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Survivors of massacre in Khuza’a say Israeli forces used Palestinians as human shields

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Smoke rises after a shell fired by the Israeli army slammed into a building near ambulances as medics reported that they were waiting to evacuate wounded people from the town of Khuza'a, east of Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip, on July 23, 2014. (Photo: AFP Photo / Said Khatib)

Smoke rises after a shell fired by the Israeli army slammed into a building near ambulances as medics reported that they were waiting to evacuate wounded people from the town of Khuza’a, east of Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip, on July 23, 2014. (Photo: AFP Photo / Said Khatib)

Khuza’a is a village in the very eastern part of Khan Younis adjacent to the border fence in the southern Gaza strip.  Its farmers have faced death almost on a daily basis in the past 7 years as Israeli gunfire has become the norm along the buffer zone between Gaza and Israel.

Following the Shuja’iyeh massacre, Israeli forces invaded Khuza’a with aerial strikes targeting any moving object. Survivors recall with horror that seemingly heavy random tank fire led to the killing of dozens, injuring dozens others.

Over 150 of its residents were arrested by Israeli forces. Most of them were released, others are still in detention. Rescue calls were made live on the local radio stations, as many residents were besieged in their homes, unable to leave. Those who managed to leave came under fire as they were fleeing.

Ayman Abu Toaimah, 32, a resident of Khuza’a recalls, “As Israeli invading troops advanced to the village they besieged it and used residents as human shields. When the Israeli army arrested people and then released some of them, they were told they are free to go back to the village, but as they were fleeing they came under fire and some of them shot dead. These people were used as human shields.”

Abu Saleem, 56, a resident of Khuza’a echoed Abu Toaimah, “Israelis claim that Hamas is using us as human shields– how? This is a lie, we do not see fighters in the streets. It’s them, the Israelis who used us as human shields in Khuza’a and Shuja’iyeh. They turned our houses into military posts, terrified residents in the houses. They attacked innocent civilians with their bombs, and missiles, they attacked chicken farms, they burned our crops, they have no mercy.”

What happened in Khuza’a was a massacre. Civilians were killed in their homes and while they were fleeing. Even ambulances were not immune. Paramedics report that Israeli forces stopped ambulances that were trying to reach casualties and tried to arrest a number of wounded. Ambulances came under fire despite the coordination by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). Scenes of dead bodies scattered in the streets reminiscent of the Sabra and Shatila massacre that took place in two Palestinian refugee camps in 1982 have begun to leak out of the village.

Abu Ali Qudail a resident of Khuza’a said: “When the ICRC told us that ambulances are waiting us at the entrance of the village from the western side, about 1,000 people rushed to leave their homes, some of which were used as a hideout for Israeli forces. As people were leaving they were surprised that the ambulances were not there, and as we were waiting tank shells rained down on our heads.”

Many people were killed, many others injured. Survivors say they could not help the wounded, many were still under the rubble, homes were destroyed and the smell of smoke and bombs was everywhere.

Abu Ali Qudail continued: “I was watching members of my family dying in front of me, some of them were torn to pieces. Rami, Ibrahim, Alia, Haj Abed died..we had to leave them behind, as soon as we reached one of the Khan Younis schools we entered it to seek shelter but it was very crowded with people who fled their homes. It’s hard to see people dying and you do not know what to do. One of my relatives’ homes were struck while they were inside.”

As the all-out Israeli assault on Gaza entered its 19th day, John Kerry announced from Cairo that he proposed a one week ceasefire, but Israel’s PM Netanyahu refused the offer and only agreed to a 12-hour lull.

Ma’an News reports on one family that fled Khuza’a and was then killed by an Israeli missile strike in Khan Younis as the ceasefire went into effect:

Minutes before a 12-hour humanitarian ceasefire went into effect in Gaza on Saturday morning, an Israeli airstrike left at least 20 members of a Palestinian family dead in Khan Younis refugee camp.

The al-Najjar family had fled their homes in Khuzaa, just east of Khan Younis, earlier in the day after Israeli artillery shelling there killed dozens, and they were hoping to find shelter somewhere further from the border.

Their refuge in Khan Younis, however, turned out to be anything but, as missiles fired from Israeli warplanes just before 8 a.m. completely leveled the four-story building they were sleeping in.

The airstrike killed eleven children, four women, and five men from the family, according to Palestinian medical sources.

