An Amnesty International fact-finding team arrived in Gaza City on
Saturday hours before the Israeli government announced a ceasefire. The
team travelled to Gaza by way of Egypt, entering the Gaza Strip through
the Rafah crossing, and then travelled by road north to Gaza City.
a post on Amnesty International's Livewire blog, the team described how
they found evidence of widespread use of white phosphorus by that the
Israeli army in densely populated areas in and around Gaza City.
an alleyway in Gaza City, we saw barefooted children running around
lumps of still smouldering phosphorus. We found more on the roof of a
family's house and still more on a busy street."
The team also
described how rescue workers are now finally able to remove bodies from
the rubble of houses, having been prevented previously from accessing
the areas by the Israeli army.
In the Zaitoun neighbourhood of
Gaza City, rescue workers were pulling out the bodies of members of the
Sammuni family from the rubble of their home. They had been killed in
Israeli strikes two weeks earlier and Israeli soldiers had subsequently
bulldozed the house on top of them.
"The Israeli army did not
allow rescue workers to reach the area, despite repeated requests, and
the bodies were in a state of decomposition. The smell was unbearable."
The team has learned that more than 100 decaying bodies have been pulled out from under rubble in various parts of Gaza.
Zaitoun, there was little machinery to help with the effort – teams of
people worked with sledgehammers and even bare hands to reach the
corpses buried under the flattened concrete."
Next door to the
rubble of the Sammuni family home, the Amnesty International team found
evidence that Israeli soldiers had taken over homes and used them as
"The soldiers had not only smashed holes
in the outer walls to fire from, but also vandalized the furniture and
everything else in the houses.."
Despite the announcement of the
Israeli ceasefire, the team heard Israeli artillery fire north of Gaza
City on Sunday. In the evening, local human rights workers and medical
doctors told them that an 11-year-old girl had been killed and her
mother injured in the morning in north Gaza.
day, wherever we went in Gaza City and surrounding areas, we found more
and more destroyed and damaged homes, mosques, schools and government
buildings; some completely flattened, by bombs dropped by F16 fighter
jets, others rendered uninhabitable by the artillery and missile
Amnesty International had previously made repeated
requests to the Israeli authorities to enter Gaza via the Erez crossing
from Israel, but received no response. The Israeli authorities have
barred virtually all access to Gaza by international human rights
workers and journalists since early November 2008.