article on mee: gaza’s human shields: victims speak out

“The soldier spilled liquid on my trousers, saying he would ‘burn me alive’ if I didn’t tell him where the tunnel system was”

21-year-old Sami al-Najjar says he was used as a human shield during Israel’s latest invasion of Gaza (MEE / Mohammed Omer)
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Thursday 18 September 2014 5:17 BST

KHUZA’A, Gaza Strip – When an Israeli tank shell hit the outside walls of their home, Sami Al-Najjar was sitting with his sister and brothers, in Khuza’a in wester Khan Yunis.

“The room was filled with thick smoke and we couldn’t breathe, so we ran outside,” said Najjar, as he began to recall that dark day back in July.

As the family tried to flee the building, Najjar’s father found a piece of white cloth. He fashioned it into a makeshift flag and began waving it above his head to signal the Israeli soldiers and let them know that there were civilians inside and that his family was about to start streaming out behind him and away from the smoke.

But despite his father’s efforts, Israeli soldiers outside ordered the men and women to separate and then began binding the men’s hands.

As soon as they were tied, the soldiers started interrogating the men, and began demanding to know where the tunnels (used by resistance fighters) were. Najjar insisted that he did not know, but the soldiers did not believe him.

Next, one of the soldiers “picked up a chair and slammed it into my back,” said 21-year-old Najjar.

He could see his mother and the rest of his family watching him from the house as he was then taken into the backyard alone and told to kneel as a military dog – wearing a metal muzzle and what looked like a camera on its back – approached.

Bottle of Water

“I didn’t know what would happen next,” Najjar said.

“Then one of the three soldiers stood an empty water bottle on my head and aimed his gun at it,” Najjar added, before pausing to take a deep breath and calm his nerves.

“The first bullet broke the bottle but then one of the soldiers – who was about my age and was short and stocky, with a shaved head, black combat boots and narrow, almost Asian looking eyes – held up an M-16 automatic weapon.

“He stood over me as I knelt on the ground.”

To the other side of Najjar stood another soldier who wore a mask, and conveyed the orders from the rest of the soldiers to the prisoners in perfect Arabic.

After the bullet shattered the bottle, Najjar’s hearing was impaired for a while. He couldn’t hear what one soldier was saying, but recalls that he heard the Asian-looking soldier scream: “We will show you how you’re going to tell us where Hamas rockets are fired from, and give us two names of Hamas leaders.”

Najjar replied: “I don’t spend much time in Khuza’a; I fix tire-punctures in my workshop, that’s all.”

The soldier then grabbed Najjar by his shirt, pulled him to his feet, and slapped his across the face.

“You’re a liar,” the soldier screamed as he began beating Najjar with a chair, which he raised again and again until it finally broke.

Najjar says that after this, the soldiers pulled him up from the ground and the Arabic-speaking solider removed his mask and began ordering him to reveal tunnel locations.

“Tell me where the tunnels are,” he screamed as he waved his gun at Najjar’s neighbours.

Najjar was terrified and in pain, but the worst was yet to come.

“Suddenly bullets were fired at the soldiers from somewhere,” Najjar said. “The soldier who had hold of me made me walk in front of him.”

As the exchange of fire continued, Najjar claims that he was hoisted up and forced to jump onto the deck of the tank.

“There was random shooting, and the soldiers used me as a human shield,” Najjar said.

“When it got quiet, the masked soldier spilled liquid on my trousers saying he would ‘burn me alive’ if I didn’t tell him where the tunnel system was, or give him the names of two Hamas members.”

The last thing that Najjar saw before the Arabic-speaking soldier blind-folded him and told him to undress, was his mother and sisters being led out of the house.

“I didn’t know how much to take off, but when I got to my underwear, the soldier told me to stop,” he said. He was later taken to an unknown location, along with a few dozen other young men.

Najjar’s testimonial is just one of many collected from young men in Khuza’a that day, all of whom have similar stories to tell.

Najjar’s cousin, Fouad Al- Najjar, 24, also said he was taken and used as a human shield.

Like Najjar, he was taken away by soldiers. Initially they kept telling Fouad Najjar that he would be fine and not to worry, but when he didn’t answer their questions and insisted that he didn’t know the location of Hama’s tunnels, he too was struck in the face several times by the very solider who had first told him not to worry.

“He pinned me down on the ground with his combat boots, forcing my neck into the dirt,” said Fouad Najjar, who recalled hearing the sound of tanks thundering nearby.

Fouad Najjar then said that he was taken to join a line of other young men who were also being used as shields.

“Each time an Israeli F16 hit, an Israeli soldier behind my back – who had dark skin and a light beard and who the other soldiers kept calling ‘Rami’ – would tell me to be quiet,” he said, while explaining that the Israeli soldiers seemed scared and were trying not to draw attention to themselves.

The issue of human shields is a complex one. While Israel blames Hamas for using civilians as human shields to try and ward off attacks – an allegation that Hamas consistently denies – worrying testimonials recalling Israel’s use and abuse of the practice in both Gaza and the West Bank have appeared consistently through the years.

The practice is considered a breach of the Geneva Convention and Israeli courts outlawed this tactic in 2005, although the Israeli army has long contested the decision.

The end result is that even in the very few instances when misconduct is occasionally prosecuted – such as an incident in 2009 where a nine-year-old boy in Gaza was made to check a bag for explosives – the punishment is mild and the army insists that these are acts committed by individual soldiers in difficult situations which are not army policy.

Detention camp

Once Sami Najjar was blindfolded and stripped at his home, he said that the three soldiers threatened him and forced him to walk ahead of them. He was barefoot as the summer sun shone down on boiling hot ground underneath.

Najjar estimates that they walked for about 90 minutes before they eventually reached a military detention camp on the Israeli side of the Gaza-Israel border.

Apart from the drum of soldiers, “I could hear the voices of my cousins, Momen and Issa,” Najjar said. “I felt relief that I wasn’t alone.”

The relief didn’t last long; Najjar remembers being kept blindfolded in a cage outside, where the sound of rockets burnt his ears and he could hear Israeli soldiers periodically dashing to safety in the camp’s shelter.

On the second day, Najjar said he was taken into an interrogation room with a soldier he could not see. Once again the solider kept on yelling, demanding that Najjar give up the names of three Hamas members.

“He put his fingers on my throat, and when I said I didn’t know anything, he shouted ‘You are liar.’ I then collapsed to my knees.”

When he fell, the soldier picked him back up shouting: “Stand up! You’re lying to me.”

The soldier next told Najjar that he was treating him in this way because “because you are a human,” and are designed to feel humiliation, fear and shame.

After the interrogation, which lasted for a few hours, Najjar says he was told to remove his underwear and put on a white prison outfit.

He would occasionally be given water and food but complains that he was kept in a cell where sewage water was spilling onto the floor.

“I could smell the dirt and the mud underneath me,” he said.

On the fourth day, Najjar had his name called and was told to get on a bus. He didn’t know where he was going but before too long him, and several dozen other men, were thrown off the bus at the Gaza border. Najjar looked around for his cousins but he couldn’t see Momen and Issa. They were not among those released with him.

It has taken Najjar almost two months to be able to recall his ordeal. Even as he does he shakes and his voice crumbles as he explains that he heard his cousin Momen screaming in the camp, but has not seen him since and does not know what happened to him.

“The moment the Israeli soldiers removed the sheets from our eyes, we were about 50 to 55, all of us had been used as human shields on the border of Gaza,” said Najjar.

“The moment there is a Palestinian rocket flies over, soldiers use us as human shields to avoid the resistance’s gunfire.”

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panoramic view of the damage in gaza in various areas

if you want to see what gaza looks like in many places right now, take the time to watch this


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anne’s post suggests this time, many ppl in gaza really broke

i’ve been talking to anne, who is back in gaza again. she says this time, people are desperate, bitter, no hope. no steadfastness (of course their are those who are still steadfast, but she says more than she ever met before are bitter and desperate to leave).

she says this effects her strongly, it’s hard to deal with. and in turn, it’s hard for me to think about it. if there is one thing that comes most to mind about palestinians is that – generalizing – they tend to always get back on their feet and even if you are shocked and shaken at what just happened to them, they will offer you a drink, try to force a smile, and say they will be ok and will always be there.

so thinking of many in gaza broken to a point that there is none or little of that left – knowing what it would have taken to get them to this point – its very very painful. it’s not newsworthy, but to me, it’s terribly painful. it says too much.