The killing of the al-Najjar family brought the death toll in Gaza since the beginning of hostilities 18 days ago to 940.

Following the attack on the UN school in Beit Hanoun in northern Gaza in which 17 people were killed and over 200 injured, 29 of the UN Human Rights Council’s 47 members voted in favor of creating a commission of inquiry to look at possible war crimes committed by Israel. Only the United States voted against the resolution, while 17 states abstained, 10 of them European.

The vote was taken after Navi Pillay, the UN’s human rights commissioner, said “there seems to be a strong possibility that international law has been violated, in a manner that could amount to war crimes.”

Yousef Alhelou
About Yousef Alhelou

Yousef Alhelou is a freelance journalist based in Gaza City and a Reuters Journalist fellow at Oxford University. He is a Middle East correspondent for Real News Network and can be followed on Twitter at @YousefAlhelou.

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31 Responses

  1. just
    July 26, 2014, 10:31 am

    I don’t even know what to say anymore…thank you Yousef.

    Israel will be held accountable, but not today. Crimes piled upon crimes while the terrorism/massacre/genocide goes on unabated and unpunished.

    One can only observe with a horrid fascination and a miserable series of punches in the heart, gut, and mind.

    • Peace2All
      July 27, 2014, 9:41 am

      Yes it is gut wrenching to watch and read about the unabated atrocities against the helpless civilians. That will be the day if Bibi and his thugs are being haul into Hague.

      • July 27, 2014, 10:38 am

        The American politicians and the Israel “Lobby” (Crime Family is more accurate what with the bribery, blackmail, extortion, and more) need to face justice as well.

  2. Justpassingby
    July 26, 2014, 10:42 am

    So disgusting!
    This is nothing but a insane racist taking out his anger on 1000 lifes.

  3. just
    July 26, 2014, 10:48 am

    “Thousands of people in Gaza have ventured out from homes and shelters during a 12-hour ceasefire to find that whole streets and neighbourhoods have been destroyed in the last week.

    Israel and Hamas both agreed to a UN request to stop fighting from 8am until 8pm on Saturday. Shortly before the ceasefire took effect, at least 18 members of the al-Najar family, including many children, were killed in an air strike on Khan Younis, in the south of the Gaza Strip. The family had recently gone there to escape fighting in a nearby village, a Palestinian health official said.

    As the Palestinian death toll in the 19-day-long conflict topped 1,000, diplomatic efforts to forge a longer ceasefire continued in Paris. Foreign ministers from seven nations – the US, France, Britain, Italy, Germany, Turkey and Qatar – called for an extension of Saturday’s 12-hour humanitarian truce.

    The group had convened, along with a senior EU representative, at the request of the US secretary of state, John Kerry, who failed to win Israeli or Hamas backing for a week-long truce on Friday. There were no envoys from Israel, Egypt or the Palestinian Authority.

    At the nearby hospital, six patients and 33 medical staff had spent the night huddled in the X-ray department as the neighbourhood was shelled, said the director, Bassam Abu Warda. A tank shell had hit the second floor of the building, leaving a gaping hole, and the facade was peppered with holes from large-calibre bullets.

    Two Red Crescent ambulances were hit in Beit Hanoun overnight, killing a medic and wounding three, one critically, according to the International Committee of the Red Cross. On Saturday, rescue workers pulled the scorched body of the medic from the wrecked vehicle, which had been hit about 200 metres from the hospital.

    “Targeting ambulances, hospitals and medical workers is a serious violation of the law of war,” said Jacques de Maio, head of the ICRC delegation for Israel and the occupied territories.

    In areas that had seen intense fighting, 85 bodies were pulled from the rubble, many of them partially decomposed, said Palestinian health official Ashraf al-Kidra. Fighters were also among the dead, said the Gaza Civil Defence spokesman Said al-Saoudi.”

  4. Sumud
    July 26, 2014, 12:25 pm

    Can’t believe the numbers of whole families Israel has wiped out, families of 20 and 30 people.

    It happened a bit in 2008/09 with the most well known being the al Samounis in Zeitoun. Now I must have heard 6-12 cases of whole large families just killed.

