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“I have constant pain in my head, eyes and ears. I have been having
nose bleeds for the past three years. I can still feel the shrapnel move inside
my brain”

 

 Amal al-Samouni (11) sitting in front of her
house in Zeitoun neighborhood

 

On 4 January 2009 at around 6:00
Israeli forces surrounded the house where Amal al-Samouni (11) and 18 members
of her extended family were sheltering, in Zeitoun neighborhood east of Gaza
City. Israeli soldiers ordered the owner of the house, Amal’s father Attia
al-Samouni (37), to step outside with his hands up. Upon opening the door he
was immediately killed by shots to the head and chest. Soldiers then started
firing bullets into the house, killing Amal’s 4-year old brother Ahmad
al-Samouni and injuring at least 4 other people, of whom 2 were children.

 

Over the following hours, soldiers
ordered over 100 other members of the extended al-Samouni family into the house
of Wa’el Fares Hamdi al-Samouni, Amal’s uncle. On 5 January 2009 Israeli forces
directly targeted the house and its vicinity, killing 21 persons and injuring
many others. Amal, who was inside, was wounded by shrapnel to the head and
buried under the rubble, lying between injured, dying and deceased relatives. On
7 January ambulance personnel, who were prevented from entering the area until
then, evacuated her to hospital.

 

Between 4-7 January 2009, 27 members
of the Samouni family were killed, including 11 children and 6 women, and 35
others were injured, including Amal’s twin brother Abdallah.

 

Amal survived those 4 horrific days
but is left with permanent injuries and trauma. “I remember my brother and
father and how they were murdered in every moment,” says Amal as she thinks
back on the attacks and the three days she spent buried under the rubble of her
uncle’s house without food or water. Amal does not need a lot of words to
express how she feels: “before, we used to live together as a happy family. Now
I don’t feel happy anymore.”

 

Amal did not only lose her father;
the family’s home was also destroyed by the army. “For one year we lived with
the parents of my mother, in Gaza’s Shaja’iya neighborhood. Then we lived in a
storage room for 1.5 years. It didn’t have a floor. There was just sand. Since
6 months we are living where our old house used to be. It is not even half the
size of our old home. I didn’t want to return to our neighborhood because of
what happened. My family didn’t want to either but we had no choice.” Like many
other members of the al-Samouni family, Amal’s household now receives some help
from relatives living in their neighborhood, but is still struggling to manage
financially. The living conditions of Amal and her family have somewhat
improved over time, although the house still lacks equipment like a refrigerator,
washing machine, and a closet for the children’s clothing. Amal’s father, Attia,
was a farmer. He grew vegetable crops on a rented plot, which used to provide the
family income.

 

As the reconstruction of life and
livelihoods continues in the al-Samouni neighborhood, Amal continues to
struggle with her injuries. The pieces of shrapnel embedded in her brain cause her
severe pains. “I have constant pain in my head, eyes and ears. I have been
having nose bleeds for the past three years. I can still feel the shrapnel move
inside my brain,” she says. Local doctors say it would be too dangerous to
remove the pieces, but Amal cannot accept this quite yet. She has a strong wish
to travel abroad to see a doctor. “I want to be sure about my situation and
have another doctor look at my situation. I want to try everything possible to
end my problem and pain. Other children are sometimes able to travel for fun.
My wish is serious; I won’t travel for amusement but for medical treatment.”

 

The continuous pain has a profound
impact on Amal’s mood, her relationship with her siblings, and her performance
in school. “When I have a lot of pain I become nervous and angry.” Her mother
Zeinat (38) adds that “she then easily becomes angry with her younger siblings
and beats them. Recently she and I visited a hospital again to see how she
could be helped. The doctor prescribed tramal
[a sedative]
but I will not allow her to take medicine like that.”

 

“When I am sad I go to my aunt’s
house to see my cousins, or I prepare my books for school,” says Amal. “Before
the war I was excellent in school. Now my scores are not so good anymore.”
While speaking of her dropped scores Amal becomes very emotional. The teacher
told her mother that Amal is not able to focus in class. This semester Amal
failed two subjects. “I have pain in my eyes when I look at the blackboard,”
Amal says, very upset. Despite her difficulties in school, Amal knows what she
would like to study for: “when I am older I want to become a pediatrician and
help to treat wounded people.”

 

PCHR submitted a criminal complaint to
the Israeli authorities on behalf of the al-Samouni family on 8 May 2009.
To-date, only an interlocutory response has been received, noting receipt of
the complaint. Despite repeated requests, no further information has been
received.

 

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The Narratives:


 4
January 2009: The Abdel Dayem Family

3 January 2009: Motee’ and Isma’il as-Selawy

– 2 January 2009: Eyad al-Astal

– 1 January 2009: The Nasla Family

 31 December 2008: The Abu Areeda family

– 30 December 2008: The Hamdan Family

29 December 2008: Balousha Family

 28 December 2008: The Abu Taima family

– 27 December 2008: The Al Ashi Family.