An in-depth look into the Goldstone Report probing the events of Operation Cast Lead in Gaza reveals the official first-hand testimonies from the days of the war. The testimonies were given by family members who lost their loved ones and eyewitnesses to the fighting, and they shed some personal light on what happened in Gaza.
All testimonies where deemed credible by the United Nations-appointed inquiry team, and were compatible with other reports received. Here are just some of the testimonies:
The shooting of Iyad al-Samoni
On the night of January 4, 2008, Iyad al-Samoni stayed with his wife, five children and 40 other members of his extended family in one a relative's house. Around 1am, sounds were heard coming from the roof, and some four hours later, Israeli soldiers came down the steps, knocked on the door and entered the house.
The soldiers asked if there were Hamas operatives in the house. The family members said there weren't. Then the soldiers separated the men, from the women, children and elderly. The men were handcuffed, blindfolded and sent to a separate room, and were only allowed to leave to the toilet after one of them could no longer hold his bladder and urinated in the room. The soldiers settled in the house.
The next morning, the family members left the house and started marching westward on Salah a-Din Street which leads to Gaza City. The soldiers ordered them to walk straight ahead on not stray from their path. The men were still handcuffed and the soldiers threatened gunshots if they tried to remove the shackles. While marching on Salah a-Din Street the, a single soldier or a number of soldiers station on the street's rooftops opened fire at the family. Iyad was hit in his legs and fell to the ground.
His relative, Muhammad Assad al-Samoni tried to assist him, but one of the soldiers ordered him to continue marching. After noticing that the laser beam from the soldier's weapon was aimed at him, Muhammad decided not to insist. The soldier also fired warning shots at Muhammad's father, who tried to approach Iyad, and did not heed the family's calls to evacuate the injured Iyad.
And so, the family was forced to abandon Iyad and keep marching towards Gaza City. Only three days later did rescue services get permission from the IDF to evacuate the body of al-Samoni, who was left handcuffed in the street and bled to death.
Juha family's journey
The Juha family's home is located a few meters away from the al-Samoni family's home. The family's house was hit by a number of missiles on the nigh of January 4 and was seriously damaged. In the early morning hours soldiers entered the house and fired gunshots into the room where Muhammad was staying with his two wives, his mother and his 13 children. The family was taken to the upper part of the house and was then ordered by soldiers to march towards Rafah.
The Juha family took off with the Sawafiri family, which lives next door. When the two families passed by the home of the Abu-Zoor family, they latter took them in. The three families spent the rest of the day together. The next morning, the house was attacked by the IDF. Soldiers ordered the three families to leave and separated the men from the women and children. Four men were taken to a nearby house and the rest were ordered to continue marching towards Rafah.
At one point, while they were walking on al-Sakka Street, the families reached a large gap that blocked their path. The ruins around the gap prevented any passage and, and was a particularly difficult obstacle for the elderly. The family was therefore forces to turn eastwards to Salah al-Din Street, and stopped to rest at the Moughrabi family's home. After their experience at the Abu-Zur house, Juha decided it would be best to continue walking elsewhere. The Moughrabi family advised him to stay in their home, but the three families took off once again, with 15-year-old Ibrahim Sawafiri carrying a white flag.
The moved along a short distance and then two gunshots were heard that hit Ibrahim in the chest. The three families ran back to the Moughrabi home, where they tried to give the youth medical treatment. Ibrahim's mother tried to stitch his wounds with a needle and threat that she tried to sterilize with cologne. Some six hours later, Ibrahim Sawafiri died of his wounds. The three families remained at the Moughrabi home for three more days before aid organizations moved them to Gaza City.
Death of Majeda and Ra'aia Hajjaj
Johr a-Deek is a village located some 1.5 kilometers from the Israel border, southeast of Gaza City. On January 3, tanks entered the village, with some of them headed towards Salah a-Din Street and the Zeitun neighborhood, and some of the occupied the village. The next day, around 6am, shells hit the Hajjaj family's home – in which father Yousef, his wife and children, his brother's wife and her children, their sister Majeda, and the matriarch Ra'aia were staying. Yousef's daughter, 13-year-old Manar was injured in the strike.
The Hajjaj family decided to move next door to Muhammad al-Safadi's home. Around 11am, Yousef phoned his brother and told him there were reports on the radio that the IDF was asking all residents who live along the border to evacuate their homes for their own safety.
The Hajjaj and al-Safadi families left the house, which two of them carrying white flags. They marched westward and when they reached a distance of some 100 meters from Israeli tanks, which opened fire at them. Majeda and Ra'aia were injured. Majeda died shortly after, and Ra'aia tried to escape but collapsed a few meters later and died. The families fled back to the Hajjaj family home, and took an alternative road to Gaza City the next day. The family found the bodies of Majeda and Ra'aia under heaps of ash only when they returned to their house on January 18.
Putting out phosphorus fires
On the night of January 12, the IDF struck houses in Huza'ah, a small Gaza village east of Khan Younis. Several white phosphorus shells hit the al-Najar family home in the village. The home, like many others in the area, caught fire. The residents spent the majority of the night trying to put out the flames.
The night also saw IDF troops take to several rooftops, where they could observe the firefighting. Around 3am, tanks and bulldozers began making their way to Huza'ah.
At dawn, the IDF asked the men to leave their homes and march towards the tanks. Once they obeyed they were separated into two groups and placed under guard, in two houses.
Around 7am, Ruhiya, a local resident who during the night placed makeshift white flags on the rooftop of her home, decided – along with several other women – to march to the village square. The women were carrying white flags and reportedly shouted at the soldiers that they had children with them.
They walked to the home of Fariz al-Najar, who was taken by the soldiers. The soldiers apparently created a hole in the wall in order to allow surveillance of the nearby alley.
When the women were about 200 yards from the house, a shot was fired, hitting Ruhiya. Her neighbor, Yasmin al-Najar, was also shot, in the leg. A gun fight ensued, forcing the women and children to find shelter in nearby houses, leaving them helpless to assist thier injured friend.
The Khan Younis hospital was alerted to the situation in Huza'ah around 7:45am. An ambulance arrived at the alley within an hour and attempted to reach Ruhiya, but reportedly came under IDF fire and was forced to back away.
Her body was eventually recovered the following evening. It is unclear whether she could have been saved had she been given medical attention.