Posted on January 28, 2009


A gut wrenching report on the callousness and brutality of the Israeli army and their shocking indifference towards Palestinians.  There’s also some appallingly cruel commentary at the bottom of the article which can be found here:

There’s something about phosphorus, the way it smoulders and burns for days, that makes it looks as though the Devil had walked by, leaving fiery footprints in the earth. I saw phosphorus today in a bombed out ice cream factory (did the Israeli gunners think Hamas had paused for a Magnum bar?). A fire was still flickering in the smoky gloom two weeks after the shell had smashed through the ice cream factory roof.

And I saw phosphorus again yesterday in the charred rooms of a house in north Gaza that belongs to the Abu Halima family. You could possibly blame the Abu Halimas for their own misfortune. You could say that they read the leaflets, which the Israelis dropped ordering everyone in the neighborhood to flee, and they chose to ignore the warnings. “The Israeli soldiers had been through here many times,” say Mahmoud. “They didn’t bother us, and we didn’t bother them.”

Then the shelling started, harder than anything they had witnessed before. Tank shells crashed into the houses around them, thudded into the strawberry patches, sending up sprays of dust and fruit. The father, Saadallah, gathered his wife and kids into the corridor, away from the blizzard of debris coming in through the windows. Then three phosphorus bombs crashed through the roof, right above them. Mahmoud Saadallah Abu Halima, a relative, arrived soon after at the horrifying scene.

“I saw my mother coming towards me. She was on fire. I threw a blanket around her to try to put out the flames but she kept on burning. I went to Saadallah who was lying on the ground with his three young kids wrapped inside his coat. He was trying to protect them. But the coat had caught fire, too. When I tried to pull the kids away, their flesh came off in my hands.”

With help from the neighbors, they got the burn victims into the back of a pick-up truck, but as Mahmoud said of his family: “They were hardly human. They were like coal.”

Their appalling luck got worse. As they were driving to the hospital, an Israeli sniper, possibly fearing suicide bombers, shot and killed the driver, Mahmoud says. His wife and daughter were also among the phosphorus victims, and still alive. “I pleaded with the soldiers not to shoot again. I explained that we were taking our family to the hospital. They made me take off my clothes and when they saw I didn’t have a bomb or a weapon, they let me carry my wife and daughter to the hospital –-on foot.”

Fourteen days passed before it was safe enough for Mahoud and other survivors of the Abu Halima family to venture out to the pick-up with the four corpses. The pick-up had been turned over and smashed, by an Israeli bulldozer, according to witnesses, probably to get rid of the stench of the bodies and protect them from being devoured by stray dogs. It was a decent thought, but the Israelis underestimated the tenacity of Gaza’s canines.

Next, Mahmoud went back to the charred house, which had since been occupied by an Israeli sniper. He knocked out the toilet so he could get a better shot out of the bathroom window. And, the snipers could write Arabic. Maybe he was a Druze. In lipstick snatched from a bedside table, the soldier had drawn a Star of David on the wall and scrawled: “You have pretty underwear.” Then, at some point during the sniper’s long vigil at the window he experienced a flash of remorse. On the wall, in black, smudgy mascara, he wrote: “From the Israeli army, we are sorry.”

It will be a long time –generations, maybe– before the Abu Halima family, and plenty of other Gazans, can even begin to think about accepting an apology.

By Tim McGirk/Gaza

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Posted in: Palestine