    • Kay24
      July 27, 2014, 8:19 am

      Their viciousness knows no bounds. They kill families of dead Hamas members, they shoot into any home THEY decide is connected to Hamas, they do not give a damn about the adjoining homes, they shoot into hospital, and keep claiming there are weapons, but cannot prove it. They are despicable.

    • Peace2All
      July 27, 2014, 9:56 am

      It is call mass murder. Bibi said he is sad to see his IDF killing babies, children, women and elderly but blame it on Hamas. All Bibi’s PR sing the same song ” Blame it on Hamas ” Bibi’s pin point so far score 1000 kills just wonder what will be the toll if Israel fire indiscriminately just like Hamas rockets more than 10,000 with 1-2 Israel civilian casualties !

  5. joer
    July 26, 2014, 1:02 pm

    We have all seen grainy black and white images of the Nakba. But I think we are getting an idea of what it was like for the people who lived though it with the images and videos that are coming out now. The differences I see is that it is 500 towns and a year condensed into one city and a week and that the motive in 1948 was to terrorize the civilian population into fleeing while today the motive is not that clear.

  6. concernedhuman
    July 26, 2014, 2:28 pm

    Disgusting !!
    Where is the UNHRC war crimes inquiry ?
    Is there any one watching what israel is doing in the name of “israel has right to defend it self”?
    Israel will get away with it again .

  7. tear-stained uzi
    tear-stained uzi
    July 26, 2014, 3:14 pm

    The motive appears to be pure sadism.

    The bloodlust of the occupier is no where near being slaked. I worry that Israelis, seeing world opinion growing against them, will feel the need to quickly cause even more destruction — one last orgy of hatred and murder — before it becomes too untenable to continue. Then the IOF ‘lawnmower’ will have to be parked back in the tool shed for another year or two. I am hearing of extreme frustration among the lunatic majority that the army is being kept on too short a leash; there is virtually no countervailing sentiment.

    Masada madness.

  8. Justpassingby
    July 26, 2014, 3:20 pm

    what happend with the article/text?

  9. Trev
    July 26, 2014, 3:28 pm

    Jeremy Bowen’s Gaza notebook: I saw no evidence of Hamas using Palestinians as human shields.

    • just
      July 26, 2014, 3:58 pm

      Thanks Trev. More sunlight is always good. Truth has always been a constant casualty of P/I, courtesy of Israel.

      Not any more.

  10. kalithea
    July 26, 2014, 7:29 pm

    Any American serving with the IDF and helping to commit war crimes there, and participating in this state-sponsored terrorism should be prosecuted and sentenced like any American aiding and abetting terrorism.

  11. Bumblebye
    July 26, 2014, 9:25 pm

    YooHoo, Eds! The article isn’t appearing between the headline and the ‘about Yousef Alhelou’. Can someone put it back – I haven’t read it yet!

    • just
      July 26, 2014, 9:50 pm

      Try refreshing– it’s there now. It had disappeared earlier, though. It’s very good.

      • Bumblebye
        July 26, 2014, 11:13 pm

        Now it’s there! I can’t go to the “Killing Fields” one though – it’s the 3rd one in a row that keeps causing a problem and “internet explorer needs to close”. Bah! I keep up with the comments via the ‘most recent’.

  12. marc b.
    marc b.
    July 26, 2014, 10:43 pm

    Grotesque. Provocation to undermine the coalition government, and this blood bath to shore up support for Netanyahu amongst the nutters. A [email protected] abomination.

  13. Daniel Rich
    Daniel Rich
    July 27, 2014, 12:43 am

    Here are some Palestinian ‘selfies’ courtesy of hasbara central – sponsored by the Apartheid State and its neutral neutered overlord.

  14. ejran
    July 27, 2014, 4:21 am

    This should not come as shocking. There are many documented instances of the IDF using Palestinians as human shields. See the Goldstone report, and the “Human shields” cateogry in Breaking the Danny Timpona writes about it in a good article, “Israel At Least Equally At Fault with Human Shields”. (

    The tactic of projection- a staple of wartime propaganda. Difficult to accuse someone of something you haven’t done yourself. And the more guilty you are, the more vehement your accusation of the other.

