Salah al-Samouni does not know of Colonel Ilan Malka is the officer he spoke with the day before Gaza City's Zaitun neighborhood was bombed during the Israeli offensive in Gaza.
The al-Samouni family suffered the biggest number of victims during Operation Cast Lead, with 29 of its members killed and 45 injured. Malka, then Givati Brigade's commander, was questioned Thursday over his alleged approval of a deadly air raid of the neighborhood.
Salah lost his parents, daughter, aunt and several cousins that day. "There was an officer I spoke with in Hebrew – we in the family worked in Israel for many years, so we speak it well. My father and uncles, we explained to the officer that this is a family of farmers, that we have nothing to do with what's going in," he said.
According to al-Samouni, the officer seemed convince. Less than 24 hours later, Malka green-lighted the strike which took out a Zaitun building, which proved to house dozens of civilians.
The day before the bombing, al-Samouni said, 97 members of the family gathered under one roof and his father gave the IDF the names of each one, in Hebrew. "We told them that there was fire on IDF troops, but that it didn’t come from this area, it came from several hundred yards away."
The day of the strike, the IDF closed off the area completely. "It was winter. We were out looking for firewood, and all of a sudden shells were fired at us from several directions. I could feel the shrapnel. We ran into the house and started praying, the prayer Muslims say when they feel they are about to be killed. Soon after that several Apache helicopter missiles were fired on the house, as well as more shells."
Al-Samouni believes the current investigation in an "Israeli stunt": "They want to ease their conscience a little. They have no real intention of prosecuting those responsible for this massacre to the full extent of the law," he told Ynet.
"I'm not sure that the officer I spoke with is the one who gave the order to massacre my family and countless of innocent people, they change shifts, but I can recognize him. One thing is for sure – this was a deliberate massacre of civilians. I told Goldstone as much. This was planned."
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