Sunday, September 14, 2014

This is not ‘sweet’, this is depressing / C’est en fait déprimant, Gaza; September 2014







(c) Anne Paq/
How sweet. Gaza still lives. This is summoud. This is amazing and how great to see Palestinians back at the beach and enjoying themselves. And yes I could do a ‘nice’ photo story about that. But this is not what I want to do. This is not what is important to say right now. Of course Palestinians in Gaza want to live. Of course they do not want to spend their days crying. Of course you can still see smiles here and there, and life goes on despite it all. But do not be misled by the nice photos on the beach or by the lack of media attention (there is hardly any international press here in sharp contrast with the army of international media crews that were here during the ‘war’), Gaza is not back to ‘normal’.
The truth is that I have never seen such a level of desperation amid the people. Many I talked to, many who I know, especially young men, want to leave Gaza. Thousands already did through a new clandestine route that is very costly. You can make a lot of money out of the despair of people. ‘This is not a life’ a friend of mine say, and another told me: ‘ we are just dead alive’. The bombings stopped but the suffering continues. Fishermen and farmers have been shot at, Rafah is closed, barely any help has arrived. No one talks any more about this man-made disaster.The big Gaza prison, now half destroyed inside, is still locked.
Too much is too much. How would you feel after years of being stuck in a small place with almost no open space, with no job opportunities, and at the mercy of bombings? Children talk like adults. The sweetness, innocence, and hope are gone. This is not because of ‘hamas’; do not confuse the consequences with the cause. This is because of the injustice of a brutal occupation which has lasted for too long, with our silence and complicity.
The destruction of homes can be repaired, but what about the destruction within?

Que c’est beau. Gaza vit toujours. Voilà la summoud. C’est incroyable et c’est si formidable de voir les Palestiniens retourner à la plage et s’amuser. Et oui je pourrais faire un reportage photo avec plein de ‘belles’ photos sur le sujet. Mais ce n’est pas ce que je veux faire. Ce n’est pas ce qu’il est important de dire pour le moment. Bien sûr, les Palestiniens de Gaza veulent vivre. Bien sûr, ils ne veulent pas passer leurs journées à pleurer. Bien sûr, vous pouvez toujours voir des sourires ici et là, et la vie continue malgré tout Mais ne soyez pas trompé par les belles photos sur la plage, ou le manque d’attention des médias (il n’y a guère de presse internationale ici en contraste avec l’armée d’équipes de médias internationaux qui étaient ici lors de la «guerre»), la bande de Gaza n’est pas de retour à la «normale».  De quelle normalité peut-t-on parler ici? 

La vérité est que je n’ai jamais senti un tel niveau de désespoir à Gaza.  Beaucoup de Palestiniens à qui j’ai parlé, en particulier les jeunes hommes, veulent quitter la bande de Gaza. Mais aussi des personnes établis ici, des familles et des femmes.  Des pères de famille m’ont dit: ” pour nous ce n’est pas très grave, notre vie est déjà finie, mais pour mes enfants, quelle vie peuvent-il avoir ici? Il n’y a rien pour eux.”
Déjà des milliers sont partis via un nouvel itinéraire clandestin.  Vous pouvez faire beaucoup d’argent sur ​​le désespoir des gens. 

«Ce n’est pas une vie» un de mes amis m’a déclaré.  Un autre m’a dit: «nous sommes juste des morts vivants». 

Les bombardements ont cessé, mais la souffrance continue. Les pêcheurs et les agriculteurs se sont fait tirer dessus, Rafah est fermé, l’aide peine à arriver. Personne ne parle pas plus de ce désastre, de ce tsunami perpétué par des hommes-fait disaster. La grande prison de Gaza, maintenant à moitié détruite à l’intérieur, est verrouillée. 

  Trop, c’est trop. Comment vous sentiriez-vous après des années d’être coincé dans un petit territoire avec presque pas d’espace ouvert, sans possibilités d’emploi, et à la merci des bombardements? Les enfants parlent comme des adultes. La douceur, l’innocence et l’espoir sont partis. Non, ce n’est pas à cause du «hamas»; et il ne faut pas confondre les causes avec les conséquences. C’est à cause de l’injustice d’une occupation brutale qui dure depuis trop longtemps, avec notre silence et notre complicité. 

La destruction des maisons peut être réparée, mais qu’en est-il  de la destruction à l’intérieur des gens?

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when over 500 refugees get killed at sea

…. this happened. this is whats going on. over and over again. this time, the boat was apparently rammed and sunk on purpose. because almost everyone has power over those fleeing. countless people were raped and beheaded in the sinai, in many other places while trying to escape for better lives. so many people from gaza are now setting off along the same routes. and IF they survive – physically and emotionally – with a shred of dignity left, they are greeted in europe and in many other places like some unwanted prisoners, always on trial, always waiting, jumping through hoops.

anne says more than the last times she was there, palestinians in gaza are desperate to leave. she describes it in ways that sound like they actually managed to break them this time. palestinian refugees from gaza specifically, i think have probably little chances at the moment of being granted asylum in europe. europe and its residents comfortably judges, looks at the “background” and history of individuals and comfortably defines whether they merrit asylum or not. but in the meantime, we sit back and allow (no, actually we fund) the slaughter, exploitation, (neo)colonization that makes people’s homes unliveable.

i could throw up. i could throw up. and it continues to happen

500 feared dead in “worst
shipwreck in years”

A handout picture from the Italian navy shows rescuers helping a migrant near the island of Lampedusa on September 8, 2014. (AFP PHOTO / MARINA MILITARE)

ROME – As many as 500 migrants are feared to have drowned after traffickers rammed and sank their boat in what the International Organization for Migration (IOM) described Monday as “the worst shipwreck in years.”