    • peeesss
      July 27, 2014, 4:29 am

      The People Putting Innocents in Danger are the Israelis

      Gaza, Israel and ‘Human Shields’


      What does it mean to use human shields? Employed by the Germans and Japanese in the Second World War, the tactic is premised on an underlying trust in your enemy’s humanity. It appeals to the compassion and mercy of the combatant that they not slaughter the innocent in order to avenge their target. The ‘shield’ is not the human bodies surrounding the ‘guilty’ party, the shield is the clemency that mankind instinctively affords the innocent. The shield evaporates only when confronted by an enemy who is not merely a fellow solder locked in a power battle, but a psychopath unconcerned with the pain of others. Such is the case with the Hamas. They are faced with an enemy who is willing to obliterate pregnant women, babies, kids, handicapped people, schools and crowded hospitals in order to smash their target. The Israelis repeatedly demonstrate a pathological disregard for any life that is not a Jewish life, and it is for this reason alone, that the Hamas are utterly incapable of ever using ‘human shields.’

      However, Netanyahu, pro Israeli media and Zionist supporters can’t resist endlessly recycling their trope that the Hamas use civilians to guard their rockets. They are clearly flummoxed as to why this assertion does nothing to quell the snowballing international outrage at the massacres they are committing. Their argument attempts to plant in our minds the notion that the Hamas actively invite the Israeli military to slaughter and maim innocents and, in doing so, prove that their savagery deserves to be annihilated. Paradoxically therefore, according to the twisted logic of Zionists, the more innocent Palestinians that die, the worse the Palestinians are. As a collective they are guilty of being innocent.

      But this propaganda ploy doesn’t work. Not only does it not work, it boomerangs completely. Every time a Zionist apologist repeats their ‘human shield’ accusations they merely advertise their own deficit of basic humanity. They tell us ‘the Hamas think we have empathy for our fellow human beings, but if you look at the casualty figures, you’ll see how mistaken they are.’

      The other issues at play here are the rights of the Palestinians to defend themselves and the pragmatics of warfare in a refugee camp. Israel is extremely fond of telling the world that they have the right to defend themselves. They enjoy a nuclear arsenal, cutting edge American weaponry and the formidable Iron Dome technology. Yet, although Israel constantly brags about its own egalitarian credentials, for some reason Israel refuses to grant the Palestinian people this same intrinsic right to defense that it demands for itself. Palestinians are not allowed to protect themselves. They are not allowed to fight. Instead we are invited to imagine that it is somehow acceptable for the Palestinians to have no weaponry whatsoever, no army, no solders, no rights. We are lead to believe that the only way for Palestinians to prove their integrity, is to lie down like lambs and quietly live out the unspeakably miserable lives of squalor, poverty and despair that Israel has designed for them. In short, Israel wishes the Palestinians were suicidal but, inconveniently, they keep proving to us that they are not.

      Obviously asking a people to passively embrace their own ethnic cleansing is implausible. One would hope that the Jews, more than anyone, might be capable of grasping such a fundamental truth – but sadly not. Given then, that the people of Gaza, like any other human beings, have right to defense, where exactly should they store their weapons? In the rolling valleys and tumbling hills of Haraat al-Daraj? Amid the fauna-filled acres of Shuja’iyya? Gaza is home to approximately 1.8 million people, it is 25 miles long by 5 to 7 miles wide and sealed by both an Egyptian and Israeli blockade. It is the most crowded open air prison on earth. The only place to feasibly store weapons is inevitably in the proximity of the people forced to live there cheek by jowl. Israel has now ordered some 43% of the territory to be evacuated. But where to? The Kafka-esque request to insist people go, knowing there is nowhere to go to, is clearly there to benefit Israeli PR, not save lives. And it doesn’t fool anyone. There are currently hundreds of thousands of displaced. The schools that have opened to receive those fleeing are already overflowing and Palestinians that endured the bombings of schools during Operation Cast Lead, know that even a so-called ‘refuge’ can not guarantee safety. Let’s be clear: the only people putting the Palestinians in danger are the Israelis. The only people killing innocent people are the Israelis. Hamas may not be the party that the chattering classes of the West would want to govern them, but they are democratically elected and they have as much right as Israel, Britain, France and America to fight against an oppressor that quite literally wants to ‘wipe them off the map.’ They face a tough job, but one thing they can’t do is use human shields against an enemy that doesn’t recognise them as human.

      Sarah Gillespie is a writer and musician living in London. She can be reached through her website:

  15. bilal a
    bilal a
    July 27, 2014, 7:21 am

    Why the siege must continue: This is not a foreign policy problem but a domestic one.

