Survivor Recounts Deadly Gaza Shelling A survivor of the shelling of a house in Gaza City where as many as 30 civilians died tells her story. Observers are calling for full investigations of civilian deaths and allegations that Israeli forces denied the wounded medical help.
NPR logo

An NPR Follow-Up On The Deadly Shelling Of A Palestinian House

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/99220486/99220470" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
Survivor Recounts Deadly Gaza Shelling

An NPR Follow-Up On The Deadly Shelling Of A Palestinian House

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/99220486/99220470" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

U: This story contains some graphic descriptions of violence.

ERIC WESTERVELT: We interviewed Mahsouda al-Somuni(ph) in her hospital bed at Al-Quds Hospital in south Gaza City, where she's recovering from shrapnel wounds. The 20-year-old tears up and pauses several times, seemingly lost in pain as she describes how dozens of members of the extended Somuni family had crowded into her cousin's house to try to avoid the fighting in the area. She says they were running out of everything.

M: (Through Translator) We were there for almost three days, Israeli shells and rockets falling all the time. Really, we never saw anything like that before. The kids needed food and water, and there just wasn't any.

WESTERVELT: We were screaming. And the kids, too, were screaming, she says. Gaza medics say 30 people in the house were killed, including Mahsouda's husband and 10-month-old son, who, she says, died while she was holding him.

M: (Through Translator) I was cradling my infant baby in my arms, and the second little boy was on my legs, and my third son was behind me. The infant was hit in his stomach with two pieces of shrapnel. He's so small and weak. I saw his head flop down, and he opened his mouth. So I knew he was dead.

WESTERVELT: Mahsouda says she and her sister-in-law fled in panic to a nearby house carrying her kids, including her dead son. Israeli soldiers were deployed less than one hundred yards away, she says, but wounded family members went more than two and a half days without medical care. It's not clear the Somunis asked the Israeli army for any medical treatment.

O: dead bodies, and kids too weak to move from lack of food and water.

M: Navi Pillay, the U.N. high commissioner for human rights, told the BBC an independent investigation should be launched. The events in Zeitun, Pillay said, display elements of what may constitute war crimes.

M: There's an international obligation on the part of soldiers in that position to protect civilians, not to kill civilians indiscriminately in the first place - and when they do, to make sure that they help the wounded. And in this particular case, these children were helpless, and the soldiers were close by. So I would say that all these call for urgent, independent, transparent investigation.

WESTERVELT: It's the second time in a week the U.N. has called for an investigation of Israeli military conduct in Gaza. The U.N. continues to call for an independent probe of the Israeli mortar strike Tuesday that killed some 40 civilians who'd taken shelter at the U.N.-run Jabaliya Prep Girls School in north Gaza. The Israelis say they were taking fire from militants near the school. Israel Defense Force spokeswoman Major Avital Leibovich says the army is looking into events in Zeitun.

M: Well, we are trying to do the utmost to prevent civilian casualties. We are doing an investigation into Zeitun, and I believe that we are looking into it with the utmost seriousness.

WESTERVELT: The scene in Zeitun was hardly the only horrific story of civilian dead to emerge from Gaza. In the rubble-strewn streets of the Zayfia(ph) neighborhood, Red Cross workers say they saw the charred, dead bodies of several children whose remains, it appeared, had been ravaged by the wild dogs common across Gaza City. Eyad Nasser is with the Red Cross in Gaza.

M: We collected three bodies from the side of the road of two children and one baby, 1-and-a-half-years-old baby, eaten by wild animals, it seemed, from the street.

WESTERVELT: Nasser says his colleague, a veteran Red Cross worker, told him: I've never seen such images, and what I've seen will haunt me for the rest of my life. Eric Westervelt, NPR News.

: NPR assistant Ahmed Abu Hamda in Gaza City contributed to that story. Israel continues to bar foreign reporters from entering the territory.

Copyright © 2009 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.