Civilians are being murdered

The following testimony was released by Israel’s leading human rights group, B’Tselem on January 9:

Muhammad al-Astal, clerk

Last Friday [2 January], at 2:15 P.M., I was standing next to al-”˜Amda Restaurant, which is about eighty meters from my house. Four men from the neighborhood were standing opposite me. It was quiet. The only sound was from an unmanned Israeli observation plane that we call “a-Zananeh.”

Four children of my cousins were playing outside. They were having fun with a street dog, chasing after it. According to Islam, dogs are impure, and if you touch them you have to wash your hands before eating or praying. I shouted at them that I wouldn’t let them eat with me if they played with the dog.

Three other children joined in the chase: two sons of my sister, Muhammad Iyad al-Astal, 11, and ”˜Abed Rabbo Iyad al-Astal, 9, and their cousin, ”˜Abd a-Satar Walid al-Astl, 9. I shouted at them too not to touch the dog. They were no more than thirty meters from me.

Suddenly, I heard a loud explosion and saw white smoke and lots of dust in the air. Gradually they cleared a bit and I was totally confused. At first, I didn’t see the children, but a few seconds later I got over the shock and began to call to them. I ran toward where they had been and couldn’t believe what I saw. The three children were lying on the ground, next to each other, not moving. The bomb had been aimed right at them.

Muhammad and ”˜Abed were lying face down, about a meter from each other. ”˜Abd a-Satar was about three meters from them. I checked ”˜Abed, all the time calling him by his nickname, “’Abud, ”˜Abud.” I turned him onto his back, but he didn’t move. I saw he had wounds and burns on the front of his head, above his left eye and under his left ear. His left leg was torn off, with only its skin connected to his body. He didn’t move, didn’t breathe, and had no pulse. I realized he was already dead.

I went over to Muhammad and turned him onto his back. He had burns and shrapnel wounds on four or five places on his face, but they seemed like light wounds. I felt his chest to check his breathing and pulse. I felt a weak pulse and thought he was dying. Then I looked toward ”˜Abd a-Satar and saw he had no head. It was a shocking sight, and I began to cry and shout,”People, the world – an ambulance! For the love of Allah, get an ambulance!” I saw some of the neighbors standing by their houses but they were afraid to come over because of the awful sight.

Two neighbors came to help me and a third man, whom I know, approached. I called to them: “Come, Abu Ayman, the children are dying, come.” He was shocked by the horrible sight, began to cry and turned back.

A few minutes later, a civilian car passed. I didn’t know the driver. He stopped and we picked up the victims. We put ”˜Abed and ”˜Abd a-Satar’s bodies in the trunk, and Muhammad in the front seat, because I thought he was still alive. We drove to ”˜Abd a-Nasser Hospital, which is very close, about seven kilometers away, and got there in a few minutes. We took Muhammad out first, hoping we could save him, but we were told he was already dead.

It was only at the hospital that I discovered that shrapnel had hit me in the left shoulder, wounding my slightly. I was discharged from the hospital the same day.

Muhammad Hassan Musa al-Astal, 27, is a clerk and a resident of al-Qarareh in Khan Yunis district. His testimony was given to Iyad Haddad by telephone on 5 Jan. ’09.

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