    Ballot box Islamic political assertion is the enemy not just of Israel, but of its allies in Egypt and Saudi Arabia, not to mention the Humanitarian Industrial Complex who toppled Morsi eg International Crisis Group @arabist:

    What are the non-military options to opposing corrupt violent neo-liberalism ?

    Gregg Carlstrom ‏@glcarlstrom
    The Saudis are worried that Kerry wants to use a Gaza truce to “strengthen the influence of the Muslim Brotherhood.”

    Rena Netjes ‏@RenaNetjes
    This. @LawDavF Zero-sum. US/ Qatar/Turkey/Hamas want siege eased; Egypt/Israel do not.

    arabist @arabist · 17h
    Al-Monitor columnist argues that Hamas is the same thing as ISIS:

    Why Israel [ and Egypt ] won’t sign any ceasefire that’s fair

    The only one they’re interested in is the kind Egypt put forward at first – a return to the status quo ante, with Gaza back in the sewer, and nothing more than vague, toothless assurances to discuss Gaza’s complaints. Hamas didn’t agree to it then, and ever since, with the scenes of mounting death and destruction in Gaza, world diplomacy has shifted toward Hamas’ position (a ceasefire that at least loosens the blockade substantially) and away from Israel’s position (a ceasefire that keeps the blockade in place).

  16. bilal a
    bilal a
    July 27, 2014, 7:25 am

    Gas chambers adjacent to the Gaza concentration camp :

    Gas deployed by the Israeli army gushes out of a hole in a tunnel during an operation to search for tunnels dug by Palestinian militants, just outside the Gaza Strip, July 22, 2014. (photo by REUTERS/Baz Ratner)


    Hamas is ISIS

    Is this technically employment of chemical weapons ?

    Are civilians using the tunnels as bomb shelters?

    • bilal a
      bilal a
      July 27, 2014, 5:05 pm

      Given the photos of the gassing and Israeli pressers , it appears that Hundreds of Gazaans hiding underground were killed by gas or tunnel collapse during the truce period.

      Almoz says the IDF continues its operations in destroying the tunnels during the humanitarian truces. He says there are “hundreds of dead terrorists,” including many operatives who were afraid to confront the IDF and stayed in the tunnels while they were bombed

      • bilal a
        bilal a
        July 27, 2014, 5:20 pm

        who were the ‘non-operative’ dead terrorists who were afraid to come out before being gassed and bombed ? Does ‘many’ imply the operatives were a fraction of the dead ? Who has the remains or are they interred in the collapsed tunnels / basements ?

  17. bilal a
    bilal a
    July 27, 2014, 9:34 am

    seems to be an important message receiving a media / google search black out

    Fareed speaks with former U.S. National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski about Israel’s military operation in Gaza.

  18. Kay24
    July 27, 2014, 9:53 am

    Ugly. Nancy Pelosie defending Israel’s aggression and the attack on Palestinians.
    She does not think that Israel is over doing the attacks, she says Israel like every other nation has the right to “defend” itself, and that those rocket that keeps coming has a return address on them, so they must retaliate. Not a WORD about the high number of casualties, not a show of sympathy for the 1000 lives lost, not a damn word on behalf of those poor Palestinian people. Forget Hamas, it seems these slaves for Israel have lost their sense of morality and decency. Candy Crowley asked questions that would have given the opportunity to simply show some concern for the babies and children being blown up, but no, this mother and grandmother, was more concerned for the brutal occupier having to deal with rockets.
    Sen. Graham was on next, the other Israeli slave, I switch off in disgust.
    Damn them all.

  19. Gaius Baltar
    Gaius Baltar
    July 27, 2014, 9:57 am

    The IDF using Palestinian civilians as human shields is nothing new:

  20. TheAZCowBoy
    July 28, 2014, 3:46 pm

    The bankrupt UNITED SNAKES (US/Israel/NATO) oil/gas thieves and regurgitated colonists have run out of friends in the world. In the following months, innocent Jews, G-Dless Zionists, Americans, Brits and Frenchmen will take the ‘Blowback’ anger of these sordid war criminal war crimes and Crimes against Humanity they have visited in thier percieved enemies (The resistence). Shocked at what ‘God hath wrought’ they will go out LQQKING for justice oblivious to the fact that ‘Justice’ has found them!

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