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Shadi Taleb tells of seeing Abu Jarad family home shelled, leaving 8 dead; recounts constantly fleeing with his family for fear of bombings

The funeral of eight members of the Abu Jarad family. Photo: Suhaib Salem, reuters, 19 July 2014
The funeral of eight members of the Abu Jarad family. Photo: Suhaib Salem, reuters, 19 July 2014

Shadi Taleb tells of seeing Abu Jarad family home shelled, leaving 8 dead; recounts constantly fleeing with his family for fear of bombings

We live in the town of Beit Hanoun, in a very crowded residential area. Three are lots of tall buildings here, each with many apartments. We live in one such apartment building. People around here marry young and some families have many children. A person married at 16 might have five or six kids by the time he’s 24. Some families have more than twenty children.

Since the Israeli offensive on the Gaza Strip began, our lives have become very hard. We can barely find food for our children. There's no milk for the babies and hardly any drinking water. There's no way we can work, and we barely sleep. Palestinian armed operatives are very active by the border with Israel, not far from residential areas, and Israel bombs those spots. For the most part, these are bare, uninhabited areas and Israel always bombs them at the beginning of any military operation in the Gaza Strip.

We went through all the previous military operations, but this time it's different. In the past, the Resistance was weak. In previous operations, tanks came across the border into the Gaza Strip, reached residential areas and warned the people to evacuate their homes on loudspeaker. That's how it was in military actions in Gaza in the first few years after the settlements in the Gaza Strip were evacuated. In the operation in late 2008 (Cast Lead), residents received warnings via the Red Cross. In the 2012 operation (Pillar of Defense), many residents – including my own family – left of their own accord as soon as the attacks began.

Leaving our home is agonizing. It’s been hard every time. We're sick of it. Last time, in March 2014, the airstrikes focused on the tunnels by the border. We saw the bombing from our homes. No one asked us to evacuate, but some families were afraid and decided to leave. In some homes, the women, children and elderly left, and the young men stayed behind to guard their property. That's what we did, too. My wife took our two little children and went to stay with her father in Jabalya Refugee Camp, and I stayed behind to keep watch over the house. My brothers and other relatives did the same, and so did a lot of other families.

In this operation, on the very day the ground incursion began, some apartments in the residential high-rises in Beit Hanoun were bombed. Bombings of Beit Hanoun have continued ever since, and more apartments in high-rises were hit. Ambulance teams that came to the neighborhood to care for the wounded on the first day of the ground incursion told us there was serious military activity in the area and recommended we leave to save ourselves. We took their advice and left that day. Most people in the area did the same. We moved to a friend's house in 'Izbet Beit Hanoun, east of the town.

On Friday, 18 July 2014, at around 9:00 P.M. – about two hours after we left our home in Beit Hanoun, at the time of the second evening prayer – I heard a loud explosion. A house nearby, about 30 or 40 meters from where we were staying, was hit. I think it was an artillery shell. It landed in the backyard of that house. About 20 people from the Abu Jarad family lived there. About 30 seconds after the first shell, another shell hit one of the walls of the house and caused a lot of damage.

I went outside and ran over to the house that had been bombed. A lot of neighbors came as well. We started carrying the wounded to ambulances, which arrived quickly. After we were done carrying everyone out, we found out the results of the shelling: eight family members were killed and four were injured. I found that I knew some the people who had been killed. I knew 'Abd a-Rahman Abu Jarad, his wife, Rajaa, and their two children, a 6-month-old baby and a 6-year-old boy.

'Abd a-Rahman's brother Muhammad told me that most of the people killed had been sitting a room watching the Syrian TV show Bab al-Harah. He said that the two sisters [killed] – Samar, 15, and Ahlam, 18 – hadn’t been hit by the first shell. They were on the second floor, looking out the window at the damage to the yard caused by the first shell, and then they were killed by the second shell.

When we finished clearing the casualties out of the house, I decided, together with the friend we were staying with, to take our families out of the area. At around 11:00 P.M., my family and I moved to the house of another friend in the a-T’wam area, close to Beit Hanoun. That friend had already left with his family, and the house was empty. The people who stayed behind in the area were mostly men from families that had left. They're guarding their houses against thieves. Things in all of the northern Gaza Strip are getting harder and more dangerous. I think we'll have to leave here as well and move again. We don't know where to go next. How long can we keep this up? Only God knows.

Shadi Muhammad Saleh Taleb, 29, a married father of two, lives in Beit Hanoun, in the northern Gaza Strip. He gave his testimony by phone to Iyad Hadad, B'Tselem's field researcher in Ramallah, on 21 July 2014.

The people killed in the bombing of the Abu Jarad home:

'Abd a-Rahman Musa Khalil Abu Jarad, 23; his wife, Rajaa Khalil Abu Jarad, 32; and their children, Haniyah 'Abd a-Rahman Abu Jarad, 3, and Musa 'Abd a-Rahman Abu Jarad, 8 months old; 'Abd a-Rahman's brother, Na'im Khalil Abu Jarad, 18, and his son, Samih Na'im Abu Jarad, 1; 'Abd a-Rahman and Naim's sisters: Samar Musa Abu Jarad, 15, and Ahlam Musa Abu Jarad, 16.

Concerning testimonies about the "Protective Edge" campaign:

With the current military campaign ongoing, B’Tselem is taking testimony from Gaza residents, mainly by telephone. B’Tselem verifies, to the best of its ability, the reliability and precision of the information reported; nevertheless, in these circumstances, reports may be incomplete or contain errors. Given the urgency of informing the public about events in Gaza, B’Tselem has decided to publish the information now available. When the military campaign ends, B’Tselem will supplement these reports as needed.