Despite the ceasefire declared on Sunday, each morning since Israeli gunboats have fired towards Gaza's coastline. Nine people were injured as a result of such shelling from an Israeli gunboat, Amnesty International’s fact-finding team in Gaza was told on Wednesday.
In its fifth post on Amnesty International's Livewire blog, the team described how on Thursday, it had visited families whose homes had been forcibly taken over and used as military positions by Israeli soldiers during the recent three week long conflict.
In the houses, the team saw discarded Israeli army supplies, including sleeping bags, medical kits, empty boxes of munitions and spent cartridges, incontrovertible evidence of the soldiers’ occupation of the houses.
In every one of the homes the team visited, rooms had been ransacked, with furniture overturned and/or smashed. Clothing, documents and other personal items belonging to the families who lived there had been strewn over the floor and soiled, and in one case urinated on.
In one house in the Sayafa area in north Gaza several cardboard boxes full of excrement were left in the house – although there was a functioning toilet which the soldiers could have used. Walls were defaced with crude threats written in Hebrew, such as “next time it will hurt more". In every case the soldiers had smashed holes in the outer walls of the houses to use as lookout and sniper positions.
Chris Cobb-Smith, a military expert and part of Amnesty International's team, was an officer in the British Army for almost 20 years. He said he was staggered by what he saw and by the behaviour and apparent lack of discipline of the Israeli soldiers. “Gazans have had their houses looted, vandalized and desecrated. As well, the Israeli soldiers have left behind not only mounds of litter and excrement but ammunition and other military equipment. It’s not the behaviour one would expect from a professional army,” he said.
In most cases, the families had fled or were expelled by the soldiers. In some cases, however, the soldiers prevented the families from leaving, using them as "human shields".
Abu Abdallah told the Amnesty International team that the soldiers who took over his home in Hay al-Salam, east of Jabalia, north Gaza, had confined him, his wife and their nine children for two days in the basement. “We had no water to drink and the soldiers did not allow us to go get water. I had to take water from the toilet cistern with a small receptacle for the small children to drink. I went to the bathroom several times to weep. I did not wish my children to see me cry."