By Ali Abunimah
Dramatic photographs and footage capture the moment a Palestinian woman ran into a firing zone to rescue a youth injured during relentless Israeli gunfire and shelling.
Meanwhile, another video has emerged showing Israeli soldiers and religious mystics dancing as they adorn artillery shells with blessings.
On Wednesday, the UN Human Rights Council voted by 29-17 to “launch an independent inquiry into purported violations of international humanitarian and human rights laws” during Israel’s attack on Gaza. Many European Union states abstained in the vote and the United States was the sole country to vote against an inquiry.
Writer Refaat Alareer, who comes from Shujaiya, was able to identify the exact location of the incident in the video above and the photographs below.
“The video took place in the main street of Shujaiya, near the eastern edge of the border” with Israel, Alareer told The Electronic Intifada. “The area is highly populated and a little bit far from the borders.”
“I am amazed how the Israelis managed to hit them while this far into Shujaiya,” he said of the images and video showing shelling of the area.
Four photos that have been circulating online were posted on Sami Kishawi’s blog Sixteen Minutes to Palestine.
They were apparently taken moments before the video was shot and show the woman running into a firing zone to rescue the youth.
Kishawi said that although he has conducted searches he’s unable to find the original photographer:
It is unclear if the woman is the youth’s mother. In the video, she is deeply distraught as she cries in Arabic “ibni raah” – which translates as “my son is gone!”
It is a phrase that could mean something dreadful already happened to her son, or that something dreadful very nearly happened.
In the video, the youth is first seen sitting on the ground covered in blood as the woman runs to fetch help. She brings another man who carries the injured youth to a taxi as she follows.
The taxi takes them to an ambulance. As the youth is placed on a stretcher and put into the ambulance, it is clear that his left leg has been severely injured.
The ambulance crew tries to reassure the youth, telling him, “don’t be scared” and “you are fine” as they tend to him and head for al-Shifa hospital.
Twenty-two shells in four minutes
Another video, which Sami Kishawi also blogged, shows approximately four minutes of intense shelling in Shujaiya during which 22 shells land – a rate of about one every ten seconds.
People scream in terror as they try to flee but they have no safe place to go. The footage shows ambulance crews attempting to operate in an area under heavy fire, searching for victims.
Dancing for death
This video was posted on the Facebook page of Tzinur Layla, a program of Israel’s Channel 10 that sources material from social media.
It shows members of the Breslauer Hassidim, a mystical Jewish sect, dancing and singing “Le’hiyot be simcha tamid” (“Always be joyful”) with Israeli soldiers manning an artillery battery.
The Breslauer Hassidim, a sect that typically attracts young men, affix stickers to artillery shells that may be about to be fired into the Gaza Strip.
The stickers carry the phrase “na nach nachma nachman me’uman,” the mystical utterance that refers to the name of their spiritual founder, the eighteenth century Rabbi Nachman of Breslov.
The group explains that uttering the phrase “eases all the troubles and sweetens all the harsh judgements, all the sins and all the falls and all of the heresy of the world” and transforms everything “to good.”
They also say that the incantation “is enough to destroy the Other Side (the Evil Inclination).” This is a reference to taming their sexual libido, Israel expert Dena Shunra told The Electronic Intifada.
The video is reminiscent of a notorious image taken during Israel’s 2006 war on Lebanon showing Israeli girls writing messages on artillery shells.
Israel’s indiscriminate weapons
From the video it is possible to identify the shells as M107 155 mm howitzer (heavy artillery) shells.
According to “Indiscriminate Fire,” a 2007 report by Human Rights Watch, Israel fired 14,617 artillery shells into Gaza from September 2005 through May 2007, killing at least 59 people, half of them women and children, and wounding 270.
The most common shell Israel used was the M107 high-explosive artillery shell, according to Human Rights Watch.
Human Rights Watch states:
M107 shells are extremely deadly weapons. The expected lethal radius for a 155 mm high explosive projectile is reportedly between 50 and 150 meters and the expected casualty radius is between 100 and 300 meters. IDF [Israeli army] officials have said that the error radius for a 155 mm shell is usually 25 meters. Therefore, if shells are lobbed as close as 100 meters to populated areas, as allowed under an IDF policy … or even closer, as sometimes happened, it greatly increases the likelihood of civilian casualties.
When the shells explode they can spread about 2,000 fragments in all directions. Sometimes they fail to explode and “become potentially explosive duds,” according to the group.
“Israel Military Industries, a state-owned arms producer and exporter, produces the M107 shell, although Israel has also imported 155mm shells from the United States,” Human Rights Watch says.
In the United States, M107 shells are manufactured by American Ordnance LLC.
At least 518 of the dead are civilians and 170 are children, according to the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). More than 140,000 of Gaza’s 1.8 million residents are displaced and seeking shelter, OCHA said, and a three-kilometer strip covering 44 percent of Gaza’s territory has now been declared by Israel as a “no-go zone.”
There are reports of heavy casualties in the village of Khuzaa, east of Khan Younis, due to heavy Israeli artillery shelling.
“According to preliminary information, at least twenty persons were killed,” OCHA said on Wednesday afternoon. “An evacuation of casualties has not yet taken place as ambulances await guarantees of safe access to the area.”
The BBC’s Lyse Doucet was in Khuzaa and tweeted the following observations on Wednesday: