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‘They shot our mum and dad’: Palestinian siblings see parents killed in IDF raid

todayFebruary 14, 2024 2

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‘They shot our mum and dad’: Palestinian siblings see parents killed in IDF raid

Among the crowds of homeless people now packed into southern Gaza, there is a five-year-old boy called Mu’min who was hit by a grenade.

A fragment from the device passed through his left eye and is lodged in his brain – but the injury he sustained in the kitchen of his home forms just a part of this story.

The incident is just one of an innumerable number of catastrophes experienced by children in Gaza.

Follow latest updates: ‘Dreaded scenario unravelling at alarming speed’, UN warns

Mu'min

More than 10,000 have died according to the territory’s ministry of health. At least 17,000 children have been left unaccompanied or separated from their families according to data released by UNICEF.

Many thousands more have been injured or maimed – and every child is coming to terms with a terrible new reality.

On 15 December, Mu’min, who is disabled, and his siblings Ahmad and Buthaina, lost their parents after the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) stormed into their house in a suburb north of the centre of Khan Younis.

“They raided our house and they shot our mum and dad. Then they started shooting at us and wounded our brother,” said 11-year-old Ahmad, softly.

“We went to another room, hiding from the soldiers. Then, they started banging on the door and they blew it up,” added nine-year-old Buthaina.

The pair say they were subjected to a lengthy interrogation by IDF soldiers.

“They were interrogating us, asking us to show them the tunnels and to tell them where the resistance fighters were. Then, they gave us a white flag and told us to walk down Salahudin Street,” said Ahmad.

IDF soldiers

Father tried to avert disaster

Their father, Mohammed Khattab, who was also Mu’min’s primary caregiver, had tried to avert this disaster in the days preceding this disaster.

He asked his brother, Dr Omar Khattab Omar Al Zaqzouq, to alert the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in an increasingly desperate series of messages sent via WhatsApp.

On 7 December, the medic sent this on behalf of his brother: “He said that the tanks behind the house and excavator destroyed the near house.

“It’s very difficult to move without permission.”

On 8 December Dr Khattab pleaded with the same ICRC official: “I called my brother and he said there are tanks around the house – can’t move at all.

“It’s complicated.”

Mu’min has cerebral palsy and the family knew moving him would be difficult. Mr Khattab wanted to notify the Israelis in advance.

The ICRC’s representative tried to reassure them on the same day: “We’ve ensured that the houses would not be bombed or destroyed at night and in the future.”

But their confidence was misplaced.

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An IDF soldier

IDF storm family’s house

On 15 December, IDF soldiers stormed the Khattab family’s home. The children’s aunt, Duaa Khattab Omar Al Zaqzouq, said she was in the kitchen when they entered.

“They knocked down the front wall and entered the house, we were sitting down and having lunch at the time. Then my brother Mohammed was shot. He was at the front, waving a white flag.”

A grenade was thrown into the crowded kitchen, injuring Mr Khattab’s wife Hind and blinding Mumin in the left eye. Family members say a soldier then shot and killed Ms Khattab.

The survivors were interrogated “for three hours” before being allowed to leave.

The children and their aunt, Duaa Khattab Omar Al Zaqzouq

Image:
The children and their aunt, Duaa Khattab Omar Al Zaqzouq

‘They were firing at us from all directions’

Duaa Khattab was one of a group of nine family members – including five children – who were evicted by the IDF and she said they were forced to walk through an active battlefield.

She said: “We went down Fifth Street and faced three tanks, they fired at us, they were firing at us from all directions. We were walking not knowing where we were going, it was getting dark… every time a child screamed, a bomb went off.”

Family members reached safety in the grounds of the Gaza European Hospital the following day and it was here, several weeks later that our team met Buthaina, sketching with her precious coloured pencils. Ahmad played a little football but we were told both were struggling to speak of their ordeal.

Aunt Duaa is busy now, learning to care for her disabled nephew. She said Mu’min cries all night and she doesn’t know how to make him happy.

She said: “They’ve lost their father and mother in one day, at the same time, in front of their eyes. This is a very difficult thing. No one can cope with this, no one can.”

Incident underscores dangers Gaza residents face, Red Cross says

Sky News provided a detailed description of events including dates, times and coordinates of the Khattab family’s home to officials at the IDF but they did not comment on this incident.

An ICRC statement said: “The tragic incident involving the Khattab family underscores the dangers residents across Gaza face.

“We note that the family’s decision to stay or leave their home was complicated by a young family member’s physical disability, a factor many other families must take into consideration as they make their own individual decisions of how best to protect family members.

“Amidst the widespread violence across Gaza, it remains the legal responsibility of the parties to the conflict to ensure civilians have safe routes to take when they are ordered to evacuate. If civilians are unwilling or unable to evacuate, they still remain protected in their homes under international humanitarian law, a fact that the parties must respect.

“When an ICRC staff member shared in a text message that houses would not be bombed or destroyed, that staff member was relaying information shared with the public by the Israeli Defence Forces specifying that the IDF would pause operations on 8/12/23 to enable the movement of humanitarian aid.

“In general, the ICRC, a humanitarian organization with roughly 125 personnel in Gaza, does not have the capacity to respond to individual families in need of safe passage amidst the fighting.”

Written by: Newsroom

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