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"Enemy combatants" Three Samouni children in the morque in Gaza in January 2009

Part nine of a series recounting the findings of South African jurist Richard Goldstone’s UN Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict.

Bethlehem – Ma’an – On 4 January 2009, one year ago today, Iyad Samouni, his wife, and five children were together with about 40 other members of their extended family in the house of Asaad Samouni, a relative.

At around 1am, they heard noise on the roof. At about 5am, Israeli soldiers walked down the stairs from the roof, knocked on the door, and entered the house. They asked for Hamas fighters. The residents replied that there were none.

Stationing themselves in the house, soldiers separated women, children and the elderly from the men. Iyad and all the other men were forced into a separate room, blindfolded and bound with plastic handcuffs. They were allowed to use the bathroom only after one of the men urinated on himself.

The next morning, Iyad and everyone in Asaad’s house walked out and down Al-Samouni Street to take Salah Ad-Din Street in the direction of Gaza City. They had been instructed by the soldiers to walk directly there without stopping or diverting from the direct route. The men were still handcuffed and the soldiers had told them that they would be shot if they attempted to remove the handcuffs.

On Salah Ad-Din Street, a single or several of the Israeli soldiers opened fire positioned on the roofs of houses. Iyad was struck in the leg and fell to the ground. Muhammad Asaad Samouni, who was walking immediately behind him, moved to help him, but an Israeli soldier on a rooftop ordered him to walk on. When he saw the red point of a laser beam on his body and understood that an Israeli soldier had taken aim at him, he desisted.

The Israeli soldiers also fired warning shots at Muhammad Samouni’s father to prevent him from assisting Iyad to get back on his feet. Iyad’s wife and children were prevented from helping him by further warning shots. Read More…