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From the field

Testimony: Israeli army bombs home in Gaza City, killing 21 members of a single family, Jan. '09

Muhammad a-Daiyah, 28

My wife was in her ninth month of pregnancy and was supposed to give birth any day. They killed her and her baby before he had a chance to live. Before he could see the light of day. I trust in Allah and rely on Him.

Last night, I was in our apartment, on the third floor, with my wife and children. All our family were in their apartments, except for my brother Nafez, who was with his wife's family at their house. Throughout the night, a UAV [unmanned aerial vehicle] hovered over our heads, and the children couldn't sleep because of the noise it made. They also didn't sleep because of the sound of bombing and gunfire.

Just before morning prayers, I debated whether I should go to the mosque or not, because the situation was bad. Hassan al-Bana Mosque is about fifty meters from our house. In the end, I decided to go, and I managed to get there for the first part of the prayers.

While we were praying, I heard the sound of F-16 planes bombing. The army bombed the agricultural fields 200-300 meters from the mosque. />

Around 5:45 A.M., when I was on my way home from the mosque, I stood with our neighbor Abu Hassan Murtaji about 15 meters from the house. Suddenly, the UAV dropped a bomb. At first, I didn't see where it fell exactly, but a few seconds later, I realized it had fallen on the roof of our house. It had penetrated the four floors and reached the ground. I was knocked backwards from the intensity of the blast, and quickly hid in a corner of the road.

I told Abu Hassan that the bomb might have been aimed at a-Shatiwi's house. I had heard that the Israeli army intended to bomb that house and had asked the occupants to leave four-five days ago. I thought that the army had carried out its threat. Before I managed to finish speaking, an F-16 dropped a second bomb on our building. The bomb struck the ground floor, and I heard the sound of a huge explosion. I've never heard such a huge explosion, and I hope I'll never hear another one as long as I live. The whole area shook. The building collapsed. The explosion completely flattened the building. Only a few pillars remained standing, barely. Some of the ceilings and fragments flew and damaged other houses nearby. The western side of our neighbors' house, which was next to ours, was destroyed.

The moment I got over the initial shock, I saw people running toward our house. They were shouting: “The house of the a-Daiyah family is gone, their house is gone!” I rushed to see what had happened to my children, my wife, my parents, and my brothers and sisters.

I didn't find a single body in one piece. ‘Amer, Radwan, and Rida, my brothers, barely survived. Radwan is in very serious condition, clinically-dead, in the intensive care department. We didn't find anybody from the rescue forces to come to our assistance. Neighbors helped us lift up the ruins and remove the bodies.

I cried and shouted and called to my wife and children. I hoped I would hear the sound of somebody. I didn't. We're still searching, a day and a half later. I didn't find my wife or my children. I tell you frankly, the only thing we found were body parts. Three sacks of small pieces of flesh, among them three fingers, on one of which was a gold wedding band. I knew that the ring belonged to my wife, because my name is engraved on it. Other than that, we didn't identify any of them. We continued to search until second evening prayers. Something like thirty relatives and neighbors joined in the search. We were assisted by two tractors. This morning, we continued the search. A few minutes ago, we found another body part.

Muhammad Fayez a-Daiyah, 28, married with four children, is a resident of Gaza City. His testimony was given to Iyad Hadad by telephone on 7 Jan. '09.