Israeli forces shelled a safe house late on Jan. 4 in the Zeitoun neighbourhood of Gaza City after they had evacuated about 110 Palestinians to the building, reports FRANCE 24's Radjaa Abou Dagga after speaking to several survivors in a Gaza hospital.
“Israeli soldiers forced us to leave our house and took us to a larger house. There I met more than 100 people,” said 26-year-old Helmi Samouri in an interview with FRANCE 24.
“Later, Israeli Apache planes started bombing the house. I lost my five-month-old daughter, my father and my mother. Other families also lost some of their relatives,” he said.
A UN report, based on eyewitness accounts, says Israeli foot-soldiers evacuated approximately 110 Palestinians into a single-residence house in Zeitoun (half of whom were children), warning them to stay indoors.
“Twenty-four hours later; Israeli forces shelled the home repeatedly, killing approximately thirty,” says the report published by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).
OCHA called the events in the Gaza City neighbourhood "one of the gravest incidents since the beginning of operations" by Israeli forces in Gaza on December 27.
Survivors walked two kilometers to Saleh Ed Din road before being transported to the hospital in civilian vehicles, it said. Three children, the youngest of whom was five months old, died upon arrival at the hospital, the report concluded.
Israeli authorities deny the incident
In an interview with FRANCE 24, however, Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Ygal Palmor denied the incident took place. “We tried to verify these informations and very vague eyewitness accounts,” says Palmor, “We found absolutely nothing, nothing that could back these allegations.”
“Moreover, at the date when the incident was supposed to take place, the IDF was not deployed in that area in such a way as it would be able to carry out the operation as described,” he added.
Yet FRANCE 24’s Abou Dagga says that, based on the information in the UN report, he found three survivors in a Gaza hospital.
“We followed the UN lead and I found three survivors at the hospital. All of them confirmed that they were at home when soldiers in combat gear come in and asked them to move to another home,” says Abou Dagga.
“When they arrived they met other members of their family and thirty minutes later, they were moved to a larger house where there were already about 100 to 110 people,” he reported. “It's in that building that they were the target of three rockets fired by helicopters.”