'I should be dead': Palestinians recall horrors of Israel's Nuseirat massacre

AFP , Sunday 9 Jun 2024

A day after Israeli forces rescued four captives from Gaza, Palestinians recounted their panic during a deadly Israeli raid that killed more than 200 and reduced buildings to rubble.

Nuseirat camp
Palestinian children search through the rubble of their home a day after a deadly Israeli raid on the Nuseirat camp, in the central Gaza Strip on June 9, 2024. AFP


Many around the world decried the Israeli massacre that killed 274 Palestinians and wounded 698 others in the civilian-packed Nuseirat refugee camp.

Soon after the raid started around 11 am (0800 GMT) in Nuseirat's busy market area, bombs were raining down and turning the neighbourhood into "smoke and flames", said Muhannad Thabet, a 35-year-old resident.

"People were screaming -- young and old, women and men," he said by phone. "Everyone wanted to flee the place, but the bombing was intense and anyone who moved was at risk of being killed due to the heavy bombardment and gunfire."

"Houses were destroyed with their occupants inside. There were also large numbers of displaced people and shops, stalls and cars were on fire due to the bombing."

Israel had sent in a special forces team of troops, police and Shin Bet operatives who simultaneously raided two buildings to extract four captives.

'No one could move'

Eyewitnesses said the Israeli raid and retreat were covered by heavy air strikes as well as drone and tank fire as dead bodies piled up in the streets of Nuseirat.

Palestinians wounded were taken to one of Gaza's hospitals, medics said.

"The hospital was filled with martyrs and injured, and it was impossible to accommodate such a large number within minutes," said doctor Marwan Abu Nasser, an official at the Al-Awda health facility near the camp.

"Of course, the hospital was under fire, and no one could move during the operation."

Watching from his roof, another local man, Mohammed Moussa, said he was terrified when he caught a glimpse of an Israeli tank on the street below with artillery fire crashing down.

"I should be dead," marvelled the 29-year-old after the Israeli assault was over, leaving much of the area covered in debris and heavy dust that coated the streets in grey.

Israel's bloodiest-ever Gaza war has killed at least 37,084 Palestinians and wounded more than 80,000 others, mostly women and children, according to the territory's health ministry.

Troops 'disguised as Hamas'

Several witnesses reported seeing Israeli forces burst out of a refrigerated truck, dressed in the garb of Palestinian fighters in an apparent bid to confuse their enemies.

Alaa al-Khatib, a displaced woman living in the camp, told AFP she was walking to a market when she saw people climbing out of a refrigerated truck and exiting a small white car.

They then took out a ladder and began climbing into an upper floor of a nearby building, she said.

"Moments later, I heard gunfire and explosions from the houses, neighbourhoods and streets of the camp," she said.

"I learnt that Israeli special forces had infiltrated the camp with Palestinian aid vehicles, all as a distraction to divert the attention of the people in the camp"

Several other witnesses reported similar details to AFP, notably the presence of a refrigerated truck.

"They were wearing clothes like Hamas and Islamic Jihad people, and some were masked," said another local man, Mahmoud al-Assar, 27.

Recalling the brutality of the Israeli assault that killed dozens and devastated several city blocks, Assar said that "what happened in the camp was like an earthquake".

*This story was edited by Ahram Online

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