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From the field

Testimony: IDF missile strikes schoolyard of school in northern Gaza Strip, killing a teacher and injuring three students, Feb. 2008

Tha'ir Qassem, high school student

Tha'ir Qassem

I live with my parents and six brothers and sisters in the Amal section of Beit Hanun. I go to the agricultural high school, which is situated in the north of Beit Hanun, about fifty meters from my house. The school has about seventy pupils, who study in four classes. I usually go to school with my cousins Nidal Mahat al-Kafarneh and ‘Emad Maher al-Kafarneh. They live near our house.

On Thursday, 7 February , Nidal and ‘Emad came to my house about 6:45. I got out of bed, washed my face, got dressed, and around 7:00, we left the house. We walked to a restaurant near the house, bought Ful and Falafel sandwiches and walked to school. When we got to the outer gate of the school, I saw the teacher Hani Na'im get out of a taxi and enter the school. We said hello to him and went into the school grounds.

Some of the students were in the yard and some were already in class. It was 7:25. We walked through the yard to the classrooms. When we were about sixty meters from the gate, there was a powerful explosion next to us. We all fell down. My whole body hurt. I lay there and the teacher Hani Na'im was to my left. I saw he had been hit and had died on the spot. Blood was flowing from his mouth and nose, and his whole body was bloody. Nidal and ‘Emad were laying between us. They were bloody and were screaming in pain. My injuries were relatively light because I was about three meters from where the missile fell. The teacher was about one meter from where it landed.

I sat up and looked around. E'mad told me he had been wounded in the stomach. I shouted to students who were inside, “Help, there are dead and wounded.” Nidal shouted out in pain, crying out “There is no God but Allah and Muhammad is his prophet” [the Shahada- the sentence Muslims recite before dying].  My chest hurt because of the sight of my teacher and cousins. I was terrified and my leg hurt a lot. I couldn't get up and help any of them.

Within a few minutes, some students and residents arrived, The residents took ‘Emad and Nidal to the hospital in Beit Hanun, which is about 600 meters from the school. An ambulance arrived and took the teacher to the same hospital. One of the residents took me to the hospital. The physicians told me that I had been wounded by shell fragments in my neck, by one in my left leg, and one fragment was stuck in my left foot. From there, I was taken Kamal ‘Adwan Hospital, in Beit Lahiya, and in the afternoon I was discharged and taken home.

I feel very sad over the death of my teacher, and for the severe injuries suffered by my cousins, who are still in the hospital.

I heard this morning that there were a few combatants by the agricultural school, about at least one hundred meters from our school. I was told that Israelis fired at our school at least half an hour after the combatants left the area. In any event, there was no justification in firing into a schoolyard. The Israelis make no distinction between a student or teacher and a combatant. For them, we are all targets. Luckily, there weren't a lot of students, otherwise it would have been a real massacre.

Tha'ir Rashad Fathi Qassem, 17, gave his testimony to Muhammad Sabah at his home on 7 February 2008.