- The Washington Times - Saturday, January 10, 2009

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip | “Abu Salah died, his wife died. Abu Tawfiq died, his son died, his wife also died. Mohammed Ibrahim died, and his mother died. Ishaq died and Nasar died. The wife of Nael Samouni died. Many people died.

“There were maybe more than 25 people killed,” said Ahmed Ibrahim Samouni, a 13-year-old Palestinian boy who was wounded in the leg and chest but survived the purported Israeli shelling of a house in north Gaza on Monday.

A report by the U.N. Office for the Coordinator of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said at least 30 people were killed in the incident. Most were members of the Samouni family.

OCHA deputy chief Allegre Pacheco quoted witnesses in the Zeitoun district as saying Israeli troops had ordered about 100 civilians to get into the house and stay there, out of their way. But the following day the house was hit by Israeli shells.

“There are no bomb shelters in Gaza,” she said.

An Israeli army spokesman on Friday denied the allegation.

“The IDF (Israel Defense Forces) did not mass people into any specific building,” Jacob Dallal said. “Furthermore, we checked with regard to IDF fire on the 5th. The IDF did not target any building in or near Zeitoun on the 5th.”

Lying in a hospital in Gaza, the boy said his mother was among the dead. He said he kept three younger brothers alive and tried to help injured adults lying among the dead.

Local Red Crescent rescue workers and a team from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) reached the house Wednesday after being denied access initially by the Israeli military. A Palestinian medic said the team had called out for survivors and heard the voices of children.

“We broke down the door and entered and there were four injured children on the ground, and between them there were 16 [dead],” Khaled Abu Zayed said.

The children were starving and too weak to stand on their own, the Geneva-based ICRC said. “One man was also found alive, too weak to stand up. In all, there were at least 12 corpses lying on mattresses,” it said.

U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay called for an independent war-crimes investigation in Gaza after telling the British Broadcasting Corp. that the Zeitoun incident “appears to have all the elements of war crimes,” the Associated Press reported.

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