Testimony: ‘Arafat family flees from their home in 'Abasan al-Jadida following Israeli air force bombing, Jan. '09

'Abd al-'Aziz 'Arafat, father of four

My wife and I and our four children live with my mother, my brother, and my two sisters in ‘Abasan al-Jadida, Khan Yunis. Next to my house are Anas Mosque and the house of a relative of mine, Khalil Ahmad ‘Arafat.

Since the Israeli attack on the Gaza Strip began, the army has called Khalil a few times to tell him to leave the house, and they also sent him text messages on his cellphone.

Last Thursday afternoon [1 January], a few families and my family began organizing to leave our houses because we were afraid they would bomb Khalil's house. We had only managed to gather a few blankets when airplanes suddenly began to bomb the neighborhood. Lots of people were injured and a man named Hamuda Musa ‘Arafat, 26, was killed on the main road next to the mosque.

I fled with my wife and children to the house of my wife's brother, Muhammad Y ih ya Abu Daqa, in the Farah in area in the eastern part of Khan Yunis. It is a small house, and it was already full of people when we got there. It was crowded like a can of sardines, but we had no choice. We had to get out of our house.

We were with Muhammad for one day when tanks and planes began to shell and bomb that area as well. We managed to flee without anybody getting hurt, and we saw it go up in flames. We didn't have anything to put out the blaze, and it was dangerous to stay there, so we all fled. The house burned to the ground.

We went to the Abu Nawira school in  the ‘Abasan neighborhood. We assumed it would be safe in the school. Now we are living there. The conditions are inhuman. It is very crowded and there is almost nothing here. We don't have enough food or water and there are no mattresses. Nor is their heating, since there isn't any electricity.

Yesterday [6 January], during the break in the fighting, I went home to check the situation there. I had hoped we could return home. I was very scared when I entered the house , and I saw it had been damaged. Opposite my house is a new house I am building for us. I also entered it and saw an unexploded shell on the floor . That terrified me , and I left and went back to the school. We can't return home in this situation.

'Abd al-'Aziz 'Araf Suliman 'Arafat, 35, married with four children, is a resident of 'Abasan al-Jadida, in Khan Yunis District, in southern Gaza Strip. His testimony was given to 'Atef Abu a-Rub by telephone on 7 Jan. '09.