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Last Updated: Thursday, 16 November 2006, 19:51 GMT
Tears and blame amid Gaza's dead
By Alan Johnston
BBC News, Gaza Strip

Relatives mourn at the mass funeral in Gaza
The victims were buried at a mass funeral
The 17 members of a Palestinian family killed by Israeli shell fire in Gaza were buried a week ago.

But for the survivors of the carnage in the town of Beit Hanoun, the process of healing has barely begun.

The shells came crashing down on Hamad Street - and on the homes of the al-Athamna family.

At least a dozen high explosive artillery shells landed in the early morning. Most of the dead were women and children, and they died either in their beds or as they tried to flee.

Israel has apologised for what it called a "tragic mistake" that eventually accounted for 19 lives.

But the people of Hamad Street believe that they were the victims of a vast crime - a massacre.

Their battered walls are plastered with photographs of the dead, and hung with wreathes and messages of condolences.

And in the alleyway where the worst of the horror unfolded, relatives sit round a fire that heats a coffee pot.

They are still lost in their trauma, struggling to find the will to go forward.

'Cut to pieces'

One young man, Ibrahim al-Athamna, seemed to have a need to give a terrible, detailed account of what had happened.

His words came in an angry rush.

"Our life has become a hell - a hell, a hell. They killed our fathers, sons, daughters, mothers. We are orphans," he said.

I hate life here. I hope to emigrate to anywhere in the world. This is not a life.
Ali
Doctor

"My wife was hit in the chest and the bones broke. She saw the whole scene in front of her. She saw her cousins and uncles cut into pieces.

"My cousin Rami has a daughter of six months old. She was cut into pieces. They had to collect her body pieces and put them in a plastic bag. I couldn't recognise her.

"She was thrown from the fourth floor to the ground. God can't accept that.

"Where is the international community? What are they waiting for? Every day we are dying."

Around the fire there was seething anger at the United States for its veto of a resolution at the United Nations that would have condemned Israel for the civilian deaths.

A young man with a child in his arms said he had learnt English so that he could communicate with Westerners, but that now he hated himself for having made the effort.

A doctor, called Ali, was calmer. But he said that he was too depressed to return to work.

"I hate life here. I hope to emigrate to anywhere in the world. This is not a life. Our suffering was too much," he said.

"The main problem is the occupation. If we don't have a state how can we live, make a future for our children? That is our problem. We are a people without a state."

Death and blame

The shrapnel-scarred houses stand empty. The survivors cannot bring themselves to move back in.

Their children are scared now of the homes in which they grew up.

Michael Slutzker mourns at the funeral of his wife
The cycle of violence this week claimed the life of an Israeli in Sderot
Israel says that its continual military pressure on Gaza is an effort to stop militants here firing rockets every day into nearby Israeli towns and villages.

These are crudely-made devices that often cause panic and injury. They rarely kill, but one did on Wednesday.

A woman in her fifties, called Faina Slutzker, died.

A witness said she was struck down as she went to cross a street and join her husband.

Both the Hamas and Islamic Jihad organisations claimed to have launched the deadly strike.

Hamas said that the attack was a response to the deaths in Beit Hanoun.

Who started the killing? Who made Palestinians launch a rocket?
Ibrahim al-Athamna
The survivors of the al-Athamna family say they have nothing to do with militant activity of any kind.

But Ibrahim defended the Hamas attack.

"Who started the killing?" he asked. "Who made us [Palestinians] launch a rocket towards them?

"They showed no mercy for kids or anybody. They started killing."

But taxi driver Ra'ed al-Athamna had a strong and quite different reaction.

"I don't agree with Hamas," he said. "I feel bad about this woman. I feel bad about the rockets. I feel bad for any civilian killed."




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