THE LEVANT – Three weeks on, Rami Qaddih can still easily recall Israeli troops’ “war crimes” of mass-executing Palestinians outside their homes in his battered Khuza’a town in the Gaza Strip.
“I saw with my own eyes Israeli troops shoot displaced residents who had been trying to flee the town under the Israeli shelling,” Qaddih, 27, told The Levant on Sunday.
On July 24, Israel launched a deadly ground assault, backed by warplanes, on the southern Khuza’a town, which lies near the border with Israel. The unrelenting attacks come as part of a massive offensive launched on July 7 against the blockaded coastal enclave.
At least 30 Palestinians, mostly women and children, were killed in the Israeli raid on Khuza’a, according to preliminary accounts by the Palestinian Health Ministry in Gaza.
However, dozens of bodies were found on the town’s streets and under the rubble of razed homes following Israeli troops’ recent withdrawal from the town amid a week-long truce.
“Israeli troops would allow displaced residents to pass in groups then they would shoot the first two members of each group, killing them immediately,” Qaddih said.
“One time Israeli troops took out a family of six from their home, all tied from the hands and feet, and gunned them all down from zero-range,” he added.
Many other displaced families lost some of their members before their eyes during the alleged summary executions by Israeli troops in the town, according to Qaddih.
Another Khuza’a resident, Ramadan Qaddih, said he witnessed the Israeli troops killing his own father in a similar manner during a raid on their home, which hosts his family of 25 members.
“My father heard strange sounds while we were hiding for hours inside the storage room as Israel’s artillery shelling raged on,” he said. “When he came out, he found Israeli soldiers had stormed the house and there was no choice but to come out or else they would strike the house with us in it.”
He continued: “When my father came out of the storage room holding a white cloth in his hand, an Israeli soldier pointed his rifle at zero-range to my father’s chest, said something in Hebrew, and then pulled the trigger.”
Gaber Washah, deputy head of local NGO Palestinian Center for Human Rights, said he received many reports of Israeli troops carrying out mass executions against the town’s residents during the ground offensive.
“A lot of cases we are monitoring prove that the Israeli army mass-executed many Khuza’a residents at point-plank range,” he asserted.
Washah said that his organization documented numerous accounts by displaced Palestinian families who said that Israeli snipers installed in artillery vehicles indiscriminately opened fire at them from a close range after they have been permitted to pass through.
“The blood found on the walls and the nature of wounds found on dead Palestinian fighters confirms that Israeli forces were shooting from point-blank range,” he asserted.
Palestinian factions and Israel are observing a 5-day truce brokered by Cairo pending indirect negotiations for a durable ceasefire that aims to put an end to Israel’s deadliest offensive on the embattled Strip in six years, launched with the stated aim of ending rocket fire from Gaza.
The Israeli attacks on the Gaza Strip left nearly 1980 Palestinians dead and around 10,000 others injured – mostly civilians – according to Palestinian officials.
The Israeli offensive had also left thousands of Gaza homes and buildings in tatters.
About 64 Israeli troops were also killed, mostly in combat with Palestinian fighters, while three civilians were killed by rockets fired from the Gaza Strip, according to official Israeli figures.