Israel's 2008-09 Gaza war was one of history's great crimes. Missiles, bombs, shells, and illegal weapons were used against defenseless people. Mass slaughter and destruction followed.
Brazen crimes of war and against humanity were committed. International protection wasn't afforded. Responsible officials remain unaccountable.
Before his fall from grace, Richard Goldstone said:
"(T)here is evidence indicating serious violations of international human rights and humanitarian law were committed by Israel during the Gaza conflict, and that Israel committed actions amounting to war crimes, and possibly crimes against humanity."
Over 1,400 Gazans were killed. Around 80% or more were civilians. Thousands of others were injured, many seriously. Extensive civilian infrastructure and private property were destroyed or damaged, including homes, schools, hospitals, mosques, and businesses.
Killing 29 members of one family perhaps was Cast Lead's greatest crime. Bombing their home killed 21. The previous day, IDF soldiers gathered 100 members there. Surviving ones and human rights activists demanded justice. They still do. They were denied.
On May 1, Israel said those responsible won't be prosecuted. The case was closed. Major Dorit Tuval, Deputy Military Advocate for Operational Matters, said civilians "who did not take part in the fighting" weren't killed "in a manner that would indicate criminal responsibility."
He lied! They were willfully targeted and murdered. All Israeli investigations are whitewashed. Justice is denied. It never has a chance. International law prohibits targeting civilians. Doing so is official Israeli policy.
B'Tselem attorney Yael Stein said:
"It cannot be that in a well-managed system no person will be found guilty of the army operation that led to the killing of 21 people who were not involved in combat, and resided in a structure on the instructions of the army – even if the attack was not done purposefully."
"The manner in which the army rids itself of responsibility in this case… again illustrates the need for an investigatory body outside of the army."
On January 4, soldiers ordered Salah Samouni and those with him from their home. They took it for a command post. Those inside moved next door to family member Wael's house.
Concentrating unarmed men, women, children, infants, and the elderly in one building made them feel safe. So did having soldiers close by who knew they were there, even though war raged around them.
On January 4, they used six or more Samouni compound houses as military posts. Earlier fighting killed family members. Some were shot in cold blood at close range. The atmosphere was trigger-happy. Israeli soldiers used Palestinian civilians for target practice.
They also fired at anyone who moved. They willfully targeted civilians. Wounded victims bled to death. Commanders kept ambulances away from target sites. Even unarmed civilians trying to walk away were shot. Bombing and shelling killed others.
On January 5, Salah thought family members still remained in another house. He wanted them safer with him. IDF shells and rockets struck the building. He said:
"My daughter Azza, my only daughter, two and a half years old, was injured in the first hit on the house. She managed to say, 'Daddy, it hurts.' And then, in the second hit, she died."
"And I'm praying. Everything is dust and I can't see anything. I thought I was dead. I found myself getting up, all bloody, and I found my mother sitting by the hall with her head tilted downward."
"I moved her face a little, and I found that the right half of her face was gone. I looked at my father, whose eye was gone. He was still breathing a little, and then he stopped."
Under dust and rubble in one large room, nine family members remained alive. They included the elderly matriarch, five grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. The youngest was three.
The previous day, nine-year old Amal saw soldiers burst into her home. They killed her father, Atiyeh. She took shelter in Uncle Tallal's home. Together with other family members, they moved to Wael's house. She didn't know her brother Ahmad was bleeding to death in his mother's arms in another neighborhood home.
Surviving children found food scraps to eat. They went from corpse to corpse shaking them, hitting them, telling them to get up. Amal regained consciousness. Her head was bloody. Her eyes rolled in their sockets. She cried out for water. She wanted her mother and father. She beat her head on the floor.
Doctors called removing shrapnel from her head too dangerous. No one's sure how events unfolded after Wael's house was struck. Survivors were dazed and injured.
After Cast Lead ended, rescue teams returned to the neighborhood. Wael's house lay in ruins. IDF bulldozers demolished what remained. Corpses were still inside.
Saleh wanted to know why soldiers attacked them. "Why did they take us out of the house one at a time, and the officer who spoke Hebrew with my father verified that we were all civilians. So why did they they shell us, kill us? This is what we want to know."
He feels exiled on his own land in his own country. "We sit and envy the dead. They are the ones who are at rest."
Masouda Samouni said:
"I have no hope, no future, I lost everything in the offensive. I was in the corner with my children just watching. I was screaming and crying, I saw everything, the blood and the brains."
"There was smoke everywhere. I saw my brother-in-law falling down, and my mother-in-law. I realized that my three brothers-in-law and my mother-in-law were dead....I was injured in the chest and couldn't move....I was bleeding and five months pregnant."
Soldiers stormed Ateya Samouni's home. He identified himself as the owner. Soldiers shot him while he was still holding his ID and an Israeli driver's license.
They opened fire inside the room where 20 family members were sheltered. Deaths and injuries resulted. Other abuses followed. Mona Samouni saw her parents shot to death.
Almaza Samouni lost her mother and six siblings. Survivors suffer from depression and nightmares. Like most Gazans, they manage as best they can. Trauma still affects many. Children are harmed most. How can any family recover from 29 members lost? They want answers but never got them.
Brigade commander Colonel Ilan Malka ordered an air strike on their house. Militants were inside, he claimed. He ignored junior officers saying civilians were there or close by.
Twenty-one inside were killed, including women and children. Another 19 were wounded.
When is a crime not one? When Israel says so. When is denied justice gotten? Maybe next time.
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|William A. Cook|