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War on Gaza: Survivors recount harrowing Israeli field executions

In Gaza City, Israeli soldiers shoot Palestinians at point blank range, killing them in front of their families
A youth from the Abu Hamad family next to the shrouded bodies of his father and two brothers in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip on 9 November 2023 (AFP)
A youth from the Abu Hamad family next to the shrouded bodies of his father and two brothers in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip on 9 November 2023 (AFP)
By Maha Hussaini in Gaza, occupied Palestine

For three days, Moemen Raed al-Khaldi lay wounded and motionless between the corpses of his killed family members, pretending to be dead to protect himself from being shot by Israeli soldiers.

On 21 December, Israeli soldiers broke into the house where the Khaldi family had taken refuge in northern Gaza and, in mere minutes, they shot everyone present.

The soldiers left the house thinking they had killed them all, only Moemen remained alive, bleeding for days before the neighbours found him and took him to hospital.

From his hospital bed in al-Shifa Medical Complex in Gaza City, he recounted to Middle East Eye what happened on 21 December.

Khaldi and his family had gone to the home of their relatives in the Sheikh Radwan neighbourhood in the north of Gaza City after being forced to evacuate their own house.

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'I pretended to be dead'

On that fateful day, after the sun had set, the family had finished prayers and were lying together on the floor, covered in blankets, when Israeli soldiers suddenly blew up the front door and stormed the house.

"Everyone in the vicinity was immediately wounded, including two women; my grandmother and another pregnant woman," Khaldi said.

Addressing the family in Hebrew, the Israeli army instructed everyone to evacuate the house. However, as no one spoke Hebrew, the family members didn't understand the orders.

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"The soldiers did not speak Arabic. No one spoke Hebrew and we did not understand what they were saying. So, my grandfather tried to translate. He only said a few words: 'Listen to what the soldiers are telling you and go out'," Khaldi said.

"The soldiers turned around and thought that it was my father who had spoken. They shot him with a bullet, and he was immediately killed."

The soldiers then shot everyone else in the room, including Khaldi.

"My grandfather was then martyred, followed by my uncle, then another two men who had also taken refuge with us, then one of the owners of the house. After that, my grandmother and the pregnant woman were martyred."

After he was shot, sustaining wounds to his legs, Khaldi lay motionless on the floor, feigning death to prevent further gunfire from the soldiers.

"I was protecting myself by staying in a place between my uncle’s back and the wall. I was protecting my head in this position. I stayed like this for three days pretending not to be alive. During that time, the army came in and out of the house, destroying the place, but I pretended to be [dead]," he recalled.

"Three days later, people transferred me along with my martyred family members to the hospital."

'They shot mum, then dad'

On 27 October, the Israeli army launched a ground invasion into the urban areas, streets, and densely populated neighbourhoods of the Gaza Strip.

Days ahead of the invasion, the Israeli military started ordering the residents of Gaza City and the rest of the northern Gaza Strip to evacuate their homes and relocate to the areas in the southern Gaza Valley. 

The military said it considers the Palestinians who did not comply with the evacuation orders as "terrorists", and its forces have since been using deadly force against the people who have chosen to stay.

'No sooner had she said that, they shot her, then they shot dad'

- Faisal al-Khaldi, six

On 22 December, in the same neighbourhood where Khaldi’s family was executed, his six-year-old relative, Faisal Ahmed al-Khaldi, survived a similar incident after Israeli soldiers shot his parents dead in front of him at his uncle's house.

"We were at home and the tank was [stationed] by the building's door. One night, they broke down the gate and stormed in. The door to my uncle Mohammed’s [apartment] was locked, they broke it and entered. They shot everyone in the guest room," Faisal told MEE.

"We were sleeping, I heard their [noise], so I asked my mum: What is this sound? She told me: These are Israelis. No sooner had she said that, they shot her, then they shot dad."

Israeli soldiers then ordered the rest of Faisal's family members to gather in one room, leaving the children to watch them from the corridor.

Faisal was hit by shrapnel from the bullets that killed his parents, but shock kept him from feeling the wound at the time.

"We hid in the bedroom of my cousin Layan. We then headed to the door, I could not walk, I kept on falling, so my uncle, Mohammed, carried me. When he did, the soldiers ordered him and Layan's grandfather to take off their clothes," he recounted.

"They ordered them to sit down, and we all went to sit in the corridor."

After the soldiers left the house, the family went to take refuge in a school, and was only then that Faisal felt a pain in his abdomen.

"They took off my clothes and found out that I was wounded and took me to the hospital," he said.

Executed before his disabled children

A week later, just a few kilometres away, Israeli soldiers executed 65-year-old Kamel Mohammed Nofal, a retired United Nations Relief and Works Agency employee, in front of his wife and disabled adult children while "he was trying to explain to them that his children could not understand the instructions," his relative, Jamal Naim, told MEE.

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"Israeli forces arrived at the building where Kamel and his family lived and ordered everyone to evacuate the building. They all went down and gathered on the street in front of the building" he said.

"There were 24 residents, including Kamel, his 63-year-old wife Fatima Jamil Timraz, and their four children, their spouses and their children. At least nine children were among them, the youngest was four months old."

According to Naim, three of Nofal’s children were deaf and mute, and the fourth was visually impaired.

"Israeli soldiers were giving the group instructions about where to go and what to do, but Kamel’s children could not understand as they were not able to properly hear, see, or communicate with the forces, so the soldiers proceeded to detain them," he said.

"Kamel spoke in Hebrew, telling the soldiers that his sons Hussam, 40, Ahmed, 36, and Mahmoud, 32, and his daughter Wafaa, 31, were disabled. They immediately shot him. He was killed in front of his children and everyone else."

Naim reported that Israeli soldiers subsequently detained Nofal's children and the rest of his family members. Their current whereabouts remain unknown. 

'They executed everyone'

When the Israeli military reached al-Rimal neighbourhood in the centre of Gaza City, it targeted several commercial and residential buildings. The residents, however, were not allowed to evacuate.

Journalist Ahmed Dawoud, 38, was still in his home near the Palestine crossroads when an Israeli tank targeted his neighbour’s apartment on 5 December and he was forced to flee.

"I left my home after the nearby apartment was burnt. We left the building along with around 30 people, including the daughter of my journalist friend. We were trying to flee, but upon arriving at the crossroads, two girls were killed," he recounted.

'The body of my friend's daughter remained on the street for five days'

- Ahmed Dawoud, 38

"One of [the girls] was eight years old, she was my journalist friend’s daughter, and the other was 15 years old. They executed them before our eyes. If we did not take shelter, we would have also been among the martyrs."

When the soldiers opened fire on the residents, some retreated to the building, and others decided to walk on to a safer place.

"The body of my friend’s daughter remained on the street. We entered a random house, and for four or five days, we were just watching [out the window], trying to retrieve the body. We were encircled by Israeli soldiers who were executing everyone in the area," he said.

"Five days later, we went down and retrieved the body under the [Israeli] quadcopters"

When he fled the building, some of his neighbours remained in their apartment. When Israeli soldiers entered the building and found them, he said, they executed the entire family, before setting the house on fire.

"They executed them all, the entire group... They executed everyone in the area, they did not leave anyone."

- Mohammed Qreiqe in Gaza contributed to this report

This article is available in French on Middle East Eye French edition.

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