Slamming the Door to Justice on Palestinians

There is a determined international effort to ensure that Palestinians are shut out of every legal forum where they could pursue justice for Israel's crimes against them. Nothing illustrates this better than the horrifying case of the Samouni massacre.

Last week, Israeli military prosecutors announced that no charges would be filed against the soldiers responsible for killing dozens of members of the Samouni family during the 2008-2009 Operation Cast Lead attack on Gaza.

Israeli officials decided, according to Haaretz, that "the attack on civilians 'who did not take part in the fighting', and their killing, were not done knowingly and directly, or out of haste and negligence 'in a manner that would indicate criminal responsibility'".

We ought to remind ourselves of what actually happened to put the claim that the killings "were not done knowingly and directly" in its proper context. The events are recounted in harrowing detail in the UN-commissioned Goldstone report, based on a thorough investigation.

100 civilians forced into house, then deliberately shelled

On January 4, 2009, nine days into the assault on Gaza, Israeli soldiers invaded the Zaytoun area south of Gaza City.

In an area named al-Samouni - after the extended family that lives there - the invaders entered houses by force, killing and injuring occupants in the process. They then forced about 100 civilians, mostly women and children, to gather in the home of Wa'el Samouni. Israeli forces forbade them to leave for a safer area and, as the UN report states: "There was hardly any water and no milk for the babies."

Those who were able to, fled the house toward Gaza City to seek help.

Children left for days among bodies of their parents

As if the massacre wasn't bad enough, the Israeli army then repeatedly turned away several efforts by Red Crescent ambulances to rescue the injured. Soldiers even blocked an ambulance that had been thoroughly searched and sent it back to Gaza City empty.

When ambulances finally reached the devastated area on January 7, they found 15 bodies and two seriously injured children in Wa'el Samouni's house. The children, lying among the decomposing corpses of their family members, were dehydrated and terrified.

Four children who survived the massacre, including one rescued from the rubble, narrated the horror they lived through, and the effort to rebuild their lives afterwards in a moving video named Samouni Street.

Read the full article at Al-Jazeera

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