Testimony: Soldiers fire at shepherdesses near Gaza perimeter fence, wounding elderly woman in leg, 9 August 2011

Update: On 13 May 2013 the MAG Corps informed B’Tselem that the Military Police Investigation Unit had launched an investigation of the circumstances of the incident.

Salma a-Sawarkah, 74

Salma a-Sawarkah, 74

I am 74 years old, a widow, and have three sons and three daughters. We live in Juhar a-Dik, in the center of the Gaza Strip. Yesterday [9 August 2011], around 10:30, I was with Kifah Nasrallah al-Bahabseh, grazing our flocks. I have 28 head and she has about 20. We were north of the refuse dump east of the village, near the border with Israel, in the center of the Gaza Strip [less than one kilometer from the border, B'Tselem.].

I take out my flock daily, looking for food for them. I go to the refuse dump because there is lots of food there. It was quiet along the border that morning. While we were grazing our flocks, we saw an Israeli army patrol moving on the Israeli side of the fence. The dump is about 300 or more meters from the border. I don’t know exactly. We continued to graze the animals. The army was used to seeing us there.

About half an hour later, we saw a jeep on the Israeli side of the border. It went between the dirt mounds and stopped next to the woods. Kifah told me that three or four soldiers got out of the jeep and moved close to the fence. Without warning, they began to fire at us. I started to run, my back to them. They continued to shoot and killed eight of my flock and two of Kifah’s. I tried to move my sheep from the area, but I couldn’t because the gunfire continued. I saw the sheep falling. When I realized I couldn’t gather them, I began to run away without them, my back to the soldiers. There were breaks in the gunfire. The soldiers fired single shots every few seconds. I think they aimed at the sheep, and at me and Kifah, who was hiding behind the refuse. I ran in another direction.

I felt that I had been hit in the right thigh. I walked another 300 meters or so, until I saw a man with a donkey-drawn cart. He was collecting aluminum and bronze. He and a few young men put me onto the cart. In the meantime, Kifah had come over to help me.

On the way, we met my neighbor, and the men moved me from the cart to his car. He took me to Bani Jum’a’s house, which is about 300 meters from my home. From there, my neighbor and Bani Jum’a took me home. I changed my clothes, which were drenched in blood, and then they took me to Shuhadaa al-Aqsa Hospital, in Deir el-Balah, where I was x-rayed and my wound was bandaged. The bullet had entered and exited my right thigh without fracturing the bone. After three hours at the hospital, I was released. It will take a long time before I can go back to work.

The only income I have is from my flock of sheep. My two daughters-in-law and their children live with me: the wife of my son Khaled, who is in prison, and her daughter, and the wife of my son Mustafa, who was shot and killed by the Israeli army, and her five sons and two daughters. We are a large family and have lots of expenses. There is no work in the Gaza Strip and we don’t have farmland or property. The only thing we have is the flock that we have always raised.

Salma Saliman Salem a-Sawarkah, 74, is a widow with six children, a shepherdess and a resident of Juhor a-Dik in Gaza District. Her testimony was given to Khaled al-‘Azeyzeh on 10 August 2011 at the witness’s