'Abd al-Fatah Fiad, a farmer from al-Qararah, relates how he and his family fled to Khan Yunis, abandoning their home and livestock

Residents evacuating from Beit Hanoun during the humanitarian ceasefire. Photo: Muhammad Sabah, B'Tselem, 26 July 2014
Residents evacuating from Beit Hanoun during the humanitarian ceasefire. Photo: Muhammad Sabah, B'Tselem, 26 July 2014

My wife and I live with our four children on farmland in the al-Qararah area, together with my parents and brothers. We live near Khaled Ibn al-Walid Mosque, about 2.5–3 kilometers from the Israeli border. There are 37 of us all told. We are all farmers, raising sheep and chickens. My brother Jaber has a chicken farm with 1,200 chickens on the roof of our house. This area is generally a farming area.

On Thursday, 17 July 2014, I was at home with the family. My father and my brothers were in their homes. After the afternoon prayer, al-Qararah came under attack. They attacked us from airplanes, tanks and helicopters. Some homes in the area were damaged. A bit before Iftar, the meal that breaks Ramadan fasting for the day, my father’s house was hit and badly damaged. My house was also hit by shrapnel. Most of my brothers’ homes were hit too, some directly and some by shrapnel. The army also threw smoke grenades and everything filled with smoke. We stayed up all night. We were very worried.

We waited until dawn to leave the house. My children cried all night. On Friday (18 July), at 5:30 A.M., I left with my family. We didn’t take anything. Some of the kids didn’t even have enough time to find shoes and they went out barefoot. A lot of people left al-Qararah like us. We walked to Khan Yunis, about 8 kilometers away. We were afraid the bombing wouldn’t stop and we wanted to get as far away as we could. We finally arrived, tired and anxious, at an UNRWA school across from the Khan Yunis hospital.

We left behind 25 sheep, a mare, a foal, and chickens. We had nowhere safe to take them. I don’t know if they’ve been hit or not, but now there’s no one to feed them and look after them. I’m worried because these animals are our source of income, mine and the rest of my family’s. Unfortunately, if this goes on, we’ll have serious losses and our income will suffer.

When we reached the school, there was nothing here. Gradually, aid started coming in. Some mattresses arrived, but not enough for everyone. I think there was one mattress for every three people. There were no blankets or food in the school, but the al-Katab and a-Suna organization gave food to people arriving.

Because more and more people are leaving their homes, there are already 40 to 70 people in each classroom now. We’re in a room of 57 people, mostly children. The water supply is irregular and there aren’t enough washrooms.

People from our area who came here after we did said the Israeli army took over roofs in the area, and that army bulldozers destroyed a lot of fields and uprooted trees. That's a serious blow to people’s income around here.

The conditions here are tough and I can’t sleep. This morning, my brother Muhammad tried to sneak into our neighborhood to check on the livestock and feed them. When he was about 800 meters from the house, soldiers in the neighborhood fired warning shots in his direction, so he turned around and came back.

'Abd al-Fatah Fiad, 38, a married father of four, is a farmer and resident of al-Qararah. He gave his testimony by phone to 'Atef Abu a-Rub, B’Tselem's field researcher in Jenin, on 18 July 2014.

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