Text size

Click here for more articles by Amira Hass

Just before midnight, on December 29, the Israel Defense Forces Spokesman's Office posted an urgent headline on its Web site: Truck packed with weapons attacked near Jabalya.

The subheadline went on to read: "At around 6 P.M., the Israel Air Force attacked a Hamas truck carrying dozens of Grad rockets."

According to the article, the rockets in the truck caused a secondary explosion, shooting pieces of weaponry in all directions. The rockets were being transferred, said the article, due to militants' fear that their present storehouse would be attacked by the IAF, as well as to be put to use for launching at Israel.

The article was accompanied by a video just over 2 minutes showing the IAF's perspective from the sky, until just a moment before the explosion. The video shows 15 white figures casually milling between two vehicles. Three long black objects appear between their hands and the white figures lay these objects down on what seems to be a truck. The second vehicle takes off at a certain point and suddenly an explosion sounds and flames cover the screen. An eyewitness said the explosion was caused by an overhead drone.

Human rights groups' investigations, however, present a different testimony altogether.

According to B'tselem and the Mezan center for human rights, the truck belongs to Ahmed Samur, 55, and is still standing, burnt, beside his workshop in the Jabaliya refugee camp. Next to it hang scorched oxygen balloons, a blade and cables. Nobody dares move the truck or the accompanying accoutrements for fear that the UAVs filming every detail from above will bomb whoever approaches.

"Everything is still there on the ground," said Samur on Thursday. "We only moved the dead."

Just three hours before the attack, Samur's daughter told him that she had heard on the local radio that a house next to his workship had been bombed.

He immediately got into his Mercedes truck, along with his son and a few neighbors and relatives, and went to the workshop to see the damage.

They were shocked to discover that the neighboring house had collapsed onto his workshop and decided to pack up the expensive tools and take them home before they could be looted.

On the first round, they brought home a drill, a welding torch, a scale, other tools and a gas balloon for cooking. Then they went back to the workshop to pack up the rest: three of six oxygen balloons used for welding, two jerrycans filled with benzene and two filled with diesel.

As Samir's son Imad organized the tools in the truck, his brother-in-law packed his own smaller car with 50 packages of welding electrodes, 4 kilograms each, and drove off.

Samur himself stood on the other side of the street to keep the dust particles from the burning nearby house from flying into his lungs. He looked at the youths packing the truck and was reminded of working bees in a honeycomb - this was just before 5 P.M., he estimates.

"Suddenly I saw a flash of light next to my truck and then it caught fire and I heard the sound of an explosion. I started to run toward the blast, and when I got close and the smoke cleared, I saw bodies, one of them belonging to my son Imad. I fainted. When I woke up they told me that Imad and the seven other young people who were helping him had been killed," he recounted.

Speaking to Haaretz by phone, Samur said: "These were not Hamas, they were our children, and I will tell you their names. Imad Samur, 32; Ashraf al-Dabar, 30; Mahmoud Rabayan, 15; Rami Rabayan, 23; Ahmed Hila, 19; Mohammed Mahdi, 17; Wissam Eid, 14; Mohammed Haber, 20. Four others were hurt, two of them seriously: Bilal Rabayan, 19 and his brother Baha, 16.

"You have experts and smart people in Israel," he said. "They should come and check my truck and the oxygen balloons. They should see that they were not Grad missiles and they were not anything else. You people are saying they burnt a big truck filled with Grads. Well come and see for yourself."

Haaretz asked the IDF spokesperson if the video depicts the truck in question, and was told "the truck's contents were taken from a building that was housing ammunition and rockets."

No one in Gaza has denied that Qassams are being manufactured and launched from the Strip, but there are many targets hit by the IAF whose military importance is unclear at best. For instance, a small, empty building in the middle of a playground in the Shabura refugee camp in Rafah which was blown up by the IAF two days ago, in an attack that left two dead.

Mezan said the unending IAF attacks have made it very difficult to determine how many of the targets hit were military and which were civilian.