On the morning of 1 August, Inam Ouda Ayed bin Hammad, 26, was sheltering with her three children – Anas, 5, Mutasim 6, and Remas, 3 – at her uncle’s home in the al-Tannur neighbourhood, because her own home, on al-Balbisi Street, in the eastern part of Rafah, was built of corrugated metal sheets and not safe. Inam bin Hammad told Amnesty International that she heard repeated attacks in the vicinity of her uncle’s home. Three of her nieces, two of whom are children, were also there. “It was just me and my children as my husband was out helping another family [the Emran family] whose house had been shelled,” she recounts.
After 9am the shelling intensified and munitions were falling close by. Inam bin Hammad and her family decided to leave the house as the situation was getting more dangerous. “I decided to seek shelter in my brother Fathi’s home, only two houses away... I went there with my three children and my three nieces,” she recounts. “The minute I left the house and was between my uncle’s and brother’s houses, an Apache [helicopter] started shooting at us… I banged on my brother’s door asking him to open up.” Members of the Abu Hani family were also taking shelter there; the family’s mother and her five children were later killed.
Inam bin Hammad and her three children, together with other relatives and members of the Mustafa family, left her brother’s house and proceeded to walk down the street to seek safety elsewhere. She was carrying her daughter Remas and her cousin Wafa was carrying her son Anas. They passed about six houses with great difficulty, while munitions of all kinds were landing in their close vicinity. “The shells were raining down on us,” Inam bin Hammad recounts. “If you were hit by one of those, it could cut you in half.”
She recounts the moments before an attack struck a main street in the al-Tannur neighbourhood close to the Abu Shawareb building. It led to the death of her son Anas, her cousin Wafa and several others and injured scores of those who were fleeing on the streets:
A concrete slab fell on top of her and she lost consciousness for several minutes before realizing that her leg was severely injured. She managed to stand up and find her daughter Remas and then her niece Heba, who had sustained severe injuries in her leg and was unable to walk, and help her out of the rubble. Heba was later transferred to Turkey for medical treatment.
Her cousin Wafa, who had been carrying her son Anas and had taken shelter near the Abu Shawareb building, was killed when a concrete wall collapsed on top of her.
Inam bin Hammad recounts that when an ambulance came to collect the injured, “a drone dropped a missile to deter it from moving any closer to the house.” The ambulance had to retreat and those who had survived the attack, some of whom were severly bleeding, had to wait for an additional 30 minutes. On al-Balbisi Street, Inam bin Hammad recounts, Dr Mohammed al-Balbisi was providing first aid to everyone while the shelling persisted.
She describes the situation when another ambulance came:
The attack killed 12 members of the al-Mahmoum family, and several others.
These and other accounts by residents of attacks throughout the al-Tannur neighbourhood during the same timeframe indicate that the bombing of the empty Abu Shawareb building when scores of civilians were trying to flee intense bombardment was at best disproportionate. Even if the house did cover an opening to a tunnel, dropping a one-tonne bomb on the building when it could have been foreseen that so many civilians would be killed and injured was clearly disproportionate. The artillery shelling of the area was indiscriminate and the reported helicopter fire at civilians and ambulances amounted to direct attacks on civilians.
“It was a black day. I cannot think of a worse day,” says Abdel-Rahim Abdel-Karim Lafi. On the morning of 1 August, he was with two of his sons in the al-Tannur neighbourhood, near the Omar Abdel-Aziz Mosque, while his eldest son, wife and daughters were at the market. He recounts:
He and his son Yehya decided to leave the house and walk in the direction of the Abu Youssef al-Najjar roundabout, where they were injured in an attack by what appeared to be a drone:
A moment later, while Abdel-Rahim Lafi was sitting on the ground beside his dead son, a second missile struck “about 8m away from me”, and he saw a young man in a blue shirt fly into the air. He says:
After realizing that the ambulance was unable to access the area, Abdel-Rahim Lafi walked to the Abu Youssef al-Najjar hospital to find his older son. “They brought [Yehya] in and I said my goodbyes to him before they put him in the refrigerator, while the rest of my children watched,” he remembers. “The doctor X-rayed my leg and said I had shrapnel in it and I would need a drip. There was chaos in the hospital; I was on the floor with many other patients.”
