically all of the taller buildings in Gaza have been hit by Israeli bombs, like Dogmoush, Andalous, Jawarah, Siussi and many others had rocket launchers or Hamas observation points on the roof. They had sited them also near the big UN warehouse which went up in flames and the same goes for the villages along the border which suffered greatly from the fury and punishment of the Zionists,” says his cousin, Um Abdallah, 48 years old.
They use family nicknames. But they are very circumspect about supplying real names. It has been difficult to collect these testimonies. In general terms the fear of Hamas prevails here and the taboos from a century of wars with the “Zionist enemy” rule.
Whoever tells a different version from that of the “muhamawa” (the resistance) is automatically “amil”, a collaborator and risks his life. The recent fratricidal crash between Hamas and Olp helps. If Israel or Egypt had allowed foreign journalists to enter more quickly, it would have been easier.
The residents are often threatened by Hamas. “It is nothing new that in the Middle East among Arabic societies the cultural tradition of human rights is missing. It happened under the regime of Arafat that the press was persecuted and censured. Under Hamas it is worse,” says Eyad Sarraj, a famous psychiatrist of Gaza City. And there is another fact emerging more and more obvious when visiting clinics, hospitals and the families of the victims of the Israeli fire. In truth their numbers appear very much lower than the nearly 1,300 dead men and 5.000 wounded, reported by Hamas and repeated by officials of the UN and the local Red Cross.
“The dead men could be not more than 500 or 600. Generally boys between the ages of 17 and 23 recruited into the ranks of Hamas who have literally sent them to the slaughter,” a doctor in Shifah hospital told us, adding that he did not want to be quoted because of the risk to his life.
This data is also confirmed by local journalists: “We have already informed the leadership of Hamas. Why do they insist in swelling the figures of the victims? It is also strange, among other things, that the Non-Governmental Organizations, even the western ones, report these numbers without verification. In the end the truth could surface. It could be like Jenin in 2002. Initially the figure was 1.500 dead. Then the number was reduced to 54, of which at least 45 guerillas fallen during fighting.”
How were these figures arrived at? “Let’s take the case of the slaughter of the Al Samoun family in the quarter of Zeitun. When the bombs hit their rooms they reported that 31 people had died. So this figure was recorded by the officials of the Ministry of Health, controlled by Hamas. But when the bodies had been effectively recovered, the sum total doubled to 62 and was added to the totals,” explains Masoda Al Samoun, 24 years old.
And he adds an interesting detail: “To muddy the waters there were also members of the Israeli special services disguised as Hamas guerrillas, with green bandana tied around their foreheads with the usual writing: There is no God but Allah and Muhammad is his Prophet. They inserted themselves into the alleyways in order to create chaos. We used to scream at them to go away, fearing reprisals. Later we understood that they were Israeli.”
It is enough to visit some hospitals in order to understand that the figures do not tally. Many beds are free in the European Hospital of Rafah, which would have been the one most involved with the victims of the “war of the Israeli tunnels”. The same for the “Nasser” Hospital of Khan Yunis. Only 5 beds out of 150 at the private Hospital Al-Amal are occupied. The Wafa has been evacuated to Gaza City, constructed with the donations of the “Muslim Charity” of Saudi Arabia, Qatar and other Countries of the Gulf, and bombed by Israel at the end of December. The institute is famous as a Hamas fortress. To here came their injured in the civil war with Fatah in 2007. The others went instead to the Al Quds, in its turn bombed during the second half-week in January.
As told by Magah al Rachmah, 25 years old, a local inhabitant who lives within a few tens of meters from the four big buildings of the sanitary complex, now seriously damaged: “The Hamas men took shelter above all in the building that accommodates the administrative offices of Al Quds. They sequestered the ambulances and forced ambulance men and nurses to remove their uniforms with the symbols of the paramedics, to disguise themselves and to escape the Israeli sharpshooters”. All this has greatly reduced the number of beds available in the sanitary institutes of Gaza.
Also, the Shifah, the largest hospital in the city, is very far from being full. It seems its basements were densely occupied however. “Hamas had hidden the emergency cells and the interrogation rooms for Fatah prisoners and the Front of the secular Left that had been evacuated from the bombed prison of Saraja”, says the militants of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine.
There has been a war within a war with Fatah and Hamas. The local humanitarian organizations, generally controlled by the Olp, tell of “tens of executions, cases of torture, kidnapping in last the three weeks” perpetrated by Hamas. One of the more famous cases is the one of Achmad Shakhura, 47 years old, an inhabitant of Khan Yunis and brother of Khaled, skillful arm of Mohammad Dahlan (former head of the Internal Security Services of Yasser Arafat, today in exile) who was kidnapped on the order of the head of local Hamas secret police, Abu Abdallah Al Kidra, who was tortured, his left eye torn out, and finally killed on 15 January.
— Lorenzo Cremonesi 21 January 2009
Hat tip: Tuan Jim.