Horrific details of the shipwreck near Malta, told to IOM by survivors, came after dozens of African migrants were reported missing and feared dead after their boat sank off the coast of Libya on Sunday.


“If this story, which police are investigating, is true, it would be the worst shipwreck in years… not an accident but a mass murder, perpetrated by criminals without scruples or any respect for human life,” IOM said in a statement.


Two Palestinians plucked from the water by a freighter on Thursday after their boat capsized told IOM that around 500 passengers had been on the vessel, which was wrecked on purpose by people smugglers.


According to the survivors, the Syrian, Palestinian, Egyptian, and Sudanese migrants set out from Damietta in Egypt on September 6, and were forced to change boats several times during the crossing towards Europe.


The traffickers, who were on a separate boat, then ordered them onto a smaller vessel, which many of the migrants feared was too small to hold them.


When they refused to cross over to the new boat, the furious traffickers rammed their boat until it capsized, the survivors told the maritime organization.


“Two survivors brought to Sicily told us that there had been at least 500 people on board. Nine other survivors were rescued by Greek and Maltese ships, but all the rest appear to have perished,” Flavio Di Giacomo, IOM’s spokesman in Italy, told AFP.



– Desire to find refuge –



Both Palestinians spent a day and a half in the water, one wearing a lifejacket and the other holding on to a life buoy with other migrants, all of whom perished, including a young Egyptian boy who hoped to make money in Europe to pay for his father’s heart operation, the organization said.


In a separate incident, dozens were feared drowned after a boat carrying 200 migrants sank off Libya, with only 36 survivors rescued.


This year has seen a surge in the numbers of migrants attempting to make the hazardous crossing from North Africa and the Middle East to Europe.


According to the UN’s refugee agency (UNHCR), over 2,500 people have drowned or gone missing attempting the crossing in 2014, including over 2,200 since the start of June.


Hollywood star Angelina Jolie, a special envoy for the UNHCR, urged the international community to “wake up to the scale of the crisis.”


“There is a direct link between the conflicts in Syria and elsewhere and the rise in deaths at sea in the Mediterranean,” she was quoted as saying in a UNHCR statement on Monday.


“We have to understand what drives people to take the fearful step of risking their children’s lives on crowded, unsafe vessels. It is the overwhelming desire to find refuge,” she said.


“Unless we address the root causes of these conflicts the numbers of refugees dying or unable to find protection will continue to rise,” she added.


The IOM also called on the international community to crack down on traffickers, saying “the only way to render these organizations impotent is to begin to open legal canals into Europe for all those people, men, women and children, fleeing their homelands in search of shelter.”


According to the Italian navy, some 2,380 migrants and asylum seekers were picked up over the weekend in a number of incidents by Italy’s large-scale naval deployment dubbed “Mare Nostrum,” launched after over 400 people died in two shipwrecks last October.

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PLO BRIEF:during gaza bombing, occupation murdered, constructed colonies, demolished homes en masse in the West Bank and East Jerusalem

this is significant, as the bombing of gaza was once again used to advance the colonization of the rest of palestine (the brief gives no info about the repression and harassment of palestinians inside “israel/territory seized in 48”). as the ceasefire holds (though it will continue to be breached at times by the occupier and though – given the status quo – the occupation can decide ANY TIME to launch into another round of genocidal bomibing), we will see much more detention, harassment, attacks, displacement, colony construction and murder in the west bank and occupied east jerusalem.

according to this media brief by the PLP, from june 13 to august 26, the occupation
– (settlers/soldiers) murdered 32 Palestinians in the #WestBank and #EastJerusalem
– build 1472 new settler colony units for approximately 6000 future settler colonists
– conducted 1753 military raids in WB and EJ
– set up at least 1187 fying checkpoints in the WB and EJ (because a lot of what they declared “jerusalem” is actually WB territory)
– nurtured at least 249 settler attacks, including the brutal murder of mohammad abu kheir, and gave rise to almost almost daily attacks by settler gangs
– demolished 50 palestinian owned structures in EJ and WB, “displacing 112 Palestinians, including 66 children and 34 women. 8 of the demolitions took place in Occupied East Jerusalem”

see more here

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