His brother informed him that his sister’s husband and two children were wounded and were in the hospital. His 60-year-old brother-in-law had a broken leg and an injury next to his heart, with shrapnel injuries all over his body. Both of Abdel-Rahim Lafi’s brother’s sons, aged 11 and 17, sustained serious head injuries and required prolonged medical treatment.
Abdel-Rahim Lafi had to evacuate the hospital with others that afternoon amid intensified attacks on its premises. “My wife, children, brother and sister, nine of us, had to leave through the back door of the hospital because the front entrance had unexploded bombs near it. There was shelling next to the hospital, and a missile fell in front of the back entrance,” he recounts. “We left two at a time with my brother and I leaving last. We walked to the al-Jenina district.” He says:
It is possible that one of the intended targets of the attack was a motorcycle that was passing by at the time and may have been carrying a fighter, as local groups reported. Amnesty International was unable to verify whether this was the case. Even if it were true, the use of such massive firepower in a populated neighbourhood indicates that the attack was disproportionate or otherwise indiscriminate.
Samira Aliyan Hamdan Qishta had returned to her home on George Street, in the al-Salam district, on the morning of 1 August. Her eldest son Ahmed had been staying there throughout the war. That morning, Israeli forces began to heavily bombard the area. She describes the situation:
She fetched her in-laws and brought them to her house, where they stayed there for about an hour before the attack intensified and they decided to flee the area. She recounts:
Samira’s daughter, Maysa Hamdan Qishta, 17, recalls the family’s close escape:
The attacks that Samira and Maysa Qishta describes appeared to be indiscriminate.
Samira Qishta’s son, Ahmed Shteiwi Hamdan Qishta, stayed behind to tend to his chicken farm. At around 5pm on 2 August, an attack on al-Matar Street in the al-Salam neighbourhood, north of Rafah, apparently carried out by a drone-launched missile, killed Ahmed.
Mohammed Mahmud Salam Abu al-Saba and his family had taken shelter in schools since the first day of the hostilities. He witnessed repeated Israeli air strikes on civilians and what appeared to be civilian vehicles in the Mashrou’ Amer area of Rafah on the morning of 1 August, when he and his family attempted to flee the area.
After a ceasefire was announced on the morning of 1 August, Mohammed al-Saba and his family used a donkey and cart to return to their home in the Mashrou’ Amer area. Mohammed al-Saba says that his 52-year-old sister and his eight young children, three girls and five boys, were caught in that morning’s attacks on Salah al-Din Street:
When they managed to finally reach the Abu Youssef al-Najjar roundabout, Mohammed al-Saba says, they saw an elderly woman carrying a boy: “She was hit by a missile from a drone. She died. I saw this. In front of me people standing [in al-Balbisi Street] were hit.”
Mohammed al-Saba realized that two of his own young children were missing – he found them later that day. An ambulance arrived and took him and his other children to the Abu Youssef al-Najjar hospital, where they stayed until the hospital was evacuated that afternoon under fire. He recounts:
He found his two missing children, aged four and five, at Zahar school. “They’d escaped with the people. I found them in Zahar school on the way,” he recalls. “I was so worried about getting separated from my children. I thought they’d died. I was going mad looking for them.”
Mohammed al-Saba’s description of the events is corroborated by accounts from many other residents fleeing the area at the same time. Many lost family members in the chaos. The attacks that Mohammed al-Saba describes appeared to be indiscriminate, with all vehicles evidently being targeted without distinction.
