Beit Hanoun, northern Gaza Strip - One day after the Israel army declared that it had pulled out and completed Operation Autumn Clouds in the northern Gaza Strip town of Beit Hanoun, at least 19 Palestinians were killed in Gaza and at least 45 were injured, as a large number of shells were fired at the town. Another five Palestinians were killed in Jenin in the northern West Bank by the Israeli army.
The series of incidents began at 6 a.m. when eyewitnesses said that dozens of tank shells and missiles landed simultaneously in a small and limited area in Beit Hanoun. Ambulances found it difficult to evacuate the wounded.
According to Palestinians sources, some of the shells landed on a home, killing 11 members of one family called Al-'Athamneh, including a 9-year-old child and a 73-year-old woman.
Israeli sources confirmed that artillery shells were fired on Wednesday morning. They said it was not yet known whether the matter was a technical error or a human one!
Sources in Gaza reported that some of those killed were hurt after shells hit a group of civilians who arrived to help those injured in the first barrage. Residents in the area were called to donate blood, as it was feared that the number of casualties would rise.
Khaled Radi, a Palestinian health ministry official, said that all the dead were civilians. He said that seven children and four women were among the dead.
Radi also said that at least 45 more were wounded, all civilians. Four hospitals are treating the wounded across Gaza.
Emergency and first aid director in the ministry of health, Dr Moa'aweyah Hassanein, announced that the latest round of Israeli war crimes in Gaza has resulted in a new massacre in the northern town of Beit Hanoun. 19 innocent civilians, including 7 children and 4 women have been murdered brutally as they slept in their own house, he said. This brings this week's toll alone to 83 Palestinian dead and more than 350 critically injured.
In a huge demonstration outside the morgue in Kamal Adwan Hospital in the northern Gaza Strip, thousands called for revenge. Hundreds of Palestinians began marching in the northern Gaza Strip, in protest at the Israeli army operation in Beit Hanoun. The protestors chanted slogans against Israel and called for retaliation.
President Mahmoud Abbas declared a three-day mourning period and schools were closed after the horrific massacres against civilians in Beit Hanoun. Abbas added in a statement, "this is a horrible, ugly massacre committed by the occupation against our children, our women and elderly in Beit Hanoun". "We urge and call the Security Council to convene immediately to stop the massacres committed against our people and to uphold their responsibility to stop these massacres."
During an emergency meeting of the Palestinian cabinet, Palestinian prime minister Ismail Haniyeh announced that efforts to form a national unity government have been suspended after "this awful massacre."
The government spokesman, Ghazi Hamad, appealed to the international community to mobilize and stop Israel carrying out such massacres against unarmed Palestinians. "Israel is a nation that has no human values and is a disgrace to the modern world," he added.
Palestinian health minister Bassem Naim also referred to the series of incidents, saying that killing constitutes a policy for the Israelis. "I have no words to describe the ugly Israeli massacre in Beit Hanoun this morning. This massacre is added to another massacre, which the town has only just emerged from. This morning's operation only proves that killing is Israel's aim, and this is proved by the massive fire at the medical teams arriving in the area."
Naim added that another proof was the inclusion into the government of Avigdor Lieberman, who calls day and night to kill Palestinians. The Israeli army targets the ambulances, paramedics and journalists to hide the facts, he said.
"The massacre in Beit Hanoun proves that the Israeli government is committing war crimes against civilians," said Knesset member Talab El-Sana after the incident. "Palestinian children and women are murdered in their homes and in their beds. Olmert, Peretz and Halutz are war criminals who failed in the first war and are committing war crimes in the second war."
He called for "the end of the ongoing slaughter" and said "tanks cannot kill the dream of a people aspiring to independence and freedom."
Mohamed 'Athamneh, 37, said: "The Israeli army claimed that they pulled out from our town. They are not physically here but their smells and their bad image are still here. They continue their brutal horrific massacres of civilians in Beit Hanoun and in all the Palestinian territories. They want to achieve victory here after they were defeated in south Lebanon. They only understand the language of force. They are vampires who don't know mercy. The bodies of children are scattered everywhere in the scene in pieces. God be with us! The whole world turns a blind eye."
"It is the saddest scene and images I have ever seen," 29-year-old Majed Kafarnah, said. "I saw people coming out of a house covered in blood. I started screaming to wake up the neighbours."
Mona Al-Zanoiun, 41, said: "They destroyed our houses ... they killed women and children, they are criminals. They murder us in a cold blood. Where is the international community and the Security Council to see these massacres? We do not want them to send us food; we want them to take brave actions to stop these crimes". She described what happened to the town as a "tsunami" and "destructive earthquake".
Nidal Mater, 53, said: "Once again they commit massacres against civilians, but they will not break our sprit. We will not leave our land. All of us ready to die for the sake of FREEDOM".
He added: "They use their arsenal to kill children and women. They are cowards ... We will never forget. Where is their democracy? I just wonder, are they just human beings like us? They destroy our agriculture fields, water, electricity networks and infrastructure. We cannot recognize our streets, destruction is everywhere, and even the mosques which are considered holy places are destroyed!"
Noor Masoud, 14, said ironically: "My message to the Israeli army is "well done, every day you prove to us that you are the most polite army of the world"". She was crying when she spoke and added, "If you ask the trees and walls in Beit Hanoun they will tell you how merciful the Israeli army is!! It's so funny when the Israeli government expresses its regret following this horrific awful massacre."
Mahmoud Nasser, 33, said: "We rush from one mourning tent to the other because of the operation that only ended yesterday and already we have to deal with a new massacre. Difficult images, dead children, injured children with their faces torn. It's unbelievable."
He added: "All of Beit Hanoun is busy with only one thing: moving the dead and wounded. All this between puddles of blood, lots of blood and body parts, next to some of the bodies were the schoolbags and sandwiches of children preparing to go to school."
Um Zeyad, 42, said that she lost four children in the incident: Muhanad, Mahdi, Arafat and Saad. "I am proud to be the mother of 'shahids' [martyrs]. It is a great honour and we pray to Allah to compensate us," the bereaved mother said.
She added that two days ago, "the Israeli army stole $1800 from my sister's house. Another woman who was in the same house tried to prevent hit from stealing the money. He hit her with his gun on her head and she lost consciousness. The soldier refused to allow a woman to bring water". She added that there were "42 of us, women and children, trapped in one room."
I asked a man about what happened and he started crying. "It was an emotional moment", another man said. "It's normal to see a woman cry but it is very hard to see a man cry", he added. "We lost our homes, members of our family, loved ones and they destroyed our agricultural fields, citrus trees and olive trees which is our only income".
He ended by saying, "Today, Palestinians are united against one enemy."
Yousef Alhelou, Freelance Journalist lives in Gaza city, he can be contacted on firstname.lastname@example.org