Gaza citizens accuse Hamas militants : «They wouldn’t let us leave our homes and they were shooting

from there » GAZA - «Leave, leave now! Do you want the Israelis to kill us all? Do you want to see our children dying under the bombs? Take away your weapons and missiles from here now! », Gaza citizens were begging Hamas and Islamic Jihad militants. The bravest among them got organized and blocked access doors to their courtyards, nailed wooden boards to the gates of apartment buildings, and blocked in a mad rush the staircases to the highest roofs. But overall, the guerrilla paid attention to no one. «Betrayers, collaborators, spies of Israel and Fatah, cowards. The holy war soldiers will punish you. In any case you will all die like us. By fighting against Zionist Jews we will all go to paradise, aren’t you happy to die all together? » they were told. Eventually, Hamas militants managed by force to break into Palestinians’ houses, and hide in their apartments, inside hospitals’ rooms, in UN buildings, in schools and they even used ambulances to move from one place to another. Sometimes Hamas militants were shooting people who, while trying to save their own families from the streets, happened to be on their way. Abu Issa, 42 years old, from Tel Awa, claims that «Hamas militants tried intentionally to provoke the Israelis. It was often young men of 16 or 17 years old armed with a machine gun. They could not do anything against tanks and jets. They knew they were weaker. But they wanted them to shoot at our houses so they could later accuse them of war crimes.» He’s echoed by his cousin, Um Abdallah, 48 years old: «Basically all the highest buildings that were targeted in Gaza, as the Dogmoush, Andalous, Jawarah, Siussi had launching pads on the roof and they were used as strategic surveillance points for Hamas. Hamas put Qassam’s launching pads next to the UN building that burned and they did the same with buildings in villages next to the border which were then savagely devastated by the mad and punitive fury of the Zionists». The names of Palestinians witnesses that agreed to talk to us are not their real names. It was very hard to interview them, since everyone is scared of Hamas and their control over the population. Whoever tries to tell a different story from the one told by the «muhamawa» (The resistance) is immediately accused to be «amil», a collaborationist and therefore he or she pays the prize with his or her own life. Had Israel or Egypt allowed foreign journalists to enter immediately, it would have been easier. Local journalists are often threatened by Hamas: «This is not new, in the Middle East, Arab societies do not have a cultural tradition of human rights. This was true under Arafat, when the press was persecuted and censored. With Hamas the situation is even worse. », claims Eyad Sarraj, a well known psychiatric from Gaza city. And there’s another matter which is becoming more evident, by visiting clinics, hospitals and the families of victims of Israeli fire. The truth is that their numbers appear to be much lower than the approximately 1.300 dead, and 5.000 wounded reported by Hamas and repeated by UN officials and the local Red Cross: “the dead could be no more than 500 or 600 and mostly youngsters between the age or 17 and 23 that have been drafted and literally sent by Hamas literally to be massacred”, we are told by a doctor from Shifa Hospital, who categorically refuses to be quoted, his life is at risk. Even local journalists confirm this information. “We have flagged this matter to Hamas’ leaders. Why do they insist on inflating the numbers of victims? It is also strange that NGO’s,

including Western NGO’s, would report them without verifying them. In the end the truth might surface. I would be like Jenin in 2002. Originally, the figure was 1.500 dead. Then it emerged that it was only 54, including at least 45 fighters who died in combat.” How did we come to these figures? Masoda Al Samoun, 24 years old, explains us the following: «Let’s take the case of the massacre of the Al Samoun family in the Zeitun neighborhood. When bombs hit their homes they reported 31 dead. And so was recorded by officials from the Ministry of Health which is controlled by Hamas. Later on, when the bodies were extracted [from the rubble] the total number suddenly increased to 62 and were added to the total sum ». And he adds an interesting detail: “What made the situation more confusing were also Israeli special forces. Their men were dressed like Hamas guerrilla, with the green scarf on their front and the usual sentence written on it: ‘There is no God other than Allah and Muhammad his Prophet.’ They entered the small alleys to spread disorder. It happened that we screamed at them to leave, we were scared of reprisals. Later on we understood they were Israelis”. It is enough to visit a hospital to understand that the numbers are wrong. There are several empty beds in the Rafah European hospital which should be the one most packed from people involved in the « tunnel war». The same holds true for the “Nasser” in Khan Yunis. Only 5 out of 150 beds are actually occupied in the private hospital of Al-Amal. In Gaza city the Wafam, a hospital build with Islamic charity donations from Saudi Arabia, Qatar and other Gulf countries, was evacuated, and bombed by Israel at the end of December. The Institute was well known for being one of the Hamas strongholds; here they hospitalized their wounded of the civil war against Fatah in 2007. The rest were hospitalized at the Al Quds, also bombed in the second half week of January. Magah al-Rachmah, 25 years old, who lives near the four buildings of the seriously damaged hospital complex, tells us: «Hamas people were hiding mostly in the building where the Al Quds hospital administration offices are. They were using ambulances and obliged nurses to take off their uniforms with doctors’ symbols, so they could mix among them and run away from Israeli snipers. Such situation has reduced the number of available beds in health institutes in Gaza. Even the Shifah, the biggest city hospital, is far from declaring full occupancy. Apparently its underground facilities were densely occupied, instead. “Hamas had hidden emergency cells and interrogation rooms for Fatah prisoners and the left secular front that had been evacuated from the bombed prison of Saraja”, tell militants from the Democratic Front for Liberation of Palestine. This has been a war within the war, between Fatah and Hamas. Local humanitarian organizations, mostly controlled by the PLO, speak of dozens of cases of executions and torture and kidnapping in the last three weeks by Hamas. A well known case is of Achmad Shakhura, 47 years old, who lived in Khan Yunis and he was the brother of Khaled, Mohammad Dahlan’s right-hand (former chief of Arafat secret services in exile) who was kidnapped by an order of Hamas’s head of secret police, Abu Abdallah Al Kidra. He was then tortured and had apparently his left eye pulled out before he was executed on January 15. Lorenzo Cremonesi 21 January 2009