An Israeli attack on the family home of Saleh Hussein Abdel-Karim Abu Mohsen, 44, in al-Shuka in eastern Rafah, caused the family to flee onto the street. Saleh Abu Mohsen recalls the situation that morning:
He recounts that he had agreed with his daughters beforehand “to walk in two groups separated by a distance of 10m” in case they were hit. “That way some of us stood a chance of being saved and not all would be killed,” he says. When Saleh Abu Mohsen was crossing the Mashrou’ Amer intersection, he looked behind him and could no longer see his eldest daughter, Asil, 17. He says:
Saleh Abu Mohsen spent five hours at the Abu Youssef al-Najjar hospital before an order was given to evacuate it. “As we evacuated I passed by the home of the Sarafandi family, which had been annihilated – it added to my fears,” he recounts.
Four days later, Saleh Abu Mohsen received a call from a Rafah resident about the location of Asil’s body. He describes what he found when he arrived there:
Given the circumstances of the attacks by Israeli artillery, tanks and aircraft on the morning of 1 August, it is likely that the attack that killed Asil Abu Mohsen was indiscriminate.
Mohammed Khalil Mohammed Abu Duba and his family were trapped in their home on 1 August by heavy Israeli shelling in the area. They escaped the area on the evening of 2 August. When Khalil Abu Duba, Mohammed’s father, and Munir Abu Duba, his brother, drove back home on 2 August to collect the family’s belongings, they were killed by an attack during a larger Israeli offensive on the Mashrou’ Amer area.
Mohammed Abu Duba recounts the conditions in which the family was trapped in their house on 1 August and the intense artillery and air bombardment in their immediate vicinity:
At approximately 11pm on 1 August, Mohammed Abu Duba heard sounds of tanks clearly, “as if they were next to” his home:
Mohammed Abu Duba recalls that he and his family were too afraid of shelling even to go next door to help a woman they heard screaming. The phone lines were all down, leaving the family isolated.
On 2 August, about 10 minutes before the sunset prayer, the family decided to escape. Mohammed Abu Duba says:
Bombardments began to strike closer to their home, Mohammed Abu Duba recounts:
He describes what they saw when they arrived at the Mashrou’ Amer intersection:
Later on 2 August, Mohammed Abu Duba’s father and brother Munir drove back to their destroyed home and retrieved their belongings. They were killed while leaving the area again. Mohammed Abu Duba heard that a Mercedes car had been hit next to the Mashrou’ Amer intersection and was worried because his relatives had been driving in a similar car. He recounts that ambulances could not access the scene, since they required a permit which could take two hours, even if there were injured people at risk of dying imminently. He decided to go to the scene of the attack on foot:
Suddenly, he saw his uncle running in the distance towards him:
It is unclear why Israeli forces attacked the area at the time, since the attack occurred after Lieutenant Hadar Goldin’s death was officially declared. The Israeli army was under an obligation to take all precautions to verify that the car was indeed a military objective, and if in doubt to assume that it was civilian. The attack on the Abu Duba’s car therefore appears to have been undertaken without proper precautions.
Mohammed Baha al-Din al-Gharib, a resident of al-Zuhur district, told Amnesty International that an Israeli air strike killed his father Baha al-Din Kamel al-Gharib and sister Ula. A missile fired by what appeared to be a drone hit them while they were on their way to the Abu Youssef al-Najjar hospital, says Mohammed Gharib:
The shelling in their immediate vicinity continued. An ambulance eventually made its way to them after much difficulty. Mohammed Gharib explains:
It is unclear why Israeli forces fired the missile that killed Baha al-Din and Ula al-Gharib. The circumstances of the attack suggest that it was at best indiscriminate.
Shirin Jamal Arafat and her four children were fleeing through the Mashrou’ Amer area amid heavy bombardment when an attack killed her 55-day-old child, Mohammed, and seriously injured her.
They had left their home in eastern Rafah at about 10am on 1 August with a large group of other neighbourhood residents who were fleeing their homes on foot. Shirin Arafat recounts that she had left her belongings behind in order to be able to carry her son in her arms while fleeing the area. “We walked a little while and found that the tanks were shooting by the Abu Shawareb [building],” she says. “The first thing was the F-16 shootings, and then came the tanks.”
