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From the field

Testimony: Soldiers blow up door of family home, killing the mother, and leave body with her children, Gaza, May 2008

Update: On 1 January 2012 the MAG Corps informed B’Tselem that it would not launch an investigation of the incident, explaining that it took place during an extensive operation which included gun battles between IDF forces and operatives of Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad. In the course of the operation, the door to the home was blasted because the house awakened the soldiers’ suspicions, and after they received no response, they assumed the place was vacant.

Samira a-Daghameh, 13

Samira a-Daghameh

I am 13 years old. I live with my father, Majdi a-Daghameh and brothers and sisters: Muhammad, 12, Roah, 10, Manal, 9, Ruba, 4, and Qusai, 2. My mother, Wafa a-Daghameh, lived with us until she was killed. Our house is on Abu Latifah Street, about 700 meters from the Gaza Strip's eastern border with Israel.

Last Wednesday [7 May], around 2 A.M., I woke up from the sound of heavy gunfire. My father and mother were sitting in the living room, watching television, and I went to sit with them. A few minutes later, I went back to my room, where my brothers and sisters were sleeping. I lay in bed until I fell asleep.

Around 6 A.M., I heard my mother wake up Muhammad, Roah, and Manal, to get them ready to go to school. They go to the UNRWA school, where my mother teaches, and they all leave for school together. Ruba goes to kindergarten. When they were about to leave the house, my mother heard gunfire outside and decided not to leave. Around 7:30, the school principal called her and said she had to go to the school. My mother left the house with my brother and sisters, and I remained at home with my father, Ruba, and my baby brother Qusai.

The bombed door of the family’s house. Photo: Muhammad Sabah, B'Tselem.
The bombed door of the family's house. Photo: Muhammad Sabah, B'Tselem.

I tidied up the house and then went out onto the roof to see what was happening in the area. I saw three tanks standing side by side about 500 meters from our house. When I saw the tanks, I immediately went back into the house because I was afraid I'd get hurt.

Around 8:30, my father went next door to his friend's house. I stayed at home with Ruba and Qusai. We sat in the living room and watched cartoons on television. About half an hour later, the electricity was cut off. At around 12:00, I heard somebody call my name. I went to the window and saw my mother. She asked me to open the door. "How did you get home?" I asked her. She said somebody had brought her home through the fields. She came quickly into the house and went to the kitchen to prepare lunch for us. I went into the kitchen too and fried potatoes. When we finished eating, she sat down to study. She was studying at the al-Quds Open University. I played with my brother and sister. We heard the sound of gunfire outside. I looked out the window and saw a bulldozer about 30 meters from our house. A few minutes later, the gunfire stopped.

Around 4:15 P.M., I prayed. There still wasn't any electricity. After I finished praying, I sat with my mother in my room and read the Quran. Suddenly, we heard a door crash to the ground. We looked out the window and saw an army bulldozer shoveling the ground and knocking down the fence in the yard of our neighbor, Ibrahim Abu Latifah. The bulldozer destroyed his house.

We all sat on the floor in the room and heard the tanks coming toward our house. I also heard voices of soldiers talking in Hebrew next to the window. My mother told me she was going to put her outer garment so she could answer the door quickly in case the soldiers came knocking. She put it on and stood by the door on the eastern side of the house. I stood by the window on that side of the house, from where I heard the soldiers' voices. Suddenly, I heard a huge explosion inside the house and saw a red ray of light. Smoke filled the house and there were pieces of glass and wood all over the floor. I couldn't see my mother because the smoke was so thick.

I went to where my mother had been standing and found two soldiers inside the house. One of them looked at my mother, who was lying on the floor, and said in Arabic, "great". I went back to the room right away because I was afraid of them. One of the soldiers stood at the door of the room. Ruba and Qusai were screaming and crying. It was 4:30 P.M.

I saw soldiers going into the rooms of the house. Some other soldiers took carpets that were on the floor and used them to cover my mother. The soldiers had lots of weapons, and were wearing helmets with green cloth netting. They also had a thick pipe about one meter long that was army-green in color. They looked scary.

I asked one of the soldiers where my mother was, but he didn't answer me. They spoke among themselves in Hebrew. I started crying and asked again, "Where is my mother?" But they didn't answer me. Then I asked if I could go to the bathroom, so I would have a chance to leave the room and see what happened to my mother. One of the soldiers said to me in Arabic, "Come." When I left the room, I saw four soldiers standing in the corridor leading to the bathroom near where my mother had been standing. The soldier who spoke Arabic told me to go to the other bathroom, so that I wouldn't see my mother lying on the floor, between her room and the first bathroom. The soldier went with me to the bathroom, and then I went back to the room.

There were lots of soldiers in the house. I stayed in the room with Ruba and Qusai. One of the soldiers sat by the entrance. His eyes were closed and it looked like he was asleep. My mother's cell phone was by me so I sent a text message to my father that Mother had been hurt and that there were soldiers in the house, but he didn't come home. There was still no electricity.

Around 9 P.M., I heard the soldiers getting up and moving things. I think they were getting their equipment together to leave the house. A few minutes later, they began to leave the house. One of them said goodbye and waved to me as he was leaving

When they were out of the house, I wanted to go to my grandfather's house, which is about 300 meters from our house, but the soldiers were still outside and I was afraid to leave. Two hours later, at 11 P.M., the soldiers left. I picked up Qusai and Ruba ran beside me all the way to our grandfather's house.

On the way, I saw aunts of mine. I told them that my mother had been injured by a shell and that she might be dead. They began to scream. I continued to my grandfather's house. My Uncle Muhammad was there and I told him my mother was dead. He didn't believe me and ran to our house. I stayed at my grandfather's house, crying over my mother, whom the Israeli soldiers had killed for no reason. She remained in the house for hours and wasn't taken to the hospital. It was a horrible sight.

Around 11:15 P.M., an ambulance came and took my mother to Nasser Hospital, in Khan Yunis.

Samira Majdi 'Abd a-Razeq a-Daghameh, 13, is a school pupil and a resident of Khan Yunis. Her testimony was given to Muhammad Sabah at the witness's home on 10 May 2008.