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From the field

Soldiers use 'Aza al-Kafarneh as a human shield during an IDF operation in Beit Hanun, July 2006

'Aza al-Kafarneh, mother to two

I live in the al-Kafarneh neighborhood, next to the a-Nasser mosque in the center of Beit Hanun. My family has twenty-one members, eleven of them children. We live in a four-story building.

This morning [17 July], at about 6:00 in the morning, Israeli military forces with armored personnel carriers and bulldozers made an incursion into our neighborhood. I looked out the window and saw a bulldozer destroy the fence that separates our house from my uncle's house. Then an armored personnel carrier and bulldozer drove up to the house. The bulldozer continued into the house, knocking down the ground-floor wall on the way. All of us, twenty-one people, were sitting on the ground floor. God knows what we felt the moment that the bulldozer came in through the wall. Later, the armored personnel carrier drove up and stopped near the hole in the wall. The soldiers got out and came into the house. The children were frightened and began to scream. They shook in fear of the soldiers.

One of the soldiers took me and ordered me to walk in front of the soldiers, who had begun to search the rooms. We went from the first floor to the top floor. The top floor belongs to by btorher, Qassem al-Kafarneh, who is the manager of the Ramatan film and technical productions company. The door at the entrance to the floor was locked, and the soldiers ordered me to open it. I told them I didn't have the keys with me. They ordered me to go down and get them. I went down to the ground floor. Soldiers took two of my children, Hazem, 14 and Qusai, 16, and my nephew, Khaled Ahmad al-Kafarneh, 22. The soldiers took them upstairs and ordered us to leave the house. I told them that there was intense gunfire going on outside, and a soldier replied, "That is none of our business. Go out immediately." We went to the door of the house and I saw bullets flying in front of us. We got down on our stomachs, crawled to the house of our neighbor Muhammad Mahmud al-Kafarneh, and went inside.

From then until eight at night, I didn't know what happened with my children. I am really frightened and concerned about them. I have lost all my patience. I worry that they will be injured or killed. Even if they are released, I am sure they'll be affected emotionally, having gone through something like this. The telephone doesn't work, and we rely on a cell phone. I don't know what will happen when the battery runs out. I am very concerned because my children are in the hands of the Israeli soldiers

'Aza Qassem al-Kafarneh, 43, married with two children is a resident of Beit Hanun, in the northern Gaza Strip. her testimony was given to Zaki Kahil by telephone on 17 July 2006.