According to the Al Mezan Center for Human Rights, Mohammed Arafat was one of at least 15 civilians who died in an attack by a one-tonne bomb on the Abu Shawareb building between 10.30am and 11am. Accounts of the number of people who may have been on the street at the time of the attack differ, but hundreds of people may have been close to the building when the bomb struck and affected an area of around 100m2. Shirin Arafat describes the moment her son died:
Shirin Arafat sustained serious injuries in her leg and back, and a shrapnel injury in her head, which the hospitals in Gaza were unable to treat. “After four days they found maggots [in the head wound],” she recounts. “The shrapnel was taken out in the [Gaza] European hospital when they found maggots. And then after 11 days in the European hospital with no luck, they moved me to al-Maqased [hospital in Jerusalem] because I could only breathe with mechanical help.” She underwent treatment and rehabilitation in Jerusalem until late September 2014.
The attack on a residential building with a one-ton bomb despite the nearby presence of large numbers of civilians indicates that the Israeli military failed to take adequate, if any, precautions to avoid excessive harm to fleeing civilians. Even if there had been a military target in the building (there is some indication that the Israeli army thought there was a tunnel entrance there), the attack appears to have been grossly disproportionate.
On 1 August 2014 the area around the Abu Youssef al-Najjar hospital in Rafah was shelled and bombed. Dozens of medical staff, patients and those who had taken refuge in the hospital were wounded and the structure of the hospital was damaged. On the same day three ambulances went to collect wounded people near a mosque in Rafah; one ambulance was hit by what appeared to be three drone-launched missiles and completely destroyed. The three medics and all the wounded within the ambulance were burnt to death. A second ambulance left, while the other, which remained to collect the wounded and dead, was hit by another apparent drone strike.
The Abu Youssef al-Najjar hospital, the main hospital serving a population of 350,000 in Rafah, was evacuated on 1 August as shells dropped around it and after evacuation orders from the Israeli military. Amnesty International received accounts of what happened from four different medical staff working at the hospital, including the hospital’s director.
After a truce had been agreed the previous night, people in Rafah began moving outside again on the morning of 1 August, to visit their homes or relatives, or to buy provisions. However, soon after 8.30am, when reports of the capture of an Israeli soldier emerged, the Israeli military began to shell areas of Rafah around where the presumed capture had taken place and shells started striking near the hospital, which was some 800m from the house where captured Israeli soldier Lieutenant Hadar Goldin was thought at one time to have been held.
An Amnesty International fieldworker spoke to several members of the hospital staff working in the hospital that day, including Dr Abdullah Ramadan Shehada, the hospital director; Dr Ashraf Mahmoud Hijazi, head of surgery; Dr Youssef Hussein Abed, a surgeon; and Dr Majed Ayesh Abu Taha, a bone specialist. Dr Ashraf Hijazi, who arrived at the hospital at 9am, describes what happened:
By that time, he says, “many people were coming in and the ambulances were rushing back and forth. The hospital staff were unable to deal with all the cases; some were untreatable. The number of martyrs was huge. We couldn’t count them. Because of the situation in the hospital we had to transfer people because we couldn’t deal with them.”
Dr Abdullah Shehada, the director, who came in after 9am, says: “Every 10 seconds there was an explosion, about eight shells each minute... There were hundreds of injured and dozens of people killed.” The attacks increased in intensity and, around noon, the electricity was cut and the ceiling collapsed.
“People from the neighbourhood started to come to the hospital as they thought that the hospital would be a safe place. The hallways were full of people – it was really hard to transfer patients from one section to another,” explains Dr Majed Abu Taha:
Meanwhile, Dr Abdullah Shehada says he kept calling the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the Palestine Red Crescent Society (PRCS) to ask them to tell the Israeli army not to attack. At 1pm, Dr Abdullah received a telephone call from the Israeli army asking him how they could help him. He wanted them to stop the bombardment of the hospital and the person he was speaking to replied: “even if we stopped firing missiles there is something wrong outside the hospital.”
