Half an Hour Later, People Were Still Collecting Body Parts

At 10 A.M., B. arrived at his family's house in the Jabalya refugee camp to try and persuade his parents, uncles and sisters to leave the danger zone and spend a few days at his house in Gaza City. Since Tuesday night, the camp has been under incessant fire, from missiles, tank and helicopter guns and snipers. Bulldozers destroyed houses and uprooted orchards. The electricity was cut, fixed and cut again. In many houses, the water was running out: Bulldozers and tanks had damaged the wells and pipes. B. pleaded with his family until 12:30 P.M. But his parents, both in their 70s, refused to leave their home.

At 4:30 P.M. (3:30 Israel time), a tank shell exploded 20 or 30 meters from their house on Madaras Street. B.'s sister A., a 30-year-old lawyer, heard the explosion, which shook the whole house, and afterward, "like rain," pieces of metal falling on the roof, and then the shouts and groans, which penetrated the house along with the smoke and dust. In a telephone conversation, she said she assumed it was a flechette shell, which emits nail-like darts when it explodes - particularly after she saw the lacerated bodies and limbs in the street. Many of the wounded were children, she said.

Half an hour later, people were still collecting body parts. The tank remained where it was. But that explosion convinced the street's residents to leave. B's family went by back streets to the taxi station, and then to Gaza City.

A. guessed the tank was stationed in the courtyard of one of the street's three schools, a few meters from the people, mainly children, who were hurt. The courtyard wall separated the tank from the people in the street. On Wednesday night, a bulldozer and a tank uprooted an orchard at the eastern end of Madaras Street. The next morning, a tank entered one of the schools. A few hours later, A. saw that tank leave and another tank approach, crushing fences and house walls in its path. Behind it came a bulldozer. Their progress was accompanied by gunfire. The two armored vehicles stood in the street for about 15 minutes, then entered the school courtyard. Then the residents heard an explosion from the courtyard and concluded that a bomb had blown up under the tank or the bulldozer. Black smoke arose. A. saw armed men enter the school courtyard, then she heard shots: Israeli snipers located in the Abu Sultan home on the corner of Madaras St. The wounded cried out, and two people who tried to rescue them were shot and wounded in turn. Only on the third try did the rescuers succeed.

Children gathered in the street, as is their wont, staring at the smoke rising from the tank. The ambulances remained in the vicinity. Soon afterward, they would evacuate some 20 casualties of the tank shell. At first, the media reported nine dead and nine seriously wounded. By 8 P.M., they were already reporting 12 dead. Most were children, her neighbors, said A.

The tank shell explosion shook many houses in the crowded Jabalya camp. The children of O., who lives some 300 meters from the site of the explosion, hugged their father in fear. For two days, they have been unable to sleep because of the incessant shooting. But O.'s family also refused to evacuate to a safer place, even though the tanks surrounded their neighborhood. During a telephone conversation with O., the firing could be heard clearly.

O. fought against the IDF in Lebanon in 1982. In his view, the fighting in Jabalya is "one-sided." The Palestinian resistance, he said, is very weak. He can tell this from the type of shooting and its frequency. The soldiers, he said, do not leave their tanks and bulldozers. What can gunmen do against them?

Using loudspeakers, soldiers order the residents to leave their houses. Then the bulldozers demolish them. In this way, some 30 houses, according to estimates that cannot yet be verified, were destroyed on A-Sica Street. The soldiers leave their armored vehicles only to take up positions in the houses they have occupied. One belongs to Dr. Kamel Sharafi, who served as health minister under former Palestinian prime minister Mahmoud Abbas. The family at first refused to leave their house, but the soldiers forced them out.