The doctor says: “The attacks are only targeting civilians who came from the eastern area of Rafah to find a safe place.” An hour after the call, at 2pm, the Israeli military stopped firing in the vicinity of the hospital. The Israeli army representative then called the director to tell him that they had stopped firing and Dr Abdullah Shehada requested coordination for the UN or other protected vehicles to transfer the injured and sick to other hospitals.
From 2pm to 3pm the situation grew calmer and transfers began to take place. However, after 3pm the shelling intensified again. “It was calmer. We didn’t want to eat as the situation was so horrible, but Dr Youssef Abed brought some food and put it in the office,” Dr Ashraf Hijazi says. He continues:
As the attacks become more intense, people started escaping the hospital from the west gate. Dr Majed Abu Taha recounts:
The reasons for Israel’s attacks around the Abu Youssef al-Najjar hospital appear to have been linked to the capture by Hamas of Lieutenant Goldin. Rumours circulating in the Abu Youssef al-Najjar hospital that a wounded soldier might be in the hospital were also reported by Israeli TV Channel 10. However, even if the Israeli military believed Lieutenant Goldin was in the hospital, the attacks on the hospital and its vicinity were reckless and indiscriminate. International humanitarian law accords protected status to civilian hospitals which must never be the object of attack. Even if a hospital were being misused to commit acts harmful to an attacking party – and there is no indication that this was the case with the Abu Youssef al-Najjar hospital – according to the Fourth Geneva Convention, the protection enjoyed by the hospital could only cease after due warning and reasonable time for evacuation has been given.
Iyad Ali Salama Ghaboun, the owner of a fodder and poultry company whose home is close to the Abu Youssef al-Najjar hospital, witnessed its evacuation. He recounts that at about 2pm on 1 August, “there was a strike near to our home in empty land”. He says:
Iyad Ghaboun and his family rushed to the car and fled the neighbourhood. “As we were driving away, a missile fell. I thought I had been hit,” he recounts. He said:
According to residents of the area, on 1 August after Friday prayers, at about 1.30pm, the Israeli army, who were shelling extensively in the immediate vicinity, told people to leave Rafah’s Musabbeh neighbourhood. The residents in the area evacuated their homes and most took shelter in the al-Birr wa’l-Taqwa Mosque.
According to an eyewitness watching from the roof of his house, later in the afternoon, around 3.15pm, Suleiman Muhawish al-Hashash came from a dirt road and walked past the mosque looking for a car to take him and his daughter out of the area. A missile apparently fired from a drone hit them and they fell, wounded. Two people from the mosque, Ibrahim and Hazem Mohammed Sheikh al-Eid, ran out at once to help them after a second missile hit them. Then a third missile hit the door of the mosque, injuring Youssef Ahmed Sheikh al-Eid, Du’a Sheikh al-Eid and her three children, all under four years of age.
Three ambulances from the Abu Youssef al-Najjar hospital went to pick up the wounded. The first to arrive was carrying two medics, Atef Zamali and Youssef Sheikh al-Eid, and a young volunteer, Youssef Darabih. They loaded the wounded from the three strikes into the ambulance and headed back in the direction they had come from. However, about 20m from the mosque, at about 3.30pm, the ambulance was hit by what appears to have been a drone-fired missile. The missile ignited the four oxygen cylinders within the ambulance, burning to death all eight people within it.
The other two ambulances had lost their way and took longer to arrive. When they did, they saw the burning ambulance with the people, including small children, inside it. One of the ambulance drivers recounts that they were about 150m from the burning ambulance when it was attacked again by a missile, so they retreated and tried to take shelter under a tree. The heavy bombing and shelling around them continued.
One ambulance turned back towards the hospital; the other drove 150-200m away for fear that its oxygen cylinders would catch fire and stopped. Jaber Darabih, a paramedic from the second ambulance, explains:
They came back later that day to examine the ambulance and collect the bodies:
It was only then that Jaber Darabih realized that his son [Youssef Darabih, the volunteer] was among the dead:
In answer to letters written by Amnesty International members to Israeli embassies demanding that Israel fulfil its obligations under the Geneva Conventions to protect hospitals and medical personnel, a spokesman of the Israeli embassy in New Zealand wrote that ambulances in Gaza were frequently used to carry military personnel. The Israeli military has not provided any explanation for why they attacked ambulances in this case. The targeting of ambulances and medical personnel is prohibited under international humanitarian law.
Yasser Ahmed Younis Abdel-Wahhab, who worked with the Civil Defence as a medical assistance officer in Rafah, told Amnesty International that, after the area experienced heavy shelling on Friday 1 August, he escaped from his home in the al-Jenina district in eastern Rafah with his wife and their children and moved to his brother-in-law’s home in the Bashet camp in the centre of Rafah. “I thought we would go for one night and it would be over by the morning and we could go back home. All the people in the area had left,” he says.
That night, he left his wife and children at his brother-in-law’s home and went to his own sister’s house, 50m down the street, because her husband was on ambulance duty:
The attack had completely destroyed the house. Neighbours came over to help move the rubble. “I became hysterical, so I was taken to the hospital,” he recounts. The next morning, he found out that the attack had killed his wife Nehaya and four of his children: Heitham, 16, Ayman, 14, Lama, 9, and Mohammed, 2. He says:
Two of Yasser Abdel-Wahhab’s daughters, Lina, 6, and Hala, 11, spent up to seven hours in the rubble before being rescued. Lina sustained shrapnel injuries. Hala suffered a fractured skull and was transferred to Hebron in the West Bank for treatment.
Yasser Abdel-Wahhab’s father-in-law and three brothers-in-law were also killed in the attack: Mohammed Issa Isma’il al-Sha’er, Issa Sa’adi Issa al-Sha’er, Atef Sa’adi Issa al-Sha’er, and Hani Sa’adi Issa al-Sha’er.
It is possible that the Israeli military targeted the building where Abdel-Wahhab’s wife and children were killed because, according to a family member, the owner, Fuad al-Sha’er, may have been involved with Palestinian armed groups. Amnesty International was unable to verify this information or to clarify whether Fuad al-Sha’er was involved in hostilities at the time. In any case, according to Amnesty International’s research, he was not present at the time of the attack. Residents told Amnesty International that he had been away from his home for the majority of the war, but may have been expected to come back after the ceasefire.
If the Israeli military intended to attack Fuad al-Sha’er and believed he was present at the time of the attack, the strike should have been cancelled given the number of civilians present. The attack is likely to have been disproportionate.
At approximately 3.05pm on Saturday 2 August, Israeli warplanes fired at least one missile at a house belonging to Mohammed Ayyad Abu Taha, located in the al-Shabora refugee camp in western Rafah. The attack partially destroyed the house and resulted in the death of Sa’adiya Rizq Abu Taha, Rizq Isma’il Abu Taha, 1, Mohammed Mahmoud Rizq Abdel-Razzaq Abu Taha, 12, and Youssef Mahmoud Rizq Abdel-Razzaq Abu Taha, 10. Three other people who had fled their homes amid the heavy bombardment of the area sustained moderate injuries.
Rasha Hassan Hamada Abu Taha, who lived in the al-Salam district, recounts that on 1 August she heard announcements being made by megaphone to residents instructing them to leave their homes and evacuate the area. “Missiles were falling everywhere. We were told to leave the area as it had become a closed military area,” she says. She and their three children moved to her in-laws’ house in al-Shabora refugee camp, which was considered one of the safest areas at the time.
Rasha Abu Taha and her family, including her husband, Mohammed Ayyad Abu Taha, who worked for the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), spent the night of 1 August with her sister-in-law in al-Salam district. She remembers:
Rasha Abu Taha describes the immediate aftermath of the attack:
Rasha Abu Taha’s niece Mona came out of the house bleeding while holding her son to her chest. Mona asked her to hold her son but Rasha was already holding her own son, Omar. Then, Rasha Abu Taha recounts, “Rizq’s [Mona] mother came out screaming: ‘Rizq was in my arms, he flew from my arms’.” She later found out that her older son, Youssef, who had been taking care of Rizq, had also been killed. She says:
Rasha Abu Taha six-year-old daughter, Zeinab, sustained shrapnel injuries and was taken to the Gaza European hospital. She says:
She explains that there were over 25 people in the house at the time of the attack and that around four of them were young men between 17 and 22-years-old who had just come home for lunch.
Amnesty International has no information indicating that any of the men who were in the house were members of a Palestinian armed group. However, even if this was the case and one or more of them were being targeted, the attack appears to have been disproportionate.
At around midnight between 1 August and 2 August, an Israeli attack struck the two-storey home of Rafat Oudeh Mohammed Zoroub in the Saudi residential complex in western Rafah. The attack was conducted without prior warning. It killed 15 civilians, including four women and 10 children, and wounded four girls who were in the building. According to two family members and a neighbour, none of the people in the building was affiliated with any Palestinian armed group. Of the 19 people there, Rafat, an unemployed construction worker, was the only male adult. The blast destroyed the family home and also severely damaged a neighbour’s house, wounding six additional people, the witnesses say.
Rafat’s twin 17-year-old daughters, Sheima and Shirin Zoroub, survived. Sheima, who was nine months’ pregnant, said she had come back to her parents’ home for safety, three or four days before the attack:
The attack killed Sheima’s father, Rafat Zoroub, her mother, Sana Namat Zoroub, and her siblings Amir, 15, Oday, 14, Shahed, 10, and Khaled, 9. It killed Sheima’s maternal grandmother, Sabha; her maternal aunt Ahlam, and two of Ahlam’s sons, Rami, 13, and Rawan, 10; another maternal aunt, Su’adand four of Su’ad’s sons, Hamada, 15, Mohammed, 12, Walid, 6, and Mutasim, 3.
The family members had been chatting and watching the news on television when Sheima and Shirin fell asleep at around 10pm. They woke up alone under the rubble after the attack, in darkness, and tried to make their way out of the debris. Sheima recalls:
Sheima, Shirin and their cousin Ala helped one another crawl out of the rubble. Shirin told Amnesty International:
Nihad Jibara Abdullah Zoroub, who lived across the street from the house that was attacked, independently corroborated the accounts of Sheima and Shirin Zoroub. Nihad recalls:
According to Nihad Zoroub and Shirin Zoroub, the blast from the attack also wounded at least six members of the Abu Mohsen family, one of whom was transferred to Turkey for medical treatment, and badly damaged their home, about 30m away from Rafat Zoroub’s home.
Amnesty International has been unable to identify any potential target or reason for the attack on the Zoroub family home. Even if there had been a military target nearby, the attack appears to have been disproportionate or otherwise indiscriminate.
An Israeli attack in Rafah after 3am on 2 August killed eight members of three different families: six children, a woman and a man. The munition destroyed a group of four adjoining makeshift houses, where 26 people lived, according to witnesses who survived the attack. They say that none of the residents were members of armed groups.
The attack killed Arwa Mahmoud Neireb and her daughters Ala, 5, and Ibtisam, 12, and fatally wounded a third daughter, Doha, 15, who died of a head wound later that day. It also killed Ibrahim, 10, Ahmed, 7, and Anas, 5, three brothers from the Abu Ayta family next door to the Neireb home, as well as Ibrahim Manyarawi, a man whose home was nearby.
Fathi Ibrahim Suleiman Abu Ayta, an English teacher, and his wife Abir, survived the attack that killed three of their sons. Abir says families in the area received automated calls on their mobiles and landlines on the afternoon of 1 August:
Assam Mohammed Abed Rabbo Neireb was awoken at about 2.45am. The missile hit the wall between their house and that of Fathi Abu Ayta. Arwa Mahmoud Ahmed Neireb and her daughters, Ibtisam Bassam Mohammed Neireb, 12, Doha, 15, and Ula, 5, were all killed as a result of the attack. Ibtisam’s body was found in the rubble five days later and Doha had been thrown onto the roof of a concrete house.
Fathi Abu Ayta and his wife Abir said they were watching the news in their bedroom at about 3am on 2 August when the attack struck. They initially assumed that someone else’s house had been targeted, not their own, because they had no connection to Palestinian armed groups. The attack “turned everything upside down. We were under the rubble. I didn’t know what was actually targeted then. We were all injured and I couldn’t see anything.” Neighbours dug out the family, he says. A neighbour, Raja Fathi Suleiman al-Ghoul told Amnesty International that she “found Fathi and his wife in our house” after the blast.
Fathi only learned that his sons were dead after he arrived at the Kuwaiti hospital. The hospital, overwhelmed with casualties, lacked space for them. “Ahmed’s body was shredded into pieces. He was in an ice-cream fridge for two days, then moved to the vegetable fridge,” his father says.
Ahmed’s mother, Abir, remembers what happened to her children when “the walls came down”:
The Abu Ayta family’s neighbour, Bassam Mohammed Abed Rabbo Neireb, an employee of the Palestinian authorities, said that 11 people were in his house at the time of the attack, including his sister, his wife and their eight children, four of them adults, four of them minors.
Bassam Neireb describes intense Israeli bombardment earlier on 1 August, which “trapped the people who went back home to the eastern part” during a temporary ceasefire:
The explosion killed his wife, Arwa, daughters Ala, 5, and Ibtisam, 12; it also propelled two other children into a neighbour’s home, and another child onto the roof of another neighbour’s home. The dead were so disfigured that the family collected the body parts and buried them, and mistakenly assumed they had buried Ibtisam’s remains, whose body was found four days later. Another daughter, Doha, flew 10m away in the blast. She was taken first to the Kuwaiti hospital, which lacked equipment needed to treat her head wound, and waited two hours before Israeli forces granted approval to the ICRC to transfer her to a hospital in Khan Yunis, where she died, her father says.
The survivors were subjected to appalling hospital conditions and a hasty funeral for their loved ones, Bassam Neireb explains:
Raja al-Ghoul, a neighbour, says the attack wounded her husband, Emad, (who managed a taxi office), and their five children, all aged under 10.
The four family homes were located in the al-Shabora camp in western Rafah, which had not been affected on 1 August and was therefore considered safe, resulting in a number of families moving there that day. By the evening of 1 August, the firepower used in the east of Rafah had moved westwards and residents reported hearing a swath of continuous explosions.
Amnesty International has not been able to determine what may have been the intended target of this attack. Those killed and injured were civilians and there was no fighting in the vicinity at the time of the attack.
At around 3.30am on 2 August, an Israeli attack struck a two-storey residential building in Rafah without warning. The attack killed nine people: seven members of the Abu Suleiman family – five children and two women – and two neighbours, five witnesses told Amnesty International.
Rami Abu Suleiman, who lived in an apartment on the second floor, recalls the attack:
The attack killed Rami Abu Suleiman’s wife, Heba, their sons Mohammed, 11, and Ahmed, 2; and their twin three-year-old girls, Lama and Jana.
The attack killed Rana, the 10-year-old daughter of a third brother, Ra’ed, a baker, who said he “woke up in the street under a tree with rubble on top of me” after the explosion. He then returned home and found that Rana had been killed, and that his other children were “injured and full of blood”:
The attack killed two neighbours from different families: Abir Abu Arab, in her 40s, and Miryam Abu Jazar, an elderly woman who had come to stay with a relative in the area after having left her house in eastern Rafah for safety, survivors say.
All witnesses who spoke to Amnesty International say that no one in the building at the time of the attack was a member of an armed group. The Israeli army’s intended target in this attack remains unclear. Even if there had been a military target nearby, the attack appears to